Crypto dad and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian isn't shy about shooting his bold predictions into the digital aether, and this supposed hot new trend of "play-to-earn" games is his new obsession.
On a recent episode of the Where It Happens podcast, the entrepreneur said that play-to-earn gaming will make up 90% of the gaming market in 5 years. That's a big shift, to say the least.
Pray to earn — "90% of people will not play a game unless they are being properly valued for that time," Ohanian said on the podcast. "In five years, you will actually value your time properly, and instead of being harvested for advertisements, or being fleeced for dollars to buy stupid hammers you don't actually own, you will be playing some on-chain equivalent game that will be just as fun, but you'll actually earn value and you will be the harvester."
As you've probably guessed, "play-to-earn" games are powered by a combination of cryptocurrency and NFT technology. This allows players to not only swap their in-game earnings for real-world currency, but to purchase or earn "unique" NFT items through game challenges and the like.
Fun is obsolete — Ohanian is far from the only tech industry figure to express confidence in the grind-for-bread future of gaming. Square Enix CEO Yosuke Matsuda stoked controversy a few weeks ago when he said that gamers would soon move away from the "play to have fun" approach to gaming. (That's a new one for us, by the way.)
Overall, while this prediction might sound a bit goofy, it is probably true that there's a big untapped market for these sort of games. So far, the biggest "play-to-earn" game is Axie Infinity, which is basically Pokemon, only you can dump off your Butterfree to the highest bidder the second it looks at you wrong.
What's the difference? — In the current games market, many of the top games do resemble labor in one form or another. This is particularly true of free-to-play and gacha games, where players often choose between grinding the same content for hours or coughing up a few bucks to skip the line. At the end of the day, it's probably true that some fraction of people will be enticed by the possibility of "earning" CryptoBucks by pressing A to swing a pickaxe for hours. However, we highly doubt it'll outsell Mario anytime soon.