The Disgusting Future of ‘Play-To-Earn’
A couple of people have spoken to me about a tragic new trend amongst blockchain fans – the odious idea of “play-to-earn”. No longer will playing a video game be frivolous – your time will be rewarded with actual currency.
If you’ve got to the second paragraph without feeling your stomach churn in disgust, you may well be part of the problem. The idea that playing for the love of the craft isn’t enough, but that digital busy work or asset hoarding will somehow improve the industry is too painful to discuss.
Blockchain isn’t inherently bad. I know some people hate it. And they hate it for reasons like those above. They enable the worst of capitalism to bleed into an area that, until now, has been escapism.
Some imply that this will be the standard business model within the next generation. Why? Because gamers “won’t play games unless they are being properly valued for that time and actually own the things they buy”.
It is a ridiculous distraction from the real problem here: that mainstream gaming has in many ways become stagnant. Let’s have a quick rundown. Development is expensive. Worse, development is long. Prices haven’t increased. Occasional rare hits like Fortnite prove there’s a bundle of cash at the end of the rainbow, but only if you swing for it. However, most publishers just end up covered in Skittles for trying.
The result is fewer risks, and a race to the bottom with every game added GaaS nonsense. “This game will last 400 hours, and have 20 DLC packs” is not the sale to most people that publishers think it is.
Play-to-earn fundamentally misunderstands the issue. Players do value their time. But the answer to that is better games.
The Risks of Play-To-Earn
Those who read yesterday’s article on the Redfall debacle may notice there that I said the answer to financial issues ISN’T better games. That’s because you can’t simply decide to make better games, and bam. Critical and commercial success. If it were that easy, we’d all be doing it.
But in terms of value for player time, that point stands quite well. I’m not interested in playing Assassin’s Creed Valhalla for the next six months to see every piece of content related to it. And that would be true even with the introduction of NFT nonsense. I don’t want to be able to build a hut on a prime piece of digital real estate and then sell it at a profit.
I’ve said before that there is potentially value to NFTs within games. A sword that was used to defeat the hardest boss in the game for the first time has a narrative value that isn’t currently recognised. And yes, I suppose with that value comes a financial value too.
But it has to work for the narrative. Play-to-earn turns something that should be joyful into something that isn’t. Those of us who just want to play are left behind on yet another half-brained scheme that will not work in 95 percent of cases.