Blockchain gaming is new, exciting, and often confusing. Even after understanding the concept of play-to-earn (P2E), it’s often unclear which games are worth playing. Axie Infinity’s explosive growth has attracted many developers, gamers, and investors to the space in the past six months.
The unfortunate reality is that it usually takes longer than six months to develop a good game. Axie itself began in March 2018 despite only really catching fire in July 2021, and substantial gameplay and economic changes are still being made today. The vast majority of current blockchain games are quick attempts to get in on play-to-earn hype, often copying existing games and promising quick returns to investors despite very little actual gameplay. Most people joining these projects will see the bubble burst before they recoup their investment, if the project doesn’t turn out to be an outright rug pull.
Fortunately however, developers have been working on some impressive blockchain games besides Axie even before the hype this summer. Keep in mind that even if you are primarily interested in investing or earning, games need to be fun to play for their tokens or nonfungible tokens (NFTs) to have any long-term value. This leads to the happy coincidence that it’s usually better to invest in games you find fun! With that said, here are my personal picks for most fun play-to-earn games you can play this November:
Genre: Turn-based tactical battling
Publisher: Sky Mavis
Axie Infinity’s incredible success over the last year has drawn a tremendous amount of attention, players, and money to the play-to-earn blockchain gaming space. The game revolves around battling cute Pokémon-like creatures called axies. To get started, you need to buy at least 3 axie NFts to fill out your first team. These can be bred to create more axies and be used for battles in Adventure mode (PvE) or in Arena (PvP). Each axie has a variety of body parts that determine its stats and combat moves. No part is strictly better than another, but certain parts combo well with each other and make the axie build much stronger competitively.
Rounds are played by drawing cards from a shared pool of moves of your three axies, and then spending the energy that you accumulate each round to have one or more of your axies launch an attack on your opponent. There is some luck involved, but the main factors in winning are player skill and synergy of the axie team.
Because the best axies can cost thousands of dollars and each person is only allowed to play on one account, the Axie Infinity community themselves built the notion of rental scholarships that has since spread to other games. Axie owners or their representatives, called managers, loan teams to scholars (who do not own axies) in exchange for 30-60% of the earnings. Becoming a scholar is a much lower-stakes way to try out the game, although so many people want to participate that it can be hard to find a manager willing to loan you a decent team.
Genre: Collectible card game autobattler
Splinterlands is currently vying with Axie Infinity for the top spot in the play-to-earn world after explosive growth in the last few months. It’s a collectible card game in which players compete to build the best deck for the specific conditions of each match. There is no back-and-forth gameplay. Instead, each 1v1 round starts with 0-2 battle conditions being presented to each player. These may restrict certain types of units (e.g., no units with magic attacks allowed), add or remove certain abilities (e.g., all units gain enrage), or apply other effects (e.g., all units enter the battlefield poisoned). Each player then selects a summoner of a particular color and up to 6 units of a matching color from their own collection and chooses how to arrange them. Once each player has built their team, the players watch the battle play out without needing to do anything.
A $10 summoner’s spellbook starter pack will unlock a non-tradeable set of basic cards that can be used to play and earn Splinterlands’ in-game currency Dark Energy Crystals (DEC), its governance token Splintershards (SPS) and new NFT cards. Cards can be upgraded up to ten times to have better stats and more abilities by combining multiple copies. This is essential to reach higher rankings where play-to-earn rewards are more substantial. A player who climbs from bronze to silver to gold to low diamond (but stops short of champion) can earn $30/day. Unfortunately for new players, Splinterlands’ soaring popularity has caused card prices to climb to 10x or more in value in the last few months. Buying a competitive set of cards to compete in diamond will run you around $50,000, although you can also rent individual cards for a daily fee through the Splinterlands marketplace or third-party alternatives. The good news is that each league limits the level of cards that can be used, so newer players can assemble a strong set of bronze or silver cards and compete for league leaderboards without needing to make an enormous investment.
Speaking of investments, Splinterlands’ cards are inherently deflationary due to the combination mechanism. Prices on cards are continuing to rise, at least for now, as new players and money continue to pour into the game. The new Chaos Legion set that will launch in late November represents a good opportunity for new players to buy in, as the developers are also planning to deploy a separate ranked queue where only the two most recent sets can be used so new players can be more competitive. Investors interested in Splinterlands should note that the year of daily governance token (SPS) airdrops started a little over a month ago and is based on cards, currency, and land held in-game as well as 2x rewards for DEC staked in liquidity pools. SPS itself can be locked for 4 weeks to generate an annual percentage yield of currently over 50%. Collectors may be interested in the rare gold versions of every card, which generate more collection power and P2E rewards and are also required for special gold-card-only tournaments.
Genre: Light MOBA / Brawler
Status: Beta opens periodically
Publisher: Gala Games
Spider Tanks is a fun 3v3 point-and-shoot brawler. Rounds are around 5 minutes with a few different objectives, like team deathmatch, hold the flag, or chicken collection. The overall feel is that of an Overwatch or Team Fortress 2 style shooter, but played from a top-down DOTA or League of Legends perspective. You can customize your tank before queuing up, selecting the chassis (a balance of HP and speed), the weapon (ranging from shotguns to healing artillery) and 1-3 special abilities.
The game is incredibly fun while being both easy to learn and difficult to master. Unfortunately, Spider Tanks is somewhat pay-to-win. Higher rarities of a given weapon or chassis have better stats, and the highest tier ones cost more than a car. Even skins provide gameplay benefits! You can level up weapons or chasses through play, but these upgrades provide a random boost to stats while higher rarities come with ‘perfect’ upgrades built in. That said, the developers have promised a free-to-play option as well as the ability to rent expensive tanks from other players. The play-to-earn component also mitigates pay-to-win, as players can use the money they earn from gameplay to buy higher rarity tanks or items.
Investors should keep an eye out for future land sales. Rumor has it that people will be able to buy the maps on which matches are played and earn a portion of their earnings.
Genre: Collectable card game
Status: Closed beta – earned NFTs will reset on launch
Publisher: Horizon Blockchain Games Inc.
Skyweaver is a free-to-play CCG with surprisingly deep gameplay. In addition to the standard stats, traits, and special abilities, each unit has a single slot which can hold a spell, buff, or debuff. This makes the gameplay very interactive. For example, I often find myself trying to decide whether I want to play a creature with a powerful attached spell as soon as I can to maintain tempo, risking the loss of the spell if my opponent kills or debuffs my unit, or if I want to wait to play my unit until I also have enough mana to play the spell in the same turn. Skyweaver is unusual in the current crop of play-to-earn games in that the economy feels designed to support gameplay rather than the other way round. There is no Skyweaver coin, the market uses DAI. They don’t even sell card packs! The game will be funded by taking a cut of player-to-player card sales in the marketplace. A non-tradeable version of all cards can be unlocked through play. Players can earn tradeable silver or gold versions of cards by placing at the top of the leaderboards or winning special high-stakes Conquest matches.
Genre: CCG - Hearthstone with NFTs
Gods Unchained is Hearthstone with NFTs and play-to-earn mechanics. There are also a few minor tweaks to improve gameplay, such as taking 2+ turns to unlock more mana in the mid- and late-game. There are also one-off mythic cards that radically alter the game for exceptionally lucky or deep-pocketed collectors. Although you’ll likely want to buy cards if you get into the game, Gods Unchained is free-to-play and well worth checking out if you enjoy Hearthstone. It’s an older and well-established game but hasn’t seen an explosion of growth the same way Axie or Splinterlands have.
Genre: Casual party games
Status: Soft launch
Publisher: Mythical Games
Blankos Block Party is a casual game that feels much more focused on collectible NFTs than the other games in this list. These NFTs range from the Blankos characters themselves, to a variety of stylish and not-so-stylish clothing, accessories, and items. Play takes place in short rounds on player-designed maps. Objectives range from races, to platforming, to a classic FFA shoot-em-up. It feels a lot like Roblox or Fall Guys. What makes blankos special is that they hire well-known artists that make skins that go up in value. They’re like Funko Pops! But electronic ones, so it’s online. The music is on-point, and the game is also open-world! Players can earn NFT rewards each season by completing a variety of daily, weekly, and seasonal quests.
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