What Are Play-to-Earn Games and Why Play Them?

What are Play-to-Earn Games & Why Play Them
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The gaming part of blockchain technology where players earn cryptocurrency for having fun

Play-to-earn gaming doesn’t change games, but it changes the business model surrounding these video games. In this article we will dive into play-to-earn, but we will also touch topics like play-to-own and play-to-airdrop. Essentially there’s not much difference between these different models, as with all of these players will earn game assets by playing the game.

What is play-to-earn gaming?

Play-to-earn gaming had its breakthrough during the COVID pandemic in 2021, when Axie Infinity lead the charge and allowed thousands of gamers in developing countries to earn an income. Now, two to three years later, play-to-earn as a business model still had a long way to go.

Play-to-earn games, or P2E games, are video games with blockchain technology attached, allowing players to earn in-game money or game items. Because these items exist on the blockchain as a cryptocurrency or NFTs, gamers can trade these items. The most important part of P2E gaming is ownership.

How does it differ from traditional gaming?

With traditional gaming, players pay money to play a game. With P2E games, users can earn money from what they win. P2E gaming also offers users control over their in-game assets. Through blockchain and NFT technology, you can own your skins, weapons, avatars, items and anything else you pay for.

The other big difference is quality. Traditional video games are often backed by large creative studios with millions of dollars in budget. People often discuss the concept of AAA gaming, which means high quality graphics, story lines and gameplay. 

At the moment, very few P2E games are anywhere near the level of sophistication that traditional games have reached. Considering the progress that P2E gaming has made in a short period, it seems only a matter of time before blockchain game studios catch up with their traditional counterparts.

Play-to-earn games you can play now

Developing a high-quality game can easily take 3 to 4 years. Add to that the challenge of scaling blockchain technology and add the marketing effort to convince the mainstream audience that NFTs aren’t the devil, and you know it’s a challenge to attract a big audience.

However, there are a couple of play-to-earn games on the market that allow players to earn cryptocurrencies by playing the game. In addition, other titles allow gamers to craft or earn NFTs through gameplay. Let’s take a look at some of the examples below, or read Top 10 Blockchain Games to Play and Earn Crypto Tokens.

Axie Infinity Classic and Origins

The play-to-earn game that started a revolution is still among the top favorites in Web3. Axie Infinity re-released its Classic game mode in late 2023, while the Axie Origins game has been on the market for a while. By playing these two Axie games, players can earn SLP tokens. In addition, tournaments and leader boards distribute prizes often paid in AXS, the governance token of the Axie ecosystem.


The trading card game Parallel is one of the most high-profile games in Web3 in 2023. With the recent Planetfall expansion, the gaming universe of Parallel has been enriched with new lore, characters and powers. Players can own and sell their NFT cards, but when they use them in competitive battles they can earn PRIME tokens.

Nine Chronicles

The idle role-playing game Nine Chronicles is interesting, because it allows various ecosystem contributors to earn NCG tokens. Players can level up their hero, earn game items, sell or level up their gear, and compete with other players. Nine Chronicles allows every players to earn NCG. Moreover, users who host a network node for Nine Chronicles can earn extra tokens in the process.

Play-to-earn? Play-to-own? Play-to-airdrop?

Since the hype surrounding Axie Infinity in 2021, the term play-to-earn has been tainted with the expectations that all gamers can become rich. Like the early version of Axie Infinity, these game economies couldn’t sustain themselves as more users jumped in, and later on left again. Through marketing efforts, various developers have pushed for new terminologies, including play-to-own, play-and-earn and – more recently – play-to-airdrop.

Whether we’re talking about play-to-earn, play-and-earn or play-to-own, I would argue it’s basically the same thing. Players participate in a game economy and they can earn and own game assets through their participation. Again, this is not a promise to become rich, but a fundamental change in the way players participate in game economies.

However, from a developer perspective there can be a difference between these different models:


Instead of rewarding people for whatever past behavior in the Web3 ecosystem, more gaming companies opt for a more involved way of rewarding their most dedicated community members. Gamers need to play early access versions of games to be eligible for an NFT or cryptocurrency airdrop. For example, projects like Kuroro Beasts, Pixels and Nifty Island have started or announced play-to-airdrop campaigns to launch their new crypto tokens.


This business model seems to connect more with games that allow players to earn cryptocurrencies. For example, play Pixels and you can earn BERRY, or play Parallel to earn PRIME. The play-to-earn model is really about earning cryptocurrency for in-game actions.


And thirdly, the play-to-own business model allows gamers to earn in-game assets. For example, players who participate in seasonal events for a certain game, can win limited edition cosmetics or other game assets. The play-to-own model is more about ownership over game assets.

How to find the best play-to-earn games

As we’ve already seen, DappRadar lists (nearly) every blockchain game across 50+ blockchains. So if you can’t find it on DappRadar, the likelihood is that it doesn’t exist. We also provide secure links to every dapp on our platform, to help you avoid being the victim of fakes and scammers.

Here’s a step-by-step guide for finding the best and most popular games on the market:

  1. Go to DappRadar’s Rankings pages.
  2. Click on the Games tab (you’ll find it in the left-side menu).
  3. Now you’ll see every game we list across every blockchain. All games are automatically sorted by user numbers (Unique Active Wallets, or UAW) in descending order.
  4. Within the Games Rankings you can filter through various categories, for example Sports, or Strategy and Play2Earn.
  5. In addition, there are more advanced filter options, allowing PRO members to really dive deep and find those gaming projects that are perhaps still early on the market.

Why do play-to-earn games suck?

Play-to-earn as a business model, is a gigantic step away from the classic business-to-consumer model. Instead of selling boxed games or leasing digital licenses, game companies are selling or distributing parts of their game to players. It will take a few years before the wider games industry is convinced by the play-to-earn model, even though we slowly see more interest from publishers like Ubisoft, Square Enix, Sega and Bandai Namco.

But why do they suck? They don’t, but they do need more time.

Where traditional games take 3 to 4 years to develop, the market for play-to-earn games is only a few years old. In this niche, there’s still a strong need for knowledge and skills found plentiful within the traditional games industry. As more talent finds their way into Web3, the quality of the games will increase. Yet still, developing a game (in public) can be a challenge on its own, and not every game in development will make it to a full release.

Are play-to-earn games a scam?

No, but the quality of blockchain-enabled games ranges from dodgy web games to high-quality online games that can compete with other video games on the market. Sure, there are scams out there. In addition there are very promising projects in development right now. But not every play-to-earn game will make it to the market, just like not every video game does.

On DappRadar we list play-to-earn games and help you venture the Web3 universe with as many data insights as possible. On project pages we mention the number of NFT traders, but we also count the number of wallets interacting with other blockchain elements in the Web3 game’s ecosystem.

How to spot a play-to-earn game early?

The earlier you are, the riskier the investment. However, it can also be the difference between 10x or 1,000x on your gamble. On DappRadar we offer various ways to discover play-to-earn games, and below I will list them for you:

  1. Dive into the Games Rankings, and set filters to find your ideal Web3 game
  2. Go to Token Rankings, filter by Games, and find game-related cryptocurrencies
  3. Keep an eye on DappRadar Quests, where projects are searching for active participants
  4. Create an Alert, and receive notifications when your requirements have been met
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