Play-to-earn games finally broke through to the mainstream consciousness in 2021 and people unfamiliar with crypto were pretty confused. Despite receiving plenty of criticism ranging from people on social media to specialists in non-blockchain industries, the world of play-to-earn games exploded. 

We at Play to Earn Online Magazine have been beyond thrilled to watch what was a niche corner of crypto transform into a major cornerstone of blockchain technology. Gaming (and NFTs) have added yet another real-world utility to cryptocurrency. According to the Blockchain Game Alliance report, 1.4 million unique wallets are interacting with games daily, which accounts for an astounding 49% of blockchain usage.

The real-world utility of crypto has been the main criticism of all cryptocurrencies since Bitcoin was initially launched. Even after Bitcoin earned the “store of value” reputation, the broader world of cryptocurrency has constantly been critiqued for being a purely speculative market (how many more times do we need to hear about tulips?).

The truth is that Bitcoin and the cryptocurrencies that followed have always had value and utility, but that has really become clear to the world in 2021. NFTs stole the show for most of the year, with metaverses becoming increasingly prominent in their wake. 

It’s time to dive into how the world of play-to-earn gaming changed forever in 2021. Let’s get specific and talk about statistics, projects, and blockchains that showcase the massive growth in blockchain gaming that won’t likely be slowing down anytime soon.

“Blockchain gaming has firmly established itself as the industry’s darling. With the consumer growth participating in blockchain games, dapp and gaming trends will come together into something even bigger and potentially all- encompassing: the Metaverse. We’re headed towards a complete shift in how we form communities, create, play, trade and socialize. Blockchain gaming is catalyzing the establishment of the virtual hubs that will host this new digital life.”


Dragos Dunica — Co-founder, DappRadar

A Year Ruled by NFTs, Metaverses, and Game Tokens

Most of the mainstream exposure to NFTs has been art collections with high values that have invigorated artists and appreciators around the world. Game NFTs and game tokens have also caught some headlines and attention, but art NFTs were the main topic of conversations. As a combined force of non-fungible power, Cointelegraph Research estimates there will be a total of US$18 billion by the end of the year (and that article was published December 28th, 2021).

Metaverses have obviously exploded in recent months and added an entirely new level to NFTs and tokens. People are starting to realize that all of this is leading to further web3 development and adoption and are not various disconnected trends.

Top Metaverse NFTs on OpenSea

Game NFTs Are a Hot Commodity

Game NFTs and related tokens are likely to receive even more focus in 2022. We’ve seen much more attention shifting to play-to-earn projects in recent months and that likely won’t stop anytime soon. While the big studios are just now testing the ability to incorporate NFTs into their games, hundreds of other developers are building games with NFTs as part of their core plan. NFTs that offer passive income, and/or special privileges have seen the most buzz. Some even selling for thousands of dollars! Allowing players to actually own pieces of the games they play is huge. The market for gaming NFTs is just getting started!

Metaverses Strive to Imagine a New Digital Life

Building a metaverse has become such a hot topic that Facebook even changed their name to try and get in on the action! Early projects like Decentraland and Sandbox are still going strong, stronger than ever, in fact. But the space is quickly filling with new contenders! Uplift World, NFT Worlds, Star Atlas, … just to name a few.

Some offer customizable worlds and lands, others connect across blockchains.Some are even built from the ground up by the players. Interoperability between blockchains and connecting to external dapps are two features that will see increased adoption in the coming year.

Snoop Dogg’s private party in The Sandbox

The word metaverse is thrown around pretty frequently in the blockchain space. There are many projects that use the word metaverse in their marketing, but have nothing to really show for it in their whitepaper or app. A true metaverse would offer some sort of interconnectivity. A world space that has NFTs and tokens but otherwise is self-contained, does not count as a metaverse. 

Questions of censorship and self-governance will arise as these metaverses mature and add content. Will the worlds be free for all parties, gated communities, or something in-between? As more metaverses come online, especially ones with VR capabilities, expect to see renewed interest in NFTs as art. Decorating your own in-game personal space will become even more of a status symbol and means of self-expression. Embedded dapps will allow users to make direct purchases and external interactions while never leaving their virtual world. And this is all just the beginning! The next few years will see metaverses expand in ways we may not have even imagined yet!

Game Tokens Explode in Popularity

Games have long had their own currencies. But for the most part, those were centralized, in-game, and only usable on the in-game markets. Blockchain is changing that dynamic. Now, not only are in-game items being produced as tradeable NFTs, but game currencies are now often created as blockchain tokens. This enhances play to earn opportunities by providing an easy method for players to cash out, and also opens up interactions with external services such as decentralized finance. 

2021 was definitely the year of the gaming token. Older game tokens such as Sandbox (+15613.2%), Axie Infinity (+16874.3%), and Mana (+4006.3%), have skyrocketed in value over the past year. Gods Unchained launched its GODS token along with new play to earn mechanics. New games in development are hosting ICOs, IDOs, aidrops, incentive programs, and more. Finding ways to get their tokens into the hands of players and investors while providing utility for it and creating value.

Axie Infinity (AXS) chart for 2021

Game tokens that include governance provisions (ie, token holders get to decide some or all aspects of the dapp development) have become the next big thing. In fact, it’s hard to find a new game in development with its own token that doesn’t include some plans for governance! Illivium is one of the next examples. Launched in March of 2021, the token value has increased over 3000% over the past 6 months! And there isn’t even a game to play yet! There are, however, options for staking, and governance already in place.

Play-to-Earn Projects that Dominated the Conversation

NFTs, gaming, and play to earn were the buzzwords for the blockchain space of 2021. And while there are a host of projects to choose from these days, a few notable projects stood out above the rest.

In regards to number of active users, Alien Worlds, Axie Infinity, and Splinterlands dominate the top of the charts. While Alien Worlds has no real gameplay to speak of, the ability to mine for free, and earn tokens that can be sold, has attracted players from around the world. Their recent addition of staking missions on the Binance Smart Chain has proven to be a huge boost for the Alien Worlds ecosystem and a big step in cross-chain connectivity.

Splinterlands launched it’s governance token, SPS, airdropping millions of coins to those who hold Splinterlands NFTs and tokens. Development of the land ownership portion of their game could see the userbase propelled to new heights!

A Battle in Splinterlands

Axie Infinity introduced us to scholarship programs, spawning play to earn guilds like Yield Guild Games, who have even created their own token! Axie land sales continue to hit new all-time highs and the game shows no signs of slowing down.

Sandbox stays constantly relevant, announcing partnerships regularly with everyone from Atari to Snoop Dogg! Sandbox just finished its first Alpha phase, offering huge rewards for lucky participants. Expect even more excitement as it moves into Beta and some of the games in development began to come online.

Newer Blockchains Are Powering Diverse Projects

Probably the biggest takeaway from blockchain gaming in 2021, is the expansion and adoption of new blockchains. WAX jumped to the forefront of game development. Solana saw many new projects. Sandbox announced its move to Polygon. Axie developed its own sidechain, Ronin, and Gods Unchained built a zk-rollup powered marketplace, Immutable X, that now hosts NFTs for dozens of different projects! Binance Smart Chain has also moved into the game space. Mostly with gaming/defi hybrid projects but a number of more dedicated games are hitting the space as well.

This app and gaming diaspora is a direct result of the high gas fees on the Ethereum network, but in the long run, is great for blockchain as a whole. Out of the experimentations, and mutations, and sometimes Frankenstein assembly  of different codebases, comes new and amazing developments, some of which will shape the blockchain space for years to come.

What to Expect from 2022 and Beyond

Our editors Jazelle and Phil share their thoughts on what is to come in the future.

Jazelle — “We Need Cheaper Game Assets”

Jazelle profile shot

It seems pretty clear that NFTs and metaverses aren’t going anywhere. However, for play-to-earn gaming to break into normal gaming, developers need to think smaller and cheaper about game assets. I’m hoping to see projects on WAX and SOL make use of the cheap transactions to create projects that are more game, less fi. 

Metaverses have their place and will be huge in 2022, but I’m hoping devs remember average people don’t have thousands of dollars for a single game asset. Most non-blockchain gamers I know view play-to-earn gaming as “rich people stuff.” I live and breathe this stuff and I can’t convince myself to buy a lot of these assets.

Projects like Skyweaver have focused on the long-term development of a quality cross-platform game that barely seems like crypto is involved, and that’s a great way to reach mainstream gamers. Most of Skyweaver’s NFTs are around the price of a microtransaction on a standard mobile game, too. The “Conquest” game mode creates a somewhat firm price floor of US$1.50 for silver NFTs, and right now the most expensive cards are just over US$5. People might not get rich off of Skyweaver alone, but that’s fine – this isn’t supposed to immediately become your full-time job. 

I signed up for the alpha of Skyweaver around the same time that I bought God’s Unchained Genesis packs and Skyweaver just barely moved on-chain this year. That’s the same slow development ideology embraced by Cardano and it’s one I appreciate.

Phil — “2022 Will See Even More Metaverse Hype”

Everyone will jump on the buzzword, even if their app has nothing metaversey about it. True metaverses will continue to grow and expand, connecting across blockchains, embedding external dapps, and other cool stuff like that.

Many of the gaming projects that rose during this year of NFT hype will falter and dwindle to nothing or simply disappear.Same with the generative NFTs. There’s not enough room for all of them.

2022 will bring more utility to NFTs. They will have multiple uses, across multiple projects. Play to earn will continue to expand beyond the browser-based staking games. Higher quality games will hit the blockchain.

The gaming token market might become overly diluted. Not every single dapp needs to have its own blockchain token. Blockchain enabled NFTs as game items starts to become the norm, but having it as a default for new games is still several years away. The markets and blockchains will continue to see ups and downs, but the ecosystem will continue to grow and become part of everyday life for more and more people.

Stay Informed and Get Involved

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