Nice article Ryan. I am interested in seeing if you do more around Play to Earn and Axie Infinity. Would be open to cross collaborating with my weekly newsletter around investing early in this space.

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Aug 3, 2021Liked by Ryan Foo

A great overview you've laid out in this article! I'm interested in your take on what sustains a play-to-earn or play-and-earn game. A play-and-earn game generates monetary value for the player (in addition to enjoyment, but that value needs to be contributed to the economy via another channel. It could be a pay-to-win channel, or cosmetic purchases in which other players pay for the play-and-earn players' in-game time and effort.

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Hi Wei Han, thanks for reading and engaging! I think the question of sustainability of a game is a very important one, since volatile player counts can significantly affect trust in the game, and gamers tend to bring a very different set of expectations to play-to-earn games. That's why I think the path ahead is free-to-start, but as you go through the game, you realize that you're also creating value for the game economy.

It's key to note that play-and-earn can coexist with other monetization mechanics, and in fact it probably will do so. Crazy Defense Heroes by Animoca takes the approach of using their experience level gained this month in their existing F2P game w microtransactions to make you eligible for a reward in their future game, but also embraces NFTs in their upcoming game, which means you can trade the tower cards that you level up.

The key point though, is that there has to be sufficient opportunities for trade (of earning players, vs paying players). For example, levelling up and gearing alternate characters in World of Warcraft is a task that takes about the same time for each person, and gives newer players a chance to enter into the economy of the game by trading their time for in-game currency. At the same time, these alt characters are something that certain players would find valuable.

When you fund the levelling of an alt, for example, the other player could level your character's mining skill, or some other resource so they can spend more time studying for raids or on the auction house, which give the buying player more gold, etc.

In Runescape, you have players that spend most of their time doing runecrafting, or mining and fishing. In that way, they create value for the game's economy without necessarily having to be around the game for longer or have more accrued value (sans the part of levelling their skill). As a new player in Lumbridge, you can even spend time just farming cowhides and tanning them, selling for 200g each.

In this case, it's a pay to win channel, which has to be carefully designed. You can see in the above cases P2W doesn't necessarily have to feel coercive or unfair. This is because WoW and Runescape provides other avenues for skill to come in at a competitive level. For example, in PvP. You can't pay to win in arena in World of Warcraft (not easily, anyway), and you can't pay to win in the wilderness in Runescape.

So inversion here: what does a failed play-to-earn look like?

- No opportunity for a lower level player to show value to a higher level player

- I think games like Clash of Clans are the least fit for play-to-earn. If you are 2 town hall levels below everyone else, your contribution to other players is substantially reduced. However, play-and-earn mechanics can still be applied to Clash of Clans -- allowing players to trade their elixir stores, buildings, even loan out their units for a war to other players.

On the topic of value from lower to higher level player:

- I think of MapleStory's "fame" mechanic, which allowed any player to give any other player either a positive fame (+ reputation) or a negative one. (- reputation) based on their experience with them. Because this was available to almost all players, a possibility for trade was formed between lower level and higher level players. Higher level players would pay a modicum amount of $ for lower level players to give them fame.

As for the intended purpose of (getting) fame, though...

Thanks for your comment, it helped me clarify mental models and bring up some ideas for future articles!

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Aug 4, 2021Liked by Ryan Foo

Thanks for the comprehensive breakdown! I can't claim to know all the games you've mentioned, but definitely portrays the diversity of mechanics that exists out there.

With Axie Infinity's growth (and its token price), there have been many comments about its sustainability. "What drives sustainable value for pay-and-earn games" would be a good topic to discuss!

I'm not against "P2W", and definitely agree that careful design is the key. While games often design "win conditions", players' satisfaction from the same game could be different: better cosmetics, stronger combat strength, ability to craft unique items, having lots of alt characters.

I like how you frame the "lower level vs higher level" interaction, which applies even for games without levels as its matter of players who have spent less time players who have spent more time in-game. Besides "time spent" or "resources/experience accumulated", I'm exploring if "risk-appetite" can be another dimension to divide P2W players and P&E players. Let's catch up when things open up, great to know your passion for this exciting space!

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If you time, can you do a case study on world of warcraft- the game design, mechanics, how players made gold, and other behaviours?

ANd keep up the wonderful work. Open to talking in dms on twitter as well. Thanks

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really thanks Ryan for ur articles, so helpful and hope u excuse me to summarize it on twitter, from the points u listed, i would like to see more case studies, mid-successful games and the profits/revnue, the ways of it, the metrics make a game flourish and so on

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Hey Ryan, this is super awesome intro to different game monetization mechanics.

I've only played FIFA and a few times Fortnight. For someone totally new to building games (it could making a real game or fantasy game), where do you start as the basics since there is a lot to unfold ? I wanted to make sure I know the basics and build the pillar on top of them.

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sup fren Ryan, I hope to see more math around p2e with axie example

Player's growth brought axie's price growth, SLP price growth for breeding, and then they fallen

Now there is just sell pressure on SLP because i doubt that many people from Philippines would like to learn what is LP on ronin, governance and so on, so there is no circulation for SLP, isn't is like farm everything you can and leave?

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