This is the second part of a special Forkast series on humorist Joel Stein’s adventures in the blockchain world. The first chapter, on his first-ever crypto wallet, is here.
Of course I want to play to earn. I want to earn money doing all the things I enjoy. Eat to earn? Sure. Watch TV to earn? I’m in. Sex to earn? Historically that’s had complications, but I’m confident that the blockchain can work those out.
So I got pretty excited when I learned that you no longer had to be on a pro esports team to make money playing video games. Average players at home can now also case in through “play to earn” games, where instead of getting fake gold coins, you get fake-sounding cryptocurrencies.
The biggest “play to earn” game is Axie Infinity. It’s a digital collectible card game, like Pokemon or Magic: The Gathering, in which teams of three Axies battle each other. Axies are adorable colorful cartoon axolotls, which are endangered salamanders that look like they’re always smiling. Axolotls have been bred as pets ever since they were imported to Paris from Mexico in 1864, they can regenerate cool body parts like their jaws, and their mating rituals involve dancing. I was hoping the way to win the game was to pelt other players with axolotl fun facts until they surrender.
But that’s not how it works. In Axie Infinity, you make money by being awarded crypto from winning battles. And by breeding new Axies that you can sell as non-fungible tokens. One Axie NFT sold for 300ETH (or about US$130,000 at the time) last November, and an NFT of land in the Axie metaverse, which isn’t even the part of the game most people use, sold for 888.2ETH (more than US$2.5 million) last February. In the Philippines, so many Filipinos were playing Axie as their full-time job that the government tried to tax the Vietnam-based company that makes the game. That firm, Sky Mavis, was valued at US$3 billion, after a US$152 million funding round led by Andreesen Horowitz. Silicon Valley obviously sees a future in which I come home from a long day at work and complain to my wife about how I couldn’t save the princess because a stupid ape kept throwing barrels at me.
But there’s no play-to-earn Donkey Kong yet — so I signed up at the Axie Infinity website for my first day of play-to-earn work. It turned out that before I could start playing to earn, I had to pay to buy at least three NFT Axies for my team. So it was less “play to earn” than “pay to play to earn.” …….