NFT Games — The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Behind the Play-to-Earn Hype

Altura Team
3 min readAug 14, 2023

NFT (non-fungible token) games and play-to-earn gaming have exploded onto the crypto scene in recent years. From Axie Infinity to The Sandbox, new web3 games that integrate blockchain technology and digital assets are garnering huge hype. But behind all the excitement lies some complex realities. Here’s a dive into the pros, cons, and debates surrounding the play-to-earn gaming phenomenon.

The Good: New Opportunities for Players

Proponents point to the vast opportunities NFT games unlock for players. By incorporating decentralization, ownership of in-game assets, and blockchain-based incentivization structures like play-to-earn, web3 gaming proponents argue the model empowers players in new ways.

For one, play-to-earn means players can monetize their time and effort spent in games by earning crypto and NFT rewards. For players in lower-income regions like the Philippines and Venezuela, platforms like Axie Infinity have provided new sources of income from gaming. Some have even made gaming their full-time job.

NFT games also enable true digital ownership of in-game assets, unlike traditional gaming where items are locked to accounts. Players can buy and sell NFT characters, land plots, collectibles and more. Holders of scarce NFT assets can benefit from trading them on secondary markets.

The technology also facilitates player-driven economies and ecosystems without centralized control. Features like decentralized autonomous organizations give players a voice in governance over web3 games.

The Bad: Speculation and Market Crashes

However, many criticize the rampant speculation in the NFT gaming sector. Cryptocurrency price volatility leads to boom and bust cycles that impact games.

In 2022 for instance, the crypto market downturn led to plummeting asset values in major NFT games, leaving some players unable to recoup their initial investment. The demand drop forced brands like Yuga Labs to postpone launches.

Critics also argue that play-to-earn mechanics are now being used too aggressively as a marketing gimmick, luring in players with promises of earnings that may not materialize. The sustainability of earn-to-play incentives long-term remains uncertain.

There are also concerns around potential scams, money laundering, and bad actors drawn to the sector given the unregulated nature of cryptocurrency markets.

The Ugly: Accessibility, Costs, and Other Barriers

Perhaps the biggest issue is that NFT games currently involve steep onboarding costs which limit accessibility. For instance, purchasing a starter set of NFT assets to play Axie Infinity cost hundreds, even thousands of dollars, pricing out many casual or new gamers.

Network transaction fees on platforms like Ethereum remain high, so players must account for substantial gas fees to trade NFTs or move assets. This again restricts access for those without ample crypto funds.

The learning curve required to understand crypto wallets, private keys, market volatility, and play-to-earn mechanics creates added friction for adoption among mainstream audiences. Gamers just want to play, not wrestle with blockchain complexities.

There are also growing concerns around potential addiction fueled by earning incentives, in addition to problem gambling risks. Unregulated crypto casinos already pose issues like underage gambling that some NFT games could enable.

Looking Ahead

While the NFT gaming space shows immense promise, there remain clear challenges and pitfalls to address regarding accessibility, sustainability, and responsible growth. Mitigating speculation, protecting consumers, enhancing usability, and building sustainable communities will be key for advancing web3

gaming adoption long-term. But if done right, NFT games could herald a revolution in how we play, create, and connect through virtual worlds.