The death of play-to-earn gaming

Play-to-earn gaming forms a high barrier to entry by default and severely hinders a game’s ability to grow


Frenzel/Shutterstock modified by Blockworks


The rise of the Web3 industry has been highlighted by many connected trends, but none arguably as important for the global adoption of the industry as the emergence of blockchain-powered games. Initially a movement dominated by play to earn (“P2E”, or GameFi), the gaming revolution has found itself at a turning point — the GameFi era is coming to an end.

According to experts at blockchain gaming resource Polemos, a marked shift toward sustainable gaming models is now occurring, and it involves gaming studios giving back to players in frictionless ways. By focusing on activities such as competitive tournaments with prize pools instead of enticing players with the possibility of earning a regular income stream from playing, studios enable players to still earn small incomes, but without a high risk of a game economy collapse like those experienced by Axie Infinity and StepN.

AXS Token Decline
Axie Infinity’s utility token, AXS, has fallen over 95% since its all-time high

Today, the blockchain gaming movement is preparing to grow its current player base of approximately 1 million users to new heights. Among developers, the resounding emphasis is on implementing sustainable, fun mechanics to keep players engaged and the doors of game studios open. To ensure better blockchain-powered mechanics can shine for players and produce desired industry growth, Polemos believes that maintaining a low barrier to entry across games is paramount, and has identified a pair of projects leading the way to greater adoption.

A gentle lead into Web3 will usher in the next wave of adoption

The lie that the GameFi era told Web3 was that everyone would be able to earn a living simply by participating in game economies — either as a player, investor or collector. These promised earnings were typically designed to be distributed payments in the form of in-game cryptocurrencies that hold real-world value. 

While that vision is great for early participants as it involves game assets appreciating in value, it forms a high barrier to entry by default and severely hinders a game’s ability to grow. When player base growth is capped, projects can’t earn enough revenue to continue generating sufficient real-world value to support the game economy, rendering it entirely reliant on unsustainable inflationary token distribution. Once liquidity for the token dries up among the capped player base, the collapse of the game economy begins.

The reality is that, as in Web2 gaming, earning a comfortable living will be reserved for top players and content creators. It’s likely that only cryptocurrencies that power the most profitable games (if they maintain utility and value in the real world) and gaming assets deemed “special,” like the Counter-Strike skins bundle that sold for $500,000, will hold the power to bestow wealth upon holders. On the bright side, this leaves the door open for low barriers to entry.

The overbearing financialization of game assets is not the answer to onboarding new users to blockchain gaming. While improving the quality of games is certainly a glaring task on blockchain gaming’s to-do list, Polemos Co-CEO Richard McLaren sees improving the onboarding process as the other essential pillar that needs to be in place for the next growth boom to occur for the industry.

“Non-crypto natives have no desire to endure such rigorous friction when starting a new game for the first time. As an industry, we need to solve the steep crypto learning curve currently in place and ease the onboarding process. We’ll know we’ve achieved victory when gamers can play without realizing blockchain is integrated. That’s when the fun truly begins.”

Polemos Co-CEO Richard McLaren

Promising projects breaking down barriers

As blockchain gaming shifts toward more player-friendly, frictionless onboarding processes, Polemos has identified standout projects already working to reduce barriers and generate growth.


In collaboration with Magic, Immutable has launched its non-custodial wallet and authentication platform Immutable Passport, which is designed to streamline the user onboarding process for Web3 gamers through passwordless sign-on and automated wallet creation — all players need is an email to get started. Once onboarded to the platform, players can securely use their Passport across Web3 games, eliminating the need to maintain multiple addresses and wallets.  

Loading Tweet..


METALCORE, a first/third combat territorial warfare game is bringing the world of Web3 gaming into new territory, as it’s slated for an eventual fully free-to-play entry on the globally popular Epic Games Store.

Boasting 31.3 million daily active users, the games store presents an incredible opportunity to showcase features exclusive to blockchain-powered games to an audience that has not yet experienced them. If successful, the game could win the hearts of gamers around the world and encourage them to explore other Web3 games.

Loading Tweet..

The death of GameFi is needed

The terms “play to earn” and “GameFi” themselves imply unsustainability, literally meaning that players are logging on and playing with the primary goal of earning a profit. According to Polemos, this “attracts an audience that is looking to extract value from a game’s ecosystem, instead of contributing to it.” To build great games that further the Web3 gaming industry, developers need to continue evolving to resonate with the audience of gamers that are willing to spend money on games purely for the sake of entertainment.

While promising developments are already being seen that have the power to supercharge the growth of blockchain gaming, there’s still an incredible amount of work remaining to bring the industry up to the standard of gaming around the world.

The death of GameFi is a necessary step in this evolution, as it will surely enable Web3 game developers to focus more on what really matters — creating great games. With onboarding becoming smoother and game quality improving industrywide, the future has never been brighter for the gaming revolution.

Polemos’ role in the future of gaming is to focus on education and onboarding more people into the web3 gaming space.

If you want to master the world of blockchain gaming, Polemos is the resource for you.

This content is sponsored by Polemos.

Start your day with top crypto insights from David Canellis and Katherine Ross. Subscribe to the Empire newsletter.

Explore the growing intersection between crypto, macroeconomics, policy and finance with Ben Strack, Casey Wagner and Felix Jauvin. Subscribe to the On the Margin newsletter.

The Lightspeed newsletter is all things Solana, in your inbox, every day. Subscribe to daily Solana news from Jack Kubinec and Jeff Albus.


Upcoming Events

Salt Lake City, UT

MON - TUES, OCT. 7 - 8, 2024

Blockworks and Bankless in collaboration with buidlbox are excited to announce the second installment of the Permissionless Hackathon – taking place October 7-8 in Salt Lake City, Utah. We’ve partnered with buidlbox to bring together the brightest minds in crypto for […]

Salt Lake City, UT

WED - FRI, OCTOBER 9 - 11, 2024

Pack your bags, anon — we’re heading west! Join us in the beautiful Salt Lake City for the third installment of Permissionless. Come for the alpha, stay for the fresh air. Permissionless III promises unforgettable panels, killer networking opportunities, and mountains […]

recent research

Research Report Templates.png


ZKPs enable efficient offchain transaction processing and validation, resulting in increased throughput and reduced fees. Solana's ZK Compression leverages ZKPs to minimize onchain storage costs, while Sui's zkLogin streamlines user onboarding by replacing complex key management with familiar OAuth credentials.


North Korea suspected in breach of Indian exchange’s multisig wallet


Plus, Sanctum’s CLOUD token has officially launched — but not without problems


It’s not yet clear whether Donald Trump is pumping bitcoin. But an unofficial memecoin is still seeing benefit.


StarkWare takes a step towards making StarkNet for Bitcoin


The numbers point to one conclusion: Risk is back, or at least it was during the first half of the year