World of Warcraft is one of the world’s most popular MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role-playing game). It is developed by Blizzard Entertainment and has been around since 2004. Like many kids at that time, a young boy in Canada named Vitalik Buterin was a fan and an avid gamer of WoW.
\ Sometime in 2010, he discovered that one of his prized characters in the game had been nerfed out of the blue. No warnings, no messages, no consent. The character had just been weakened all of a sudden. As Vitalik mentions in his bio, he cried himself to sleep and “realized what horrors centralized services can bring”. Years later he founded Ethereum.
\ Events like the above have been catalysts for the growth of Web3 gaming – permissionless environments where gamers probably own in-game assets and identities. Many of these games have immersive virtual worlds, which are sometimes referred to as metaverses. Thanks to wallet login, which is a characteristic of Web3, these realms are no more siloed in terms of portability of property.
\ This brings in the possibility of seamless economies and thereby allows for in-game commerce with minimal counterparty risk. These blockchain-based games are available on Ethereum, Solana, BSC (Binance Smart Chain), Tron, and many other chains.
Many Web2 games have spawned unofficial grey markets for skins, assets, and characters. With Web3, these markets are all on-chain and hence highly transparent. Players can trade assets in the form of NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) as well as in-game currencies in the form of cryptocurrencies (which are fungible).
\ These liquid markets, in turn, enable the creation of earning opportunities and hence the term Play-to-Earn (or P2E), or as Mechanism Capital’s Eva Wu says, “the financialization of fun”.
Even real estate in these games can go for millions. Some of these games also integrate elements of DeFi (Decentralized Finance) which has led to the portmanteau GameFi. There are multiple avenues to make money while playing.
\ In countries like the Philippines, P2E games like Axie Infinity have become viable career options for gamers with many supporting their families through earnings from the platform. While recent reports suggest that the average earnings have fallen below the minimum wage in the country, this figure fluctuates from time to time and more P2E games with advanced tokenomics are also coming up as possible alternatives.
\ The token markets for these games mimic real-world financial markets in terms of volume and frequency. For example, the price of SAND, the native token of The Sandbox Game, shot up recently after Adidas teased a possible tie-up. This is similar to the stock prices of a company going up in anticipation of a major partnership deal. \n While almost everyone in the P2E space is already aware of the big names like Axie Infinity, Gods Unchained, and The Sandbox, there are many upcoming games with unique offerings that are equally interesting if not more. Here are a few P2E MMORPGs to look forward to.
1. Magic Craft
\ Magic Craft is a cross-platform ‘war and conquer’ MMORPG developed on BSC and powered by the Unity game engine. A unique feature of Magic Craft is that it offers a free-to-play mode along with the P2E mode.
\ In terms of scale and gameplay, Magic Craft could give popular titles such as World of Warcraft and League of Legends a run for their money. What sets this game apart is the use of blockchain technology, which equips the Magic Craft Metaverse with unique features not available in centralized MMORPG platforms.
\ The user’s main objective here is to team up with other players to build clans and fight with rival clans. There are 7 powerful Castles built by the Elders. Every week, each clan battles it out for the ownership of the Castles, and the victorious Kings earn taxes from the empire as reward.
\ Taxes are paid through $MCRT, a multi-chain token that is the in-game currency and drives the Magic Craft economy. $MCRT is also the governance token of the ecosystem, and will allow stakers to participate in the future development of the platform. The $MCRT ICO (initial coin offering) is planned for Q4 2021.
\ Magic Craft offers other gameplay modes as well, such as P2P battles, quests, guild wars and tournaments. Players participate in battles through in-game characters known as Heroes. Each Hero is issued as an NFT, and comes with a unique set of powers and abilities. These Heroes can be enhanced by equipping them with items such as weapons, armours, and spells, all of which are issued as NFTs.
\ When the users win battles, they earn $MCRT tokens and other in-game items, while the level of the participating Heroes improves. A higher Leaderboard ranking leads to greater rewards. Players can also stake their Heroes, weapons and armours, and earn $MCRT as reward.
\ Heroes and other accessories can be bought and sold in Magic Craft’s NFT Marketplace. The market also provides a platform for collectors of digital assets who might just purchase and rent out NFTs without participating in the gameplay. Virtual lands and castles are available on the market as well.
\ Coming to gameplay modes, users can choose either the free mode or the P2E mode at the onset. In the free-to-play mode, users are provided with Free Heroes to kickstart their journey in the Metaverse, while users who select the P2E mode have to purchase an Epic/Premium Hero from the NFT Marketplace.
\ Users can participate in conquests and battles using their Free Heroes and earn $MCRT, which can then be used to level up the Free Hero or purchase Premium Heroes. Free Heroes, however, cannot be sold in the Marketplace; only Premium Heroes can be.
\ Even so, the free-to-play mode allows a great opportunity for players to navigate the Magic Craft metaverse without investing any money initially; they can always purchase Premium Heroes once they start enjoying the adventures on offer.
\ In the future, players will be able to stream live games to the Magic Craft community and earn $MCRT. They will also be able to pay their favourite streamers directly on Facebook, YouTube and Twitch through $MCRT. The public beta launch of the game is planned for Q4 2022.
2. Star Atlas
\ Star Atlas is an open-world, space exploration strategy MMORPG built on the Solana blockchain. The game promises a fully immersive 3D intergalactic world powered by Unreal Engine’s Nanite that can be experienced in virtual reality (VR).
\ In Star Atlas, users have to pilot spaceships in search of celestial and terrestrial assets. On locating such assets, they have to ‘stake’ claims on the assets, ‘mine’ them, refine them and trade them with other players.
\ Players can battle with other players and plunder their ships to gain possession of scarce resources as well. They can also engage in various other activities revolving around mining, such as trading raw and refined ore, hauling cargo, and crafting retail components.
\ The default exploration mode provides the exterior view of the spaceship, alongwith the ability to see the interior. Players can also switch to the first-person cockpit view and navigate their ship manually. This view offers a much more immersive experience, and is ideal for VR gaming.
\ New players start their journey at the corner of the map, and can scan visible stars for assets. Higher rewards are located towards the centre; however, the risk associated with these rewards is also higher, and players can end up losing their hard-earned assets.
\ Star Atlas supports two distinct tokens, $ATLAS and $POLIS. $ATLAS is an inflationary currency for trading game assets. It is earned through combats, conquests and exploring the metaverse.
\ $POLIS is the governance token, and allows holders to participate in decision-making of the game. It also entitles players to ownership and management of space-cities, which are implemented through Decentralized Autonomous Corporations (DAC).
\ The Star Atlas ecosystem features an NFT marketplace. Players can buy and sell ships, assets, mining equipment, collectibles and other in-game items. These items can be configured for missions, claiming land, crafting ships, configuring space stations and building mining operations which set the stage for in-game economics.
\ Due to the permanent loss during normal economic activity, all assets are deflationary, which maintains uniqueness and stable supply. Star Atlas’ gameplay, which revolves around staking and mining assets, is similar to a blockchain network’s operation. All microtransactions (exploration, mining, trading) will be on-chain and settled on the Serum DEX.
\ Star Atlas will also allow user-generated content to be added to the game. This content can be of various forms, such as externally created assets or skins, that will be listed for sale on the Marketplace.
\ Research firm Naavik has pointed out that there is a possibility of Star Atlas being more popular with speculators because of the emphasis on the in-game economy which could create a high financial barrier to entry for gamers. Nonetheless, the NFT and token economy is already funding the game development and will be a source of income for players as well. Star Atlas is being released in phases and the full gameplay deployment timeline is awaited.
\ Treeverse is a fantasy-themed MMORPG with MOBA-style (multiplayer online battle arena) combats between characters. As Loopify, the founder, mentioned in his announcement, Treeverse is being built as the “Runescape of Blockchain Games”.
\ The idea for Treeverse spawned from an NFT project called NFTrees launched in Feb’21 by Loopify. NFTrees is a collection of 420 randomly generated pixelated trees. Following this launch, the first iteration of the Treeverse concept came about and involved a place to hang out – a social media alternative in a virtual realm.
\ So, Treeverse started off just as an MMO where everyone could chat with others and explore the open-world metaverse as avatars. Plots (called Founder’ Plots) inside this virtual world could be owned as NFTs. Accordingly, the NFTrees holders received a free mint to a plot inside the metaverse while 10,000 more plots were mintable for others at 0.125 ETH each on 1st Aug 2021. All of those got minted quickly.
\ All plot holders get private homes in Treeverse where they can display their NFT collections and invite friends to visit. An early private alpha version gave access to only plot holders to join and explore the metaverse. But now anyone with a Metamask wallet can join the game.
\ As Treeverse moves from an MMO to an MMORPG, the first phase involves the introduction of playable characters as pfp-style NFTs called Timeless and upgrading the present landscape to fit a more Runescape-like experience. NFTrees holders got a free mint of Timeless.
\ For the P2E element, two ERC20 tokens will be introduced: $ROOT, the governance token, and $SEED, the in-game currency. Apart from these, a marketplace for collectibles/assets (armour, pets, weapons, etc.) and character skills like melee, magic, crafting, etc. are under development.
\ The team has also recently closed a fundraising round valuing itself at USD 25M from investors that include IDEO Ventures, Animoca Brands, Stani Kulechov (Aave), SkyVision Capital etc. The timeline for the full Treeverse experience has not been announced yet.
\ As crypto and NFTs gain adoption, Web3 will become the development and design standard for applications, platforms, and games. Consequently, gaming will become commerce-rich and gamers will realise that one can have both fun as well as earn natively while doing their favourite pastimes. The age of P2E has just begun. Share with us your experiences in this space as well. Abhijoy and I are always available on Telegram.
\ Disclosure: The authors have no vested interest in any of the projects mentioned in the article. They do not own NFTs or tokens of Magic Craft, Star Atlas and Treeverse.
About the authors:
Rohit Chatterjee is an Analog Design Engineer working at Texas Instruments. Abhijoy Sarkar is a banker-turned-entrepreneur. They are high school friends who lost contact years ago. They reunited over crypto in early 2018 and have been investing through mutual research and shared knowledge.
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