Play-to-Earn: Do We Really Need Blockchain for Web3 Gaming?

Updated by Nicole Buckler
In Brief
  • The tech being used to build blockchain-based games is at least ten years behind traditional gaming tech
  • Many of the best gaming resources lie in Web2 gaming technology
  • Web3 games need to take a leaf from the Web2 playbook
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Play-to-Earn: Should today’s serious gaming studios be building with Web3 technology? The future of Web3 games lies in Web2 tech, says Corey Wilton, CEO of Mirai Labs.

It may sound like a strange question, particularly coming from someone who’s devoted so much effort to building in the Play-to-Earn (P2E) space. But if we Web3 builders want to create the best possible P2E games, we need to use the best possible resources we have at hand. And frankly, many of those resources lie in Web2 gaming technology. 

Therefore, to create the best gaming experiences for users, Web3 gaming builders need to build everything possible with Web2 technology, and integrate blockchain only when it’s necessary. Here’s how. 

Play-to-Earn: When Do We Really Need Blockchain? 

When it comes down to it, the tech being used to build blockchain-based games is at least ten years behind traditional gaming tech. Those of us building and playing in the P2E ecosystem have decided to make this trade-off in the name of decentralized ownership. 

But is it really worth it for Web3 games to have such outdated mechanics in exchange for blockchain-based solutions?

It isn’t. In fact, many practical things – payments, onboarding, and other gaming elements – are a lot smoother without blockchain. Still, there are some situations when blockchain is the right tool for the job. So where is blockchain technology truly the best solution? 

Which Came First: The Problem Or the Solution? 

Many builders and analysts have pointed out that blockchain could potentially add a layer of interoperability to in-game items and currencies. It could allow them to be ported from one game to another. However, the infrastructure to support this type of interoperability between games will not exist for some time to come. This is even when it comes to games being created by the same studio. So while interoperability is possible, it isn’t practical – at least, not anytime soon.

The one thing that blockchain may be effective for today, however, is ownership. Because blockchains are both decentralized and immutable, they can be used to create secure ownership records for any in-game item, currency, or other type of asset, including user data. 

But it’s important to note that in-game ownership is also possible without blockchain, and that in many cases, end-users may not know or care about the difference between on- and off-chain ownership. In these cases, in-game ownership is not a problem that needs to be solved. Therefore, the application of blockchain for certain types of ownership can’t really be called a solution – in fact, it may even be a hindrance. 

Despite this, more and more of these “solutions” are created all the time, for ownership and beyond. And when the market is frothy, thousands of companies start to build more and more of them, fabricating “problems” that their products can solve.

Ultimately, this leads to an overabundance of services that will become obsolete over the long term. And because these are only temporary fixes to ongoing problems, building with them today isn’t a good idea.

Play-to-Earn: Should today’s serious gaming studios be building with Web3 technology?

Play-to-Earn: Optimizing Blockchain

So P2E’s blockchain problem is two-fold: blockchain is often overused, and when it should be used, the solutions that may be easiest applied in the short term will not last into the future.

That’s why P2E gaming builders should use Web2 technology as much as they can today – to build advanced games that are augmented by robust blockchain applications only when and where it’s necessary.

When blockchain is truly the best solution, Web3 builders need to focus on systems that are built to last for the long term. These are Layer 1 (L1) blockchains and Layer 2 (L2) solutions that have strong ecosystems and core development teams. 

The fact is that even though these L1s and L2s are not currently capable of supporting the same kinds of complex gaming ecosystems of today’s Web2 games, it’s likely that they will be one day.

Many L1 and L2 builders are working towards a world in which blockchains will operate like Amazon Web Services does today – a strong, flexible underlying fabric that can support an unlimited number of applications. And when that day comes, the Web2 tech that supports strong P2E games will be easily ported to Web3.

Tying Off-Chain Assets with On-Chain Marketplaces 

When we look at the P2E ecosystem, 99% of the companies that are building things in today’s market will not exist in two years. Who’s going to last? It’s going to be the studios that focus their resources on creating games with proven design mechanics. These games encourage in-app spending and produce long-term sustainable revenue.

For now, it may well be that these games could exist entirely off-chain with only tangential relationships to blockchains. For instance, assets from an off-chain game could be “exportable” to an on-chain status, where they could be traded in external marketplaces. Once users are finished with on-chain services, they can then “import” their assets back to the game.

The future of Web3 gaming is, at least for now, in Web2. While many Web3 games have come and gone as flashes in the pan, many more Web2 gaming ecosystems and communities have thrived for years. After all, many Web2 games are far more technically advanced, user-friendly, and fun than their Web3 counterparts. 

So if we want to create P2E gaming ecosystems that attract more users and builders, and continue to flourish in the future, we will need to take a leaf from the Web2 playbook. Game on.

About the author

play-to-earn

Corey Wilton is the CEO of Mirai Labs, the game studio behind P2E game Pegaxy.io

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