With the popularity of NFTs, games using cryptocurrencies in the virtual economy are becoming more common. Playing money-making games attracts the promise of easy money, but they end up resembling a low-paying job, according to experts.
To join many of these games, users have to deal with an initial hurdle of owning a digital wallet and purchasing NFTs. The difference is that cryptocurrencies are not waiting for buyers on OpenSea, a platform dedicated to the non-fungible token market.
In so-called NFT games or crypto games, digital certificates of authenticity have a useful function. They represent characters, devices or abilities that allow the user to actually play the game.
However, in traditional games, players are rewarded with virtual coins that are only useful in the ecosystem they are in, while in earning games, users receive tokens when they perform certain activities.
The term is used to refer to assets that run on blockchains, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. The difference between the token and the normal game virtual currency is that it can be exchanged for traditional currencies such as Real and USD according to the daily exchange rate.
This means that rewards previously used only for customization and enhancement, such as those in popular games like League of Legends and World of Warcraft, can also serve as assets in the cryptocurrency market.
Take Axie Infinity, an NFT game with 2.8 million daily active players as an example, whose token is SLP (Smooth Love Potion), and its price peaks in mid-2021. According to the official website, the original game Vietnamese has generated US$3.6 billion (18.5 billion reais) since its launch.
Axie Infinity’s gameplay consists of using originally purchased NFTs (now represented by cute pets with their own attributes) in turn-based battles against the computer or other players, just like in the Pokémon franchise.
It is by winning these battles and completing optional daily challenges that players earn SLP, which can not only be used to level up the Axies team and facilitate future battles, but also be converted into reals.
But the person paying users the tokens is not Sky Mavis, a developer based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Like apps like Uber, the game has its fees and rules as an intermediary platform between its users and the marketplace. In the case of Axie Infinity, the market is a cryptoasset.
NFT game economies are often designed by experts to make sense. It is based on this trust, supported by blockchain cryptography, that SLP has value, as is Bitcoin itself.
Thiago Falcão, professor of digital media at UFPB (Federal University of Paraíba), explained: “What this dimension of blockchain and cryptocurrencies does is to provide support for these virtual economies and investors guarantee the structure, function and balance of this environment .” .
While the promise of earning extra income by playing games on mobile or desktop appeals to users of all types, from teenagers to financial experts, tokens are highly volatile assets that need to be liquidated in the market. It is as if a worker is not paid in reais, but in the form of shares.
“The most appropriate consumption of these games requires players to enter the cryptocurrency culture, understand the volatile prices, buy and sell. It is an introduction to day trading and the stock market,” Falcão said. “You can play defenseless, but you’re not going to gain anything.”
The initial cost hurdle of playing the money-making game leads to a job-like relationship. In “scholarships” (or “escolinhas” as they are called in Brazil), account owners informally recruit users to play for them, thereby distributing bonuses ranging from 30% to 50%.
Entrepreneur Jean Maia met Axie Infinity in November 2021 through an Instagram profile focused on finance and cryptocurrencies. He started playing after getting a place at a small school without investing out of his own pocket.
“We used to earn between $150 (R$ 770) and $200 (R$ 1,000) a month, but when I stopped working in January, we were earning $30 (R$ 154) )”, he said, who spends two hours a day playing games.
“Today I had two NFTs, one worth $120 (616 reais) and the other $150, stopped because the game price was low, trying to sell,” he lamented.
Heloísa Passos, CEO of Sp4ce, a Brazilian company focused on crypto gaming, estimates that by the end of 2021, about 80,000 Brazilians will be playing Axie Infinity.
In his view, the game’s success lies in its structure, which should be the rule in an environment where few people can sustain themselves for long and where stakeholders are subject to coup attempts.
According to the UFPB professor, NFT gaming has more to do with precarious work than video games, as people feel compelled to spend as much time as possible on their devices in search of potentially unattainable profits.
“It’s not a fun thing. They’re not mechanics created for entertainment, but gamified working structures. In NFT games, there’s not much left to make a game. The fun, subjective and social experience of a game, nothing in it Exist. In these crypto games,” he said.
Psychology student Vanessa de Barros wasn’t so lucky. After playing at the Axie Infinity school for a few weeks, she was earning 70 reais a week, after which she borrowed 5,000 reais from a friend to invest in a personal account.
Vanessa used the money to buy initial NFTs and build a team of Axies, believing that they will pay off soon. However, with the devaluation of SLP and the US dollar in recent months, the account is now worth 2,000 reais, and the crypto asset can only be settled by lowering the price even further.
“I know I’m not going into another [jogo NFT]. I’m waiting for the SLP to go up to try to at least recoup my investment, and I don’t think it’s worth the pressure,” she said. “I’d rather pay to play games than play games to accept. “
For Passos, the main reason for the depreciation of SLP in recent months is the excess supply and insufficient consumption of the game ecosystem, which is the fault of the developers themselves. This means that more SLP ends up in the user wallet than is kept in the game.
She believes that players intending to take a risk in any crypto game should heed a series of red alerts, such as promises of high return on investment (ROI), lack of public documentation (white papers) about the project, and reliance on token appreciation from the entry of new players.
“It’s important that people understand how it works before they enter the market, so they can invest better. Before entering the game, research has to be done,” he said.