Play-to-earn gaming sounds too good to be true. It probably is.

Play-to-earn gaming sounds too good to be true. It probably is.

Jared Galloway, a 22-year-old in Seattle, makes his living with a virtual horse. There’s this browser-based PC game called Zed Run , developed by the Australian studio Virtually Human, that takes place in a sinister cyberpunk dystopia where computerized racehorses compete for the podium on a purple, Tron-like grid. Players can buy and breed those “stallions” with the institutional guarantee that their ownership rights are encoded on the blockchain (all exchanges are done in cryptocurrency). The goal is to acquire a powerful horse that can win races and collect stud fees from those who want access to their precious digital genetics. Think of it as the entire equine industry pared down into a phantom, online-only economy.

This all might sound inscrutable — most tendrils of the Web3 revolution are — but all you really need to know is that Galloway was scraping by as a pool boy before he was tempted to try Zed Run, and purchased a promising horse off the open market. His life hasn’t been the same since.

“I started playing the game and bought [a horse] that was unnamed and unraced for 1.1 ethereum, which was about $4,000 at the time,” said Galloway. “Then I got an offer [from someone to buy it] for three Ethereum, and three days later [the offer] went up to five, and then eight. I looked at who was making these offers, and it was the biggest racer in Zed Run.”

Galloway made the decision to hold onto the horse for himself so he could race it and breed it. “I thought, ‘If the best racer in the game wants my horse, then there must be something to it,’” he added.

Galloway said he made $4,000 last month from Zed Run, which means he has lapped his initial investment. In total, his horse, named Diamondz, has netted him a profit of 6.4 ethereum, equivalent to about $20,000 at the current conversion rate. Today, he plays the game full time and streams out his daily progress to a small collection of fans on YouTube. That makes Galloway one of the runaway success stories of the burgeoning “play-to-earn” movement: a new philosophy gripping the video game industry that aims to reinvent the hobby with decentralized bartering systems.

The premise is simple. In the future, maybe the spoils to be found in a video game will hold appreciable, uncapped real-world value. That rare sword you uncovered at the top of the mountain in Skyrim or World of Warcraft? That could be imprinted as an NFT; totally unique, staunchly unreplicable, and worth a bounty of bitcoin to any interested buyers.

Already, major publishers in the business, like Ubisoft, Epic, and Electronic Arts, are drumming up their own blockchain platforms, creating a tide of pioneering early adopters who are eager to alter the fundamental rules of recreation. The idea is to create video games that function more like open-ended, laissez-faire social spaces, rather than a sequence of challenges leading to a grand finale. In the future, the argument goes, games will mirror the tenets of real life. Video games are unfairly extractive; they ask for too much of our time without returning the favor. If instead a night with Assassin’s Creed could reward us with some tangible capital, then the relationship between players and publishers wouldn’t be so fraught.

Galloway tells me that Zed Run doesn’t really feel like a video game to him anymore. There’s no wonder or joy here; no Elden Ring -sized mysteries to uncover. No, Diamondz is simply a way to get by.

“I approach it like a business now. I do breeding deals with people, I study what kind of horses might give you the best offspring. There are people who play to support their households,” said Galloway. “It took a while for my mom to understand Zed Run. She thought it was a Ponzi scheme. But now she knows that other people look at this like a viable business. The horse is a part of the family.”

Zed Run is far from an outlier. Play-to-earn games have yet to fully dominate the Twitch charts, but that has not deterred a swath of Web3 startups from cashing in on the concept while it’s hot. Generally, new players are asked to synchronize their crypto wallet with the platform and purchase some sort of blockchain-encoded NFT (in Zed Run’s case, a horse), which gives them access to the core gameplay. In other words, you cannot participate in Zed Run if you do not already own one of Virtually Human’s minted tokens. […]

source Play-to-earn gaming sounds too good to be true. It probably is.

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