"Play-2-Earn" (P2E) is a gaming business model, considered to be one of the latest developments in the gaming industry. It allows for an in-game economy that can be translated into a real-world micro-economy.
In the traditional gaming business models, and especially in "Free to Play" models, companies are the ones that sell the game items, characters' skins, and in-game currencies. This means that all of these items belong to the player after they make the purchase directly from the company. However, once a player has obtained one of these items, they are typically tradable in-game only, and not tradeable with other players for real-life money unless they break the Terms of Service and sell their accounts, with the exception of certain games (such as CS:GO). Additionally, if anything were to happen to the game such as shutting down, these items could be lost forever.
The P2E model allows players to have full ownership of their in-game assets. This means that, depending on the game, characters and items such as weapons, outfits, character skins, and in-game currencies are owned by the player and they can also exist outside of the game's environment in the form of tokens that live in the Blockchain. Currency tokens are typically considered "Fungible Tokens", and in-game assets (such as items, weapons, characters, land, etc.) are typically considered "Non-Fungible Tokens" (NFTs). Having full ownership of these currencies or items in the form of tokens allows for players to do with them as they wish outside of the game too. This means that they can lend them to other players, and trade them with other players either directly (from wallet to wallet) or via secondary markets (such as OpenSea for NFTs) or exchanges (decentralized such as UniSwap; or centralized such as Binance).
In a P2E model, these in-game currencies or assets are also typically earnable by playing the game, hence the name "Play-2 (to)-Earn". This means that players can earn and create value for other players and the developers by simply having fun and participating in the in-game economy.
One of the big benefits of playing a P2E game is that a player will typically create or retain value, or earn real-life money. For instance, even if they invest a certain amount of money to play the game (whether it be by purchasing a character as an NFT or purchasing tokens), this investment could be retrieved fully or partially given that they can be sold again to other players if the player decides to stop playing.
"Play AND Earn"
At Ather Labs, we focus on creating games that allow players to Play and Earn. This is a variation of the traditional "Play-2-Earn" business model, whereby the primary objective is to create games that are FUN and ENTERTAINING for players, and earning comes as an effect of playing the game. Players still retain full ownership of certain in-game items and currencies, so they can extract some value from playing.