Pay-to-Play Versus Play-to-Earn Games

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Although millions of players frequent online gambling sites, few understand how online games really work. A core aspect of internet gaming is the pay-to-play model, which might be replaced by play-to-earn games in the future.

What does pay-to-play mean? And what is the play-to-earn business model? Read on to learn more about this Web3 concept and its ties to NFTs, the Metaverse, and cryptocurrencies. Lastly, see how this could all affect the online gambling realm.

What Does Pay-to-Play Mean?

The pay-to-play model is the standard business model used in various fields including online gaming. Games using the pay-to-play model are standard video games in which players pay to access special game features and perks. To an average online casino player, paying to access games is an easy concept to understand as most gambling games are accessible only after registration and real-money deposit. However, with non-gambling video games, the model refers to classic MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role-playing games) such as World of Warcraft and Eve Online.

The opposite of pay-to-play is the free-to-play model which allows players to access the game, play, and enjoy a major part of the content without paying. There’s always a premium part of the story reserved for those who are still willing to dish out extra coins for extra benefits. Free-to-play online games are a popular choice for most gamers online, but P2P gaming is winning the hearts of diehard video game fans worldwide as well. However, this could all change with the play-to-earn crypto games model.

Free to Play Versus Pay to Play

Let’s revisit the free to play games and see how they correlate with pay-to-play games. Free games are free-to-play games for which there is no subscription fee, no account maintenance fees, and players can access the games whenever they want.

Of course, fees are introduced through special in-game purchases, and they are typically chosen by players who want a bit of extra enjoyment. Imagine wanting a premium account that offers better perks than those with a free account. If you want it, and you can get it, why not get it? That’s where the fees come into play. However, these games are free to enter and play but they offer little in return to the eager players.

On the other hand, the P2P customer is paying for a chance to play the game. Customers know exactly what the fee is, they know what they get when they start playing the game, and they are paying to stay in the game.

This model is used for a variety of online video games, but the new play-to-earn model could potentially endanger the position of the P2P games right now.

How Pay-to-Play Works

How Pay-To-Play Model Works

So, what does pay-to-play mean?

The pay-to-play model is based on a monthly fee that players pay to play the game. It’s simple – it’s just like a subscription fee for online games. Using this model, players pay to access various in-game perks, and many of us recognize it as the subscription-based model.

Pay to play games are mostly online video games with massive audiences, i.e., MMORPGs. The World of Warcraft, Eve Online, and the most popular pay to play games today, along with RuneScape which has both free to play and P2P accounts.

So, how does all this work? Essentially, a player pays the game company that created the game a fee each month for their account maintenance. If the fee is not paid, the player cannot access nor use the game.

In the past few years, gaming companies have realised that such a model is, while profitable, better when combined with free-to-play models. RuneScape, a fantasy video game, is a perfect example of a hybrid model.

However, the emerging play-to-earn model might change the landscape as it could shift the money away from the gaming companies and direct it back into the hands of players.

However, before we even reach the new model, let’s first talk about the current situation in iGaming.

iGaming & P2P – Pay N Play Casinos

In online casinos, the closest to a pay-to-play casino model is the Pay N Play casino genre. Pay N Play casinos are online casinos offering quick and easy access to gambling games without registration. Players need only deposit funds via safe payment methods such as Trustly and start playing games immediately. In other words, you first pay and then you play.

It’s a popular gambling site genre that enables quick and reliable gaming models to players seeking quick (yet safe) gambling entertainment.

However, there is no fee for account maintaining (as you don’t have to open one) so it’s not nearly the same, but it does have certain common traits.

Another important thing is the freeplay casino games. These games are free demo slots or table games players get to play using fake money – i.e. no real money is used.

Free online casino games are available as demo slots at online casinos which support free casino games. In most cases, players do not even have to register to try out the games, but if they want to invest real money (and consequently, win real-money prizes) they must register and place deposits. Freeplay casino games are the casino version of free-to-play games in video gaming.

We mention these two concepts because it’s important to understand that modern gambling has almost nothing to do with P2P – but it could benefit from P2E so, so much.


Play-To-Earn Games Guide

What is the play-to-earn model?

The play-to-earn model is based on the open economy model and provides financial rewards to players who contribute to the game. The contribution may come in the shape of regular playtime, special events, and performing in-game tasks. Essentially, game participants can earn money by playing the game. 

How do play-to-earn games work?

To answer this question, we might need to dive deeper into the subject of the three main components necessary for play-to-earn games to work.

  • NFT – the unique tokens eligible for trade/sale
  • Blockchain-based cryptocurrencies – used as funds
  • Web3 and the Metaverse – the setting for play-to-earn games

Non-Fungible Tokens

NFTs are blockchain-based tokens used as a guarantee of the authenticity of a digital asset. Their main strength is the uniqueness – each NFT is 100% unique and original. There’s no two identical NFTs in the (virtual) world, which is why many crypto miners and internet geeks assign a lot of value to them. They see the potential they have, and if realized, could only lead to better opportunities to play games, exchange stuff, and purchase items online. Some even go as far as collecting them as digital art – the most expensive NFT ever sold cost $69m – displayed at virtual galleries. You heard that right – virtual galleries, opened in virtual worlds in the Metaverse, put digital art (NFTs) on display for all visitors of the Metaverse world.


Cryptocurrencies are blockchain-based currencies of which we’ve talked about many times before here at BestCasinos. They are very popular even in online gambling, especially Bitcoin as the first cryptocurrency ever. Crypto casinos such as Bitcoin casinos and Ethereum casinos are popular attractions for tech-savvy gambling enthusiasts who saw the potential of crypto.

Cryptocurrencies power the Metaverse and act as the main option for players who wish to purchase or sell NFTs. They also play an important role in the P2E gaming model.

Why Are NFTs Important for the Play-to-Earn Crypto Games?

Well, NFTs are the key to understanding the play-to-earn model’s nature. The model rests on the premise that the players will play the game, collect assets in-game and then exchange them for real money on the market. The best example is the Axies: Infinity game which is credited as one of the earliest successful examples of P2E.

Axies offers players a chance to play the game and build Axies, tiny creatures using certain potions. Each Axie is an NFT, which can produce the potion later on. But the real catch is the potion – it’s not a simple potion, but rather a real-life cryptocurrency that you can collect in the game and later exchange for real money. The same happens with Axies. As NFTs, you can sell/buy them using ETH or any other currency money.

If you don’t believe us and think NFTs are nothing more than just internet mumbo jumbo, have a look at the Play-to-Earn tokens’ worth. You will see the Axie Infinity tokens which are NFTs collectable through the game. Players earn them in-game and then can sell them in the market for real money (fiat currencies like EUR or USD).

For now, the P2E model refers to video games only, while online gambling sites do not fall into the category of P2E gaming spots – for now. There are attempts to connect the NFT and crypto worlds with online casinos, which means there soon could be a model in which players get to play at virtual-world casinos and win NFTs or cryptocurrency that’s exchangeable for real money afterwards.

Web3 and the Metaverse

Web3 Metaverse Technology

In one of our previous articles where we talked about NFTs, we briefly touched upon the subject of Web 3.0. The third-generation internet (styled often as Web3 thanks to hip crypto experts) is a possible new phase of internet use. Right now, we are living in a Web2 realm in which social interaction is engineered by Big Tech companies such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google. Whatever you want to do on the internet, you use one of the big companies’ tools (read: websites) to do that. One example is gaming. But what if you could bypass the major companies and direct the money straight to your pocket?

Play-to-Earn games do that, but you will need Web3 and its focus on the Metaverse to do so.

The Web3, thanks to a wealth of new technologies in the finance and gaming departments has the power to change the way we view and use the internet altogether. For instance, you might end up using one single account to access all of your favourite social platforms, instead of logging into them separately. However, the single-account login does not only shorten your path to viewing content – it also means the platforms do not own or control the content – you do.

Furthermore, there is also the Metaverse, a virtual realm consisting of multiple virtual worlds. In each virtual world, users create avatars to move, see content, interact with other users, and perform a variety of other activities. They can even purchase virtual land, open virtual galleries and showcase their hard-earned NFT digital art.

The Metaverse is also the place where most of these P2E games might take place.

So, in short: to play play-to-earn games and receive NFTs, you will need to wait for Web3 and its Metaverse to expand the virtual p2e crypto games.

Is Esports the Possible Link Between Play-to-Earn Games and Gambling?

From the outside, P2E gaming and online gambling have no ties, at least not in the literal sense of the word. You won’t see the Play-to-Earn model incorporated into gambling games are already a form of P2E – you play gambling games to earn real money, it’s the whole point of casino games.

However, the new face of the internet (Web3 and its multifaceted nature) along with NFTs, cryptocurrencies, Metaverse habitation are starting to draw so much attention from industry experts. So then, if not actually connecting the two, what could be the possible link between the two fields?

Frankly, it’s too early to make any predictions about the future of P2E gambling and play-to-earn gambling games, but we already see one potential connection: esports. Esports are a big business, and they are generating professional gamers who play for real money and make an income playing video games. In recent years, a growing number of online casinos have added the perk of esports betting to their list of services, and now you can wager on your favourite video game right in your favourite online casino. Esports are built on video games, so if MMORPGs switch to a play-to-earn game model, you might start seeing esports betting switch to crypto and NFT prizes as well.

Final Thoughts on Play-to-Earn Gambling

Esports may be a good link between gambling and P2E, but there is another way to connect the two realms. The most probable way is the Metaverse gambling industry which might inspire a new generation of players to use crypto and NFTs to play and earn through games.

There are talks of casinos opening in Decentraland, one of the most popular Metaverse worlds. These casinos offer their customers a chance to gamble crypto money and potentially win NFTs. That’s still P2P, but there’s no saying what can happen in the next 5 to 10 years.


BestCasinos team consists of online casino experts dedicated to spreading their knowledge and experience to a wider audience, all in effort to help even the most inexperienced players gain their footing in this exciting industry.