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Getting paid for playing video games has been every kid's dream since 1990 and an actual thing for a lucky few YouTubers and streamers in the last decade. Today, gaming is a real income source for thousands of people, especially in Southeastern Asia and South America, thanks mainly to Axie Infinity.

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The gaming business has done nothing but grow in the last decades, devouring larger and larger chunks of people's attention and leisure time and challenging more traditional sectors like movies or sports. Gaming business models have evolved too at high speed, from buying the actual physical games to everything that can happen in Steam to all kinds of in-game purchases. And then there's that grey area where gaming meets gambling (i.e., loot boxes) or where people build a black market of in-game assets.

Crypto economy is providing the infrastructure that allows all of these activities and business models to play out in the same place, in a frictionless, usable way. And it has added a secret ingredient: wealth distribution. Users can now earn tokens inside a game and, without leaving the ecosystem, convert them into money they can spend. Play-to-earn is a reality. Probably not the rosy dream people first think of when they hear the expression (the one where you just get free money for having fun), but certainly a great evolutionary step in the progress of the metaverse.

Amy Wu calls pay-to-play "the world's most fire new user acquisition strategy", in a thread where she also points out that play to earn is not a standalone monetization model, but another ingredient of a bigger business model.

"Right now, there is a largely untapped economic opportunity in emerging markets to provide jobs by building a virtual economy in the digital world,” says Andreessen Horowitz in the blog post where they announced their $4.6M investment in Yield Guild Games. Calling the opportunities surrounding play-to-earn a virtual economy is not far-fetched. Gaming companies that want to tap into the new wave need to learn how to succeed as fintech companies, social networks, consumer platforms, as well as game developers.

Success in the blockchain gaming industry will probably need a perfect storm of excellent gameplay, great tokenomics and the team's ability to create a community.