Wolf Game dominated the NFT space in November, generating over USD52M in 5 days. In little over a year, NFTs popularity had gone from pure profile picture collection (CryptoPunks), to club system (Bored Ape Yacht Club), to the current era of NFT games (Ether Orcs, Wolf Game). Wolf Game is NFT game’s Beeple moment. The size of its trading volume and the speed of which it was achieved sparked debates and imaginations.
Wolf Game is For Investors not Players
Given the limited scope of this write up, I would suggest readers to read the official white paper(s) for full explanation of Wolf Game mechanics. It boils down to this excerpt. “Protocol-level risk is ripe for exploration in NFTs. Many projects are implementing stake-to-earn, but haven’t cracked the code on users making choices in the face of risk.” – Wolf Game WhitePaper. Participants / players / investors / speculators of Wolf Game are playing a game with the protocol math, other participants, and speculation on the future of the game. It is game theory catnip for crypto / NFT traders. Which provided an interesting insight – Wolf Game is Axie Infinity Lite.
P2E (Play-to-earn) has officially introduced two new type of non-traditional participants into the gaming ecosystem. We’re all familiar with GameRefinery’s Player Motivations and Archetypes. Of which doesn’t explain two new participants type – Grinders and Investors. Grinders participate in the game to make a living wage and not for fun. Investors purchase assets of the game without participating, with the expectation of making a profit from the assets.
Grinder + Investor Flywheel
Wolf Game is Axie Infinity Lite where it removed the need for Grinders, it’s a game purely for Investors. Investors purchase the NFT to participate, but don’t require gameplay to earn the ecosystem ERC20 tokens ($WOOL). The rest of the mechanics is largely the same with Axie Infinity. Buy NFT, earn ERC-20 tokens, use ERC-20 to breed more NFTs, game expands to increase use cases of tokens. Existing participants win when popularity of the game increases, and new liquidity comes in to buy ERC20 tokens and in-game NFTs.
From this lens, Grinders are sort of a tax system where Investors pay to remove built-in friction from getting their ERC20 tokens. And such a tax system is actually the key to Axie’s continued growth. Without Grinders, new investors will figure out that they are the exit liquidity and stop buying into the game. Growth stops. With the addition of Grinders, the ecosystem will attract new participants as long as the Grinders make a living. Growth of participants will attract new investors. Flywheel achieved.
Patiently Waiting for Players
Eventually the music will stop too. Value has to be generated somewhere for an ecosystem to be sustainable. The current outlet of P2E consumption is with expansion of the game universe (i.e new utility for existing tokens) or adjusting game economics (breeding cost etc). True value will have to come from the Player class. Players are the real consumers of the ecosystem. They are the ones playing the game with no expectation of financial reward. They are playing for fun. Just as a true economy needs investors, workers and consumers. The true potential of a blockchain-enabled game ecosystem will emerge when it caters to the three distinct type of participants – Investors, Grinders and Players. Players especially Whales, are not Grinders.