The rise of play-to-earn gaming throughout 2021 presented metaverse-based income-earning opportunities for millions of people all around the world. But it was the rise of the scholarship model that ensured those jobs were accessible by those who needed them most.
First popularized within the game Axie Infinity, a scholarship is an arrangement where the owner of an in-game non-fungible token (NFT) loans it to someone else, who uses it to play the game and win crypto-based rewards. Then, the owner and player split the prizes between them. It’s a new take on an age-old business model, allowing newbies to get into the game without the hefty upfront capital requirement of buying their own NFTs, while also demonstrating the huge utility of NFTs in their ability to be rented out – just like any other traditional productive asset.
Crypto State by CoinDesk, our virtual community event tour, stops in Southeast Asia on Feb. 24. The discussion will explore the metaverse and its implications. The tour is in partnership with Luno, like CoinDesk owned by Digital Currency Group. Register for "Metaverse: Gimmick or Distributed Innovation?" here.
Spawned by the community, not the game publisher, the process for scouting and vetting of suitable scholarship recipients, known as scholars, was always external to the game of Axie itself. But with rising demand, some blockchain games are now seeking to internalize and automate the system, making it easier for owners of the in-game NFTs to allow others to borrow and use their inactive assets, while ensuring the structuring of each agreement is transparent.
Cyball, a football-themed play-to-earn game is one such game. Operating across both Solana and Binance Smart Chain (BSC), and developed out of Vietnam, where the production studio behind Axie Infinity is also based, players of CyBall collect NFT characters called CyBlocs that compete to see who can score the most goals, in the hope of earning the game’s CBT token.
When they are not using them to play, owners of CyBlocs can use the CyLoans in-game asset lending system to share their NFTs with others. Terms of the agreement can be set via the platform, including revenue share and loan duration. If they feel the terms are reasonable, borrowers can apply directly, knowing payouts will be handled trustlessly via smart contracts.
The innovative feature, which streamlines onboarding and eases the many logistical challenges of having to manually manage a broad portfolio of digital assets and a large group of scholars, has proven particularly popular with play-to-earn gaming guilds. CyBall has secured partnerships with six guilds to date, including Yield Guild Games (YGG), Merit Circle, GuildFi, Good Games Guild (GGG), and Ancient8, the latter being focused on Vietnamese players.
Here, Tin Tran, co-founder of CyBall, explains why it was always inevitable that Southeast Asia would be the world’s first region to see widespread adoption of play-to-earn games.
What opportunities can NFT games and/or the Metaverse offer to people in Southeast Asia, that they may not otherwise have had access to?
NFT games, as we have seen over the past 12 months, have provided earning opportunities for many people in Southeast Asia, no matter what walk of life they come from. We have witnessed this with the Philippines and how the country has thrived from this movement. Many people have given up their day jobs to play games full time and earn a living that would be able to support their families. Thus, play-to-earn games are funneling value directly into Southeast Asia’s economy.
As the metaverse opens up, we will see the diversity of different channels of yield and earnings also open up. The accessibility of which is as simple as an internet connection on a phone or PC.
The COVID-19 pandemic was a significant driver of adoption of play-to-earn games throughout 2020 and 2021. Going forward, what other factors will accelerate expansion of the ecosystem?
The pandemic was a catalyst, and once the momentum was created, we saw a wave of adoption from people who saw that play-to-earn could be a worthwhile means of income, particularly in the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and surrounding countries. These countries are known for their large base of traditional gamers, so the fact that they were the first to embrace play-to-earn, was inevitable.
Southeast Asia will continue to lead the way on crypto adoption through gaming, as this region has the perfect demographic of young, tech savvy, gaming enthusiasts to further this space. The movement has already gained significant traction and the infrastructure built will facilitate the further development of more guilds and games, which in turn will accelerate the expansion of the ecosystem.
Read more: CoinGecko's Bobby Ong on the Metaverse
Particularly with the success of Sky Mavis, Vietnam has been recognized as a world-leader in blockchain gaming innovation. What has led to Vietnam’s competitive advantage?
Vietnam has historically been a hub of tech talent and innovation, with a lot of popular games and startups originating from here. Vietnam’s culture around technology has always been accepting and has embraced all developments within all forms of technology, particularly blockchain, thus this has led to it being a hub for innovation and tech talent. But we have also found that with the booming crypto startup culture, most talent has been swooped up by competing groups and other startups. Our own team is more distributed, spanning from Vietnam, where I’m based, to Australia and also Hong Kong.
The leader in news and information on cryptocurrency, digital assets and the future of money, CoinDesk is an award-winning media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. In November 2023, CoinDesk was acquired by Bullish group, owner of Bullish, a regulated, institutional digital assets exchange. Bullish group is majority owned by Block.one; both groups have interests in a variety of blockchain and digital asset businesses and significant holdings of digital assets, including bitcoin. CoinDesk operates as an independent subsidiary, and an editorial committee, chaired by a former editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal, is being formed to support journalistic integrity.