While gaming and eSports come from the same origins, the difference between standard video gaming and eSports is competition – human versus human – and usually has a spectator element to it, like traditional sports.
The revenues generated are also vastly different.
Gaming traditionally also was dominated by the whims of gaming companies and while players would purchase in-game items, they never really owned these digital artifacts and indeed could lose them if the game company folded.
Blockchain changed the rules and NFTs allowed for ownership of digital items beyond the game itself – thereby opening a way for people to play and to earn an income from the game.
During the pandemic, when people lost their jobs or indeed were not allowed to leave their homes, an ability to earn money out of thin air became a thing.
Leah Callon-Butler, a columnist with CoinDesk, first wrote an article and then made a mini-documentary about people in the Philippines who used a Vietnamese game called Axie Infinity to earn money while housebound. Axie Infinity is a decentralized application (dApp) on the Ethereum blockchain where players breed, raise, battle and trade adorable digital creatures called Axies.
“This popular blockchain-based game is even providing pathways out of poverty,” Callon-Butler explained.
While the sums were not huge by Western standards, they provided a much-needed income for a variety of players ranging in ages from students to grannies.
Filmed in January 2021, the Play-to-Earn documentary reports on a rural Filipino community that began playing Axie Infinity to earn an income during the COVID-19 pandemic, with top players earning up to USD $400 per month.
One couple featured were Lola, 65, and Lolo, 75, who had been confined to their home throughout the pandemic and were fearful of contracting the virus. Their sari-sari shop (convenience store) used to generate up to PHP3000 (USD $60) per day, but since the lockdown, the store rarely brought in a daily income of PHP 300. Playing up to 100 Axie games every day, they use the money earned to buy medicine.
Other popular games such as Splinterlands can attract big followings and the collectable cards reach huge five-digit sums.
Splinterlands is a digital trading card game that uses a blockchain as the backbone, which enables players to play anytime, trade anytime, and earn every win. Originally Splinterlands was branded as Steem Monsters as it was founded on the Steem blockchain, which was best known for the blogging application Steemit.com. They moved the game to a fork of Steem called Hive in June following the hostile takeover of Steem by Tron’s Justin Sun.
Other elements to make the game more friendly to non-crypto gamers are the ability to earn while playing and managing keys for new players. Traditionally earning in a trading card game is really only available to professional gamers. But by utilising a blockchain Splinterlands enables payments to players when they win matches.
Players do not need to first own or hold crypto to start playing, which is different from games built on other platforms. Players with no wallet or key management experience can start playing with nothing more than a username and password. The game will manage keys until such time as a player may wish to take control. Lastly, the game is quick. A game lasts just a few minutes meaning it’s easy to fit a bunch of matches into a day.
Game changers indeed, but gaming opportunities are small fry when compared to the burgeoning world of eSports and in particular the money to be made in online tournaments.
It is predicted to soon start attracting even larger crowds than regular sports such as soccer, football, ice hockey, and baseball.
Consulting firm Activate predicts that in the US, eSports will have more viewers than any other professional sports league except for the NFL. The eSports audience is expected to grow to 796 million global viewers by 2024, a nearly 200% increase from present-day numbers
Global eSports revenues will grow to $1,084 million in 2021, a year-on-year growth of +14.5%, up from $947.1 million in 2020 according to the Newzoo’s Global Esports & Live Streaming Market Report 2021.
eSports look and feel like regular games with players, prizes and tournaments – only everything is online and the only muscles flexed are the brains. 75% of the revenue is generated by sponsorships and advertising but only the big names – and those with streaming followers – make money. Other players average less than $5 per year.
The global eSports viewership currently stands at 496 million people worldwide. In 2020 alone, there was a 70% increase in the number of eSports viewers in the US, most likely because of the pandemic.
Indeed, many believe that eSports titles will be officially included as part of the Olympics in the near future.
So while there are big sums to be earned in eSports, these large incomes are typically reserved for the top pros who use streaming to generate their funds. What if you wanted to play eSports and earn but were on the shy side?
There is an answer: Bitspawn. Bitspawn was formed with the goal of creating a decentralized, intelligent, and automated esports platform. By creating partnerships with the large game publishers (Activision, Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, etc.), platform providers, such as Steam, and existing esports platforms/organizations, Bitspawn is creating a decentralized hub where gamers can compete against each other, build communities, gain exposure and recognition outside of the traditional ladder system, and earn massive rewards.
That’s the clue in the penultimate word – ‘massive’. Rewards no longer only available to the professional eSports streamer.
Founded by former competitive gamer Eric Godwin, he says that Bitspawn was created with the goal of enabling more than two billion gamers around the world to develop new streams of revenue and income outside the traditional areas of streaming and content creation.
“We have some competitors in the space both in legacy tech and the blockchain side,” he says.
“All of our competitors are centralised solutions and don’t allow users to build their own competitive marketplaces or communities directly on chain.
“We are one of the first competitive and social gaming infrastructure platforms, instead of being a gaming DApp. We have our main web app, bitspawn.gg, but with the launch of our network token and blockchain, users will be able to create their own apps.”
With Bitspawn, players do not need to be professionals to earn revenue. There are a number of ways for users to earn money outside of playing directly for prize pools.
For example, gamers can earn money by hosting tournaments and events, growing their gaming communities, managing teams, providing prize pool liquidity to events and earning interest, and creating NFTs.
He even says that it’s not necessary to be a gamer to earn money with Bitspawn. “You can use our DeFi tools to lend liquidity to gaming events and earn interest.”
NFTs will be one of the ways to earn money on the Bitspawn ecosystem having real value outside of the art themselves. For example, the NFTs will grant XP bonuses on Bitspawn, access to exclusive events, discounts on entry fees, etc. Players will be able to lend out their NFTs to others who would like to utilize those intrinsic bonuses to gain an edge.
There’s also a verified function of the platform for NFT artists, that will identify the authenticity of their work.
“Bitspawn will be partnering with artists to work on NFTs for our own web app, but with our open source solution, you can create your own gaming NFT marketplaces,” Eric explained.
“We are a protocol where you can build your own ‘chaingames’ style app. We give you the freedom to build your own competitive marketplaces and communities.
On trust within the platform
“We ensure payout for all events is trustless, and players always receive their winnings. Organizers cannot hoard prize pools or take more than they deserve. In the long term, Bitspawn will be running its own leagues from the amateur to professional level.”
He is also looking to protect the noobs with a ranking and matchmaking methodology so that new gamers or casual players won’t get matched up against pros unless they want to.
Bitspawn recently went through its first round of successful funding with investors like SMO Capital, Dext Force Ventures, Moonwhale, CSPDAO, Trustdao Capital, Black Dragon, Fairum, Revelation Fund, Infinity Capital, and others.
So there you have it – it’s an ill wind that blows no good. The pandemic may have forced people indoors and in some cases cost them their livelihood. But on the flip side, new ways of earning – and in some cases serious money – have emerged. What do they say – if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. Someone should tell the gamers to get online.