One of the main advantages of idle games is the focus on strategy without the need to spend a lot of time playing the game. However, there’s been a surge of play-to-earn games that have had big boom and bust cycles because many gamers were only interested in the financial aspect of the game. We have seen many of these games lose momentum. However, some idle games continue to build and innovate.
Below are three idle games that have established their position among the most popular NFT games.
- Axie Infinity (Autobattler Game)
- Splinterlands (Trading Card Game)
- Upland (Virtual Property Management Game)
Axie Infinity is the OG of the play-to-earn, idle game space and has a huge following. The game is built on the Ronin chain which is an Ethereum side chain. Not only does it boast a monthly user base of 400k users based on DappRadar, it recently completed AxieCon, one of the largest events in NFT gaming.
In Axie Infinity, players can mix up a team of three Axies, each of a different type and with different attributes, skills, and stats.
There are two different games of Axie Infinity, Axie Classic (adventure mode) and Axie Infinity: Origins (PVP mode).
A set of three Starter Axies is given to each new player. Those Axies are not NFTs and can’t be used for breeding and earning.
To start earning, players need to win ranked PVP battles playing Axie Infinity: Origins and reach Boar Rank or higher. Here is the exact ranking system. Each rank is divided into four tiers. To progress, players need to achieve a certain number of victories/losses, based on the official guide.
Each victory earns Smooth Love Potion ($SLP), the in-game rewards token, based on the player’s rank and amount of NFT Axies (up to three). You can find SLP on any major decentralized exchange (DEX) using a wallet such as MetaMask. In terms of price, Axies cost from a couple of dollars to hundreds, depending on their strength and abilities. As expected, stronger Axies cost more and will eventually help you win more battles and $SLP.
Price History and ROI Range
The price of $SLP has dropped to $0.0033 due to inflation, making it harder to earn $USD. Although $SLP is burned frequently we have seen a significant decline in the price over the past year.
Players can also earn $AXS, the governance token of Axie Infinity, by ranking high on the leaderboards each season.
$SLP rewards range from 1-14 per battle based on the player’s rank, which translates to $0.003-$0.004 per battle. Winning 20 matches per day in Boar Rank would earn 20 $SLP ($0.06-$0.08 per day).
With a mid-range build of three NFT Axies costing $60, you’re looking at 750 – 1000 days to recoup your investment, or an annual ROI of 37% – 48%.
AXS, the governance token, is down 20% over the past three months.
Smooth Love Potion (SLP), the in-game currency is down 21% over the past 3 months.
Splinterlands is an online trading card and idle game. Players trade cards to strengthen their decks and battle each other with an automated battling system (all moves are automated).
As a new player, you’ll get starter cards for free. Each card belongs to a specific Element (Fire, Water, Earth, Life, Death, or Dragon). Before each battle, you’ll pick the element you want to play and you may choose cards only from the chosen Element.
Last month, Splinterlands had 325k users based on DappRadar, ranking just under Axie Infinity.
Players earn $SPS by winning battles and tournaments. Starting from the Bronze 2 Rank, you can earn $SPS with each victory, based on several variables:
- League Rating
- $SPS Reward Pool
- Win Streak
- Gold Foil Cards
- Alpha/Promo Cards
- Beta Cards
- Guild Bonuses
You’ll need a Summoner’s Spellbook to unlock these features, which at the time of writing costs $10.
To reach Bronze II and earn rewards from battling, you’ll need stronger cards which you can buy from the marketplace or earn by opening reward chests. As expected, your rank and deck strength are the most important factors that determine how much you can earn.
Price History and ROI Range
You can buy cards from the marketplace for as little as $0.01 and up to hundreds of dollars for the rarest cards. As the amount of $SPS earned per battle varies greatly, it’s difficult to calculate an exact ROI. For instance, a player who invests $20 in the marketplace for cards (plus $10 for the Summoner’s Spellbook) wins 20 battles per day. Earning 0.1-1 $SPS per battle with the price of $SPS at 0.085$ accounts for $0.17 – $1.70 $USD. Based on this example, the payback period would range from 17 – 176 days and the annual ROI range would be 106% – 19,683%.
$SPS is up 32% over the past three months.
Upland is an idle game focusing on Virtual Property Management where players trade properties for the in-game currency $UPX (and USD after leveling up to Uplander status). Prices fluctuate based on real-world market conditions and the property’s size. Last month, Upland had 218k active users based on DappRadar, ranking just below Axie Infinity and Splinterlands.
Players can earn passive income through their properties and based on how many players have visited their property. With that being said, high-traffic properties are valued higher.
Events like treasure hunts and other live events are frequent in the game, showing us that the game devs are still active.
Earning in the game is somewhat different from other P2E games as $UPX, Upland’s in-game currency is off-chain, meaning that it can’t be exchanged for $USD or other cryptocurrencies. It is mainly used to trade properties. However, after achieving Uplander status (10,000 $UPX required), players can sell their property directly for USD.
At the time of writing, buying a cheap property will cost around 6,000 – 10,000 $UPX. You can exchange $6-$10 for that amount.
Spark is an in-game asset that can be found at times on the Upland Store, or earned through treasure hunts. The cost of one Spark in the Upland Store is $459, but Spark isn’t always available for purchase. Spark is used by players to build structures on their properties, determining the amount of time it takes to complete the building. For example, if a structure requires 1000 Spark Hours to be completed, it will take 1000 hours if a player stakes one Spark. If a player stakes 2 Spark, the time it takes to complete the building will be 1000 / 2 = 500 hours. However, you’ll get the Spark back when the building is finished (similar to staking). You can also rent out Spark to other players but those arrangements are typically made outside of the game (e.g. Discord).
To progress in the game, players can buy more than one property to start receiving passive income while trying to land successful property trades.
Aside from other income streams, Yearly Earnings on Property (YEP), or interest paid out by the community to owners, is currently 14.7%, based on the latest economic update. This means that it would take just under 7 years to achieve full ROI. However, this does not take into account all the other revenue streams (visitor fees, treasure hunts, Spark renting, etc.).
Although many new games keep entering the market, the games mentioned in this article are still on top of the leaderboards regarding trading volume and user base. These games have built a promising token economy on top of their gameplay, offering fun and earning potential at the same time, something that few games manage to deliver.
Axie Infinity has improved its gameplay tremendously with the release of Axie Infinity: Origins, while also taking action to improve its token economy that suffered from inflation in the last few months. The game has transitioned from Play-to-Earn to a Play-and-Earn model, giving more attention to the gameplay aspect and offering a better gaming experience to players.
Splinterlands, one of the oldest games still ranking high on the leaderboards, was founded in 2018. The developing team has since improved the game tremendously while still working on future updates. The gameplay has remained relatively similar through the years with its unique automated battling system that players can enjoy playing anywhere as battling requires just a few minutes and no card control. Splinterlands’ token economy is currently at a transitional level, as it moves from a $DEC to a $SPS reward system, to improve stability.
As for Upland, it’s possible that we still haven’t experienced the most out of the game. Indeed, with updates including an NFT gateway, drivable cars, and more, it’s worth keeping an eye on.
Stay tuned for more updates and Web3 gaming coverage.