Play-to-earn is a system wherein players can expect to earn money from playing games. While gambling and professional sports have long been "play-to-earn" in a sense, the term has taken on new meaning in the blockchain era, as reduced barriers to payment and new possible economic models have made it ubiquitous in blockchain gaming. Some typical ways of playing to earn include:
Some blockchain games have been criticized as being not truly play-to-earn but rather "pay-to-earn" due to advantages given to those who make an initial investment. While most blockchain games are free, their economic models usually work similarly to mobile freemium games in that they sell smart property including virtual real estate that often has powerful in-game abilities, making it easier to earn more.