Why play-to-own is the next space to watch in Indonesia’s crypto gaming ecosystem

By rewarding engagement with tokens and tokenized game pieces, a player develops an understanding of the game while building true ownership.

Riaz Lalani

Riaz Lalani

The Jakarta Post


Indonesian players Kenny “Xepher” Deo (second left) and Matthew “Whitemon” Filemon (second right) compete in the prestigious esports championship The International 10 (TI10) with the South Korean team T1. (Twitter/Courtesy of The International) (Twitter/Courtesy of The International)

August 18, 2022

JAKARTA – A new movement is underway across Asia Pacific’s gaming landscape: play-to-own. Home to a thriving online gaming ecosystem along with a young, connected, digitally-native population, the region is well-equipped for this latest innovation in gaming.

Indonesia specifically, the largest gaming market in Southeast Asia, is not only embracing this shift but is also set to lead the charge in transforming the wider gaming ecosystem thanks to its appetite for crypto and innovation.

But why is the market moving towards play-to-own gaming? Its predecessor, play-to-earn (P2E), offers the combination of a gaming experience with monetary incentives thanks to the incorporation of digital assets such as non-fungible tokens (NFTs). Initially, it has proven to be a recipe for success for emerging economies like Indonesia where people are readily adopting crypto and making a living playing such games.

However, the mechanics of P2E lean heavily on the “earn” component, rather than the “play”, meaning that the enjoyment of gaming has largely been stripped from such games. Without true value in the game itself, these P2E economies cannot sustain themselves in the long term. It’s clear that better economics and experiences are needed.

Young and increasingly well-educated populations across Southeast Asia are the digital natives expected to drive the region’s consumption over the coming decade. Record internet penetration rates and a burgeoning mobile-first, middle class that is gravitating toward digital assets will drive Asia to surpass Western markets in its appetite for NFTs.

Beyond that, the region is also home to more than half of global gamers, with the gaming market in Indonesia slated to grow its total revenue to US$1.39 billion by 2026. Indeed, almost 80 percent of Indonesians consider themselves to be gamers. And when it comes to digital assets, Indonesians are undoubtedly progressive, with the country enjoying the highest rates of crypto adoption in the world.

The case for crypto gaming in Indonesia is clear — one simply cannot deny that it is primed for its entry and long-term success.

The players are ready. The region that was the first to embrace P2E with such enthusiasm will be the first to look toward new and improved styles of gaming that offer both earning potential and gaming enjoyment. But beyond the ideal conditions required for the P2E industry to thrive, what’s really going to guarantee its sustainability?

We must consider how value is created and distributed within the gaming ecosystem. Financial gains cannot be the be-all and end-all, especially when what matters most to gamers is the gaming experience — the fun factor, the community interaction, and the engagement that keeps gamers coming back to play more.

In recognition of this fact, we’re beginning to see a growing movement towards play-and-earn, to ensure that the quality of gameplay remains the core value proposition for players. While this takes the emphasis off the earning aspect and instead places gaming playability on par with financial gains — it still doesn’t quite hit the mark in terms of long-term community-building.

Enter play-to-own: a new model that still marries crypto with gaming, but offers greater inclusivity, as well as deeper, more meaningful player engagement. Consider game mechanics that leverage free-to-play elements to pace a new user’s experience around the core gameplay and in-app crypto economy. By rewarding genuine engagement with tokens and tokenized game pieces, a player develops a deeper understanding of the game while simultaneously building true ownership. By the time they become a power user, they’re a stakeholder. That’s true play-to-own.

But it’s not just the new monetization models that will bring a new wave of gamers into the ecosystem – it will also be the experience it can deliver. The massive potential of sports to bring people online has been clear from the rise of fantasy sports platforms across the world over the last three decades. And with Indonesia’s reputation for having the most passionate sporting enthusiasts in the region, the country is primed for the latest fantasy gaming experiences.

It comes as no surprise that tokenized fantasy sports platforms have seen significant user growth in the country. At Gambit Games, a new fantasy sports game that champions play-to-own, we saw over 26,000 registered players engaging in contests during our Private Alpha launch phase throughout the NBA Playoffs and Finals.

Indonesia was the most represented country on the Gambit platform, with over a quarter of all players based there. This came as no surprise to us as basketball is fast becoming one of the most popular sports in the country, with more than 21 million young Indonesians coached as part of the Jr. NBA development program.

Ultimately, tokenizing fantasy sports is but one way to ensure that gamers are engaged and satisfied. It would be vital for the crypto gaming industry to always keep in mind that enjoyable game experiences that also offer the opportunity for platform ownership would be key to long-term success.

On top of that, play-to-own stakeholders will do well to truly recognize and understand Indonesia’s market dynamics and cultural trends to fully capitalize on the potential of the country’s crypto gaming ecosystem.

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