May 16, 2023 - 21 min read
Gaming Guilds are defined as groups of players who band together to accomplish common goals, but until recently, they were generally a casual, niche phenomenon. However, blockchain and GameFi technology have provided crypto-based gaming guilds with the ability for players to earn real money and command real influence over the games they play.
With the advent of blockchain-empowered play-to-earn games, crypto gaming guilds (unlike traditional gaming guilds) no longer simply consist of just players; instead, they now feature professional investors, community managers, and marketing teams, allowing them to amass considerable economic power. The top gaming guilds currently have market caps of tens (or hundreds) of millions of dollars and may have considerable influence over the governance of multiple blockchain games.
Most crypto gaming guilds are decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) and raise money by selling a governance token, which allows token holders to vote on important proposals and decide how the guild’s funds will be used. Gaming guilds generally take the money they raise from their token sale and invest in various Web3 gaming projects.
This can include buying the native token of a popular crypto game, such as Axie Infinity or Decentraland, buying NFTs within blockchain games, or even investing money directly into promising new games or gaming studios with projects under development. In addition, some blockchain gaming guilds may also invest in gaming infrastructure projects that attempt to streamline the Web3 game development process or otherwise enhance player or developer experiences.
In addition to investing in games and GameFi projects, crypto gaming guilds also provide resources to individual players. For instance, they may pay for a gamer to purchase an in-game NFT, which allows them to play a certain game, after which the player will share a certain portion of their gaming income with the guild. While individually small, at scale, these in-game earnings can also provide an important source of income for the guild, which it can use to make additional investments in players, games, and other projects.
GameFi has experienced incredible growth over the last few years. As of April 2023, the top GameFi tokens had a combined market cap of over $10 billion. However, the GameFi industry faces a variety of serious issues– issues that gaming guilds are helping to address. One significant problem is that many blockchain games have an extremely high entry cost; for example, during the crypto bull market of 2021, it often cost players between $1,000 and $1,500 simply to begin playing the popular crypto game, Axie Infinity– and some virtual land games, like The Sandbox and Decentraland, have even higher entry costs. As previously mentioned, gaming guilds often finance a player’s first NFT purchase in exchange for a share of their profits, making it much easier for new and inexperienced players to reap the rewards of GameFi.
Perhaps more importantly, GameFi has a major quality control issue. Thousands of crypto games have been released over the last few years, but according to most players, very few are actually fun to play. Instead, many play games like Axie Infinity simply for the financial rewards– and while money can be motivating, GameFi will never reach its full potential unless crypto-based games are both profitable and fun to play. In addition to not being fun, many crypto games suffer from poor graphics as well as serious technical issues, which also must be addressed for GameFi to truly go mainstream. Finally, some games abuse in-game tokenomics to extract money from players, leaving the developers wealthy but the players penniless.
Gaming guilds are helping to address this in a variety of ways. Since guilds primarily consist of active gamers, when they invest in a project, they do it from the perspective of a player, not just an investor. Therefore, the games and developers they invest in may be of higher quality than those chosen by non-gamers. In addition, by holding a large proportion of the tokens in certain games, guilds can actively vote on proposals that have a major impact on a game’s development and direction.
Therefore, a guild can almost act as a union within a game, standing up for the economic rights of players. For instance, if the developers of a game want to issue a lot of new tokens or NFTs (which could lead to significant inflation), a gaming guild with enough power may be able to stop them by voting against the proposal. However, even if they don’t have enough voting power to down-vote a damaging proposal, a guild may threaten to dump (i.e., sell) their tokens or NFTs unless the game developers act more responsibly in regard to game tokenomics.
While gaming guilds aim to promote independence and ownership for individual gamers, they have gained a large part of their financial power and influence through direct investment by crypto-focused venture capital firms. Notable investments by VCs include a $22 million+ funding round for YGG, as well as the previously mentioned $75 million raise for YGG’s venture arm, GuildFi’s $6 million raise, and The Avocado Guild’s $18 million raise from Animoca Brands and Three Arrows Capital. In addition, venture accelerator Brinc and Animoca Brands, an operator of NFT games, recently launched a $30 million Guild Accelerator Program to promote GameFi guilds.
While gaming guilds have risen to prominence around the world, they have had a particularly large influence in several developing countries, particularly those in Southeast Asia, such as the Philippines. Throughout the crypto boom of 2021, many individuals in the Philipines were able to quit their full-time jobs in order to play games such as Axie Infinity full-time, with many earning up to $300 (or more) per week, significantly more than many workers in a country where the median salary is under $13,000 per year. Most of these players used gaming guild scholarships to finance their first Axie NFTs, considering that most Axie NFTs (which are required to start playing the game) were priced at over $1,000 during the height of the market.
However, for many of these players, their journey playing Axie Infinity and other games has led to serious financial trouble. Though many players received scholarships to start playing, many others invested thousands in NFTs in the hopes of increasing their income– NFTs that have now fallen significantly in value. In addition, since many players left their jobs to play Axie full-time, many have been left without a decent source of income now that the $AXS token has fallen significantly since the 2021 crypto bull market. Some players even took out loans to pay for their NFTs, leaving them even worse off. In the case of Axie Infinity, many players also felt stressed and burned out due to the incredibly repetitive nature of the game. In addition to the Philippines, similar situations have occurred involving many players and guild members in nearby countries, such as Indonesia and Cambodia.
Therefore, it’s safe to say that while gaming guilds have provided some individuals in developing countries with a full-time income, investing too much in guilds can be a risky, double-edged sword, and players that commit to full-time play could end up losing their shirt, particularly if one game is their only source of income.
Below, we’ve listed some of the top crypto gaming guilds of 2023. These include:
Founded in November 2021, as of Q2 2023, Merit Circle was the largest gaming guild by market cap, with its $MC token reaching a market cap of nearly $140 million. Merit Circle has partnered with major crypto and blockchain games, including Axie Infinity, Star Atlas, Hash Rush, and Illuvium. Like most gaming guilds, Gaming Circle is a DAO but has been incubated by and invested in by multiple large venture capital firms. Initially incubated by Flow Ventures, the guild has received funding from Mechanism Capital, Spartan Group, and DeFianance Capita.
In turn, Merit Circle has invested millions in a variety of crypto and blockchain gaming companies and projects, including Redemption Games, Larva Labs, Roboto Games, Sipher, Drivetime, Clubgame, Vorto Gaming, and First Light Games.
In addition to funding GameFi projects, Merit Circle funds almost 3,000 scholars who provide 30% of their in-game earnings to Merit Circle in exchange for the guild funding their initial NFT purchases.
Founded in 2020, Yield Guild Games (YGG) is generally considered the second-largest gaming guild in the industry, though it was once the largest. It has perhaps the most impressive VC backing of any guild today, with major investors including Andreessen Horowitz (a16z), Animoca Brands, BlockTower Capital, Mechanism Capital, and ParaFi Capital. In February 2023, YGG raised an additional $75 million for a new venture capital fund called YGG Ventures, making the guild a decentralized VC fund in its own right.
YGG is also a DAO, which utilizes the guild’s native $YGG token for governance. $YGG is a standard ERC-20 token on the Ethereum blockchain. Unlike most guilds, YGG is made up of multiple SubDAOs, each of which consists of members who hail from a specific location or play a specific NFT game.
Yield Guild Games has invested in a wide scope of prominent blockchain games, including Axie Infinity ($AXS), The Sandbox ($SAND), ), Illuvium ($ILV), Star Atlas ($ATLAS, $POLIS), Splinterlands ($SPS), just to name a few. In addition to investing in governance tokens, it also widely invests in NFTs (including virtual land in The Sandbox). Like most other guilds, Yield Guild Games provides NFT rental program scholarships and unique yield farming strategies to its members. Specifically, YGG allows members to stake their tokens to earn rewards that are generated by other users’ in-game profits and offers rewards in $YGG, $ETH, and stablecoins.
Unlike most guilds on this list, GuildFi is not a single organization but rather an ecosystem of interconnected Web3 games, NFTs, and guilds. However, it’s still one of the largest decentralized projects in the GameFI industry, with more than 100,000 registered players.
It hopes to act as a bridge between different guilds and different blockchain games while offering a variety of play-to-earn scholarships. GuildFI’s native $GT token is used for the governance of the GuildFi DAO. Like many guilds, GuildFi provides staking rewards and benefits for individuals who stake the $GT token. The organization is also quite well-funded, having raised an impressive $140 million during its December 2021 token sale.
In addition, GuildFi is unique due to its GuildFi ID program, with member IDs operating much like a GameFi passport, allowing users to track their performance and accrue rewards as they play multiple different games throughout the GuildFi ecosystem.
PathDAO is another of the largest gaming guilds and GameFi DAOs in the industry, boasting an impressive 74,000 community members, investments in over 70 gaming projects, and $14 million in assets under management. Its native $PATH governance token, while having a relatively tiny market cap compared to $YGG or $GT, is still one of the top gaming guild tokens by market cap. PathDAO has been backed by several VC firms, including Alpha Moon Capital, Arcanum Ventures, Assembly Partners, DeFiance Capital, and LVT Capital
In contrast to most other gaming guilds, PathDAO consists of five separate arms, including a VC arm, Path Ventures, a guild arm that connects Web3 talent, a payment platform known as Path Fintech, and Path Insights, a gaming platform that empowers gamers to share their experiences and recommendations with developers and the broader GameFi community. Like other guilds, PathDAO has over 2,000 scholars across 6 different games. While it does offer token staking rewards for its $PATH token, these rewards generally require a 1-year token lock, which may be a turn-off for many potential members and investors.
Good Games Guild (GGG) is another prominent gaming guild. Organized as a DAO, the guild uses its native $GGG token for governance. However, it’s difficult to determine the token’s exact market cap as it doesn’t currently have a high level of liquidity. Like other guilds, GGG offers scholarships to new players, financing their NFT purchases in exchange for a portion of their in-game profits. Currently, the game has a little more than 1,000 scholars, making it significantly smaller than competitors like GuildFi or YGG. GGG currently sponsors scholarships for members playing Axie Infinity, Pegaxy, CyBall, Wasted Lands, Faraland, Sidus Heroes, Hero Arena, and MetaShooter.
In general, the DAO earns 20% of the income generated by the guild but may earn more for certain games, like Axie Infinity, where it takes a reported 35% cut of player profits. However, the guild has been criticized for its lack of transparency when it comes to the DAO’s financials. Like YGG, GGG has purchased a wide variety of in-game assets, including virtual land in major metaverse land games, which it rents out to generate more income for the guild. Good Games Guild also plans to launch its own GameFi NFT marketplace, which will charge 1.5% per transaction.
BlackPool is not a gaming guild in the traditional sense but rather an on-chain protocol operating as a decentralized AI-centric GameFi hedge fund. Blackpool, which is governed by its native $BPT token, uses machine learning and analytics to invest in NFTs, gaming tokens, NFT art, and NFT sports cards. They deliver financial services and tools to the public and select clients, including DAOs, including GameFi insurance, NFT leasing, crypto strategy and analytics tools, and valuation indices. BlackPool’s additional investment strategies include loaning out NFTs and other digital assets, hosting in-game competitions, and using arbitrage between primary and secondary markets. BlackPool has recently invested in games, including Sorare, Gods Unchained, Cometh, Aavegotchi, and Guild of Guardians.
However, like traditional guilds, BlackPool still offers scholarships through BlackPool Academy, which leases NFTs to players in exchange for a cut of their profits. Currently, the organization only offers scholarships for Axie Infinity, but it may expand to other games in the near future. Guild members, known as managers, manage groups of scholars, training them in gameplay and yield farming techniques while distributing the earnings of the guild.
Avocado DAO is well known for its $AVG token, which, as of Q2 2022, was one of the top 10 gaming guild tokens by market cap. Like many other gaming DAOs, the guild has a prominent scholarship program and has awarded over 10,000 scholarships to members across the world. Avocado DAO is known for its particularly large and active Discord community. Members of the DAO are called Avoacadians. Like Blackpool and many other guilds, Avocado DAO uses managers to recruit, train, onboard, support, and educate its scholars.
Avocado DAO has raised $18 million in venture capital, with prominent investors including Animoca Brands, Algorand, Andromeda Capital, Binance Labs, and GoldenTree Asset Management.
UniX is a gaming guild focused on training, educational content, and player scholarships for play to earn games. They currently house over 1,000 Axie Infinity scholarships, as well as providing more than 6,000 additional scholarships for other P2e games. Like many guilds, UniX has purchased a large amount of virtual real estate, with most of their investments focused on purchasing assets in The Sandbox. Unlike some guilds, however, UniX is particularly focused on in-house game development. The guild recently launched UniX Gaming Studios, which is in the process of developing the guild’s first in-house P2EN game. The guild uses the $UNIX token for DAO-based governance and allows players to get in-game rewards for online activity.
Perion is a guild focusing on buying, managing, and leasing NFTs for P2E games. Unlike some guilds, Perion uses highly analytical methods and deep data analysis to guide lending decisions and discover the top-performing gamers. One of the guild’s founders, Amos Whitewolf, was previously the number one ranked Axie Infinity player in the world. During some investment periods, Perion has reportedly been able to get 3x the return of similar gaming guilds. The guild’s community is quickly growing, with over 70,000 Discord members.
Unlike any of the other guilds on this list, YGG SEA is actually a SubDAO of YGG. While YGG has a broader, worldwide approach, YGG SEA is focused specifically on serving the Southeast Asian market. It is currently the largest gaming DAO in the region, serving Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, and Indonesia. The guild has issued more than 20,000 player scholarships, has 40,000 members, $10 million in assets under management (including a large portfolio of in game assets), and has invested in over 80 play to earn games.
Below, we’ve listed a few more of the industry’s top crypto gaming guilds.
Play It Forward DAO is the governing body of Railings University (RU). This play to earn guild currently has more than 3,000 scholars playing games, including Pegaxy, Ethlas, Axie Infinity, and BCM Hunt, mainly in Indonesia and the Philippines. The community reportedly has more than 80,000 members, and players have earned a cumulative total of more than $1.5 million.
Earn Guild helps players start from the very beginning and provides a variety of unique tools, including crypto wallets, bank transfers, crypto wallets, and even an Earn Guild MasterCard. Earn Guild currently has more than 5,000 scholars playing games, including Metagear, Supremacy, Urban Racer, Sidus, Crypto War Tanks, Step Hero, and Galaxy Blitz. In addition, the guild has raised more than $8 million from a variety of VC firms.
BlockchainSpace is not a traditional gaming guild but an organization that provides services to other guilds, with a particular focus on the Asian market. Calling itself the “guild hub of the metaverse,” BlockchainSpace claims to support more than 26,000 P2E guilds and more than 4 million players. The guild has attracted a variety of high-profile investors, including YGG, Crypto.com Capital, and OKX Blockchain Ventures.
vEmpire DDAO is a DAO-based gaming guild that calls itself “the gateway to the metaverse.” vEmpire focuses on investing in what it believes to be undervalued GameFi projects and was an early investor in Decentraland (MANA) and Axie Infinity (AXS). In addition, vEmpire has developed a P2E trading card game, “vEmpire: The Beginning.” $VEMP is the guild’s primary utility token.
IndiGG describes itself as a “network state” focused on the needs of India’s 500 million gamers and is currently reported to be the largest Web3 gaming organization in the country. Their sponsored players play a variety of unique games, including Big Time, Blast Royale, Immortals, War Legends, Meta Apes, and Sipher, just to name a few.
MetaGaming Guild (MGG) describes itself as a “unified DAO-based ecosystem of Gaming Guild, INO/IGO Launchpad, GameFi Vaults, Game Yield Farming and Play-to-Earn Game aimed at decentralizing game finance.” In addition to providing these products and services to players and developers, MGG is also in the process of developing its own P2E action game, MetaSaga Warriors.
Ancient8 focuses on providing in-game assets to players using a tiered model. Unlike some other guilds, they focus heavily on economic and financial research in order to maximize financial returns and are currently building software infrastructure and tools for web3 gaming. Like many other guilds, they have a particular focus on sponsoring players and gaming communities in Vietnam.
Liberty Gaming Guild (LGG) is a guild that helps provide players with highly expensive NFTs that they might not be able to access otherwise. Unlike some other guilds, LGG has a major focus on education, offering a variety of training courses on DeFi, crypto, blockchain technology, financial management, crypto investing strategies, and more.
BreederDAO is a unique type of DAO that provides services for other gaming guilds. It calls itself an “NFT asset factory” that helps provide unique NFTs to guilds in order to help supercharge their economies. They also aim to provide networking opportunities for guilds, connecting creators, investors, and gamers.
SnackClub is a Brazil-based gaming DAO that focuses on empowering players and player communities in developing countries. The organization was founded by Loud, one of the world’s most prominent esports companies, and by mid-2022, had raised $9 million in funds in order to expand its operations.
Cosmic Guild is a P2E, player-focused guild that focuses on investing in a large portfolio of NFT assets across a wide scope of blockchain games. The guild has attracted a wide array of major investors, including Binance Labs, Crypto.com, and DeFinance Capital.
While crypto gaming guilds may seem like a positive force in the industry and a way to empower gamers, they also have several potential downsides. Specifically, in many guilds, individual players have lost significant power and influence when compared to other stakeholders, like VCs, whales, and gaming studios, as well as leaders within guilds.
In addition, as previously mentioned, many players in developing countries have staked their income and livelihood on income generated by their membership in guilds. When the tokenomics of a game (or the overall market) changes, many of these players are left penniless– or even in debt. Therefore, by promoting individuals to take full-time gaming careers in developing countries, many guilds may be exploiting financially vulnerable players in order to turn a profit for big investors. Often, the blockchain gameplay experience is incredibly boring, so rich players outsource their income-generating activity to poorer players, who must labor for hours on end to complete highly repetitive tasks.
Of course, there are ways to potentially prevent this type of exploitation and more strongly empower individual players, but in many cases, this may be an uphill battle. For example, DAO-based crypto gaming guilds may choose to use Soulbound Tokens (SBTs), tokens that cannot be transferred from one wallet to another, in order to create a “one member, one vote” system for gaming DAO. This helps ensure that big token holders don’t dominate the voting process and take power away from existing guild members. In addition, more education and protections for financially vulnerable players could also be introduced into the player onboarding process.
Finally, guilds can also push for fairer game tokenomics as well as improved gameplay experiences to ensure that guild members and players– whether full-time, part-time, or casual, can actually enjoy the experience of crypto gaming.
Overall, crypto gaming guilds and other gaming DAOs are having an increasing impact on the GameFi and crypto gaming industry– and, despite market fluctuations, are likely to slowly gain increasing power over many games, developers, and studios in the space. However, the power of gaming guilds and gaming DAOs is limited by the size and success of the GameFi industry itself, which is still overcoming major hurdles, including technical issues, quality problems, and challenges regarding tokenomics. If and when blockchain technology and decentralization reach AAA games (like Fortnite, Call of Duty, Halo, etc.), gaming DAOs could become a major force in the broader gaming industry– influencing the development and economics of the world’s largest games.
While gaming DAOs have provided incredible opportunities to millions of players, they aren’t perfect and, as we’ve discussed, suffer from issues including a high concentration of voting power among whales, as well as potential player exploitation. If DAOs can also tackle these issues, they can reach their full potential as a way to empower gamers, as well to advocate for the economic rights of gamers everywhere.
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