Buying and holding packs from the store vs. the P2P marketplace: A comparison of value under different scenarios
I recently wrote a post about how it generally makes more sense to buy singles rather than packs if your primary goal is to play with them. I initially had an aside at the end talking about how the math changes if your primary goal is investment, and then realized it was much more complicated than I at first thought.
A big part of why I like splinterlands is the TCG aspect of it. It's the first NFT I've seen that has seemed even remotely useful, because the ownership aspect of it makes it so much better than online games like Hearthstone or MTGA. My background in the card game space is largely MtG, and I think a lot of what makes sense there also makes sense here (e.g. buy singles not packs). But one big difference between the two which can throw a wrench into otherwise simple decision is airdrops, something uniquely suited to an NFT blockchain setting.
How airdrops affect the value of a pack
In MtG a pack is a pack is a pack (more or less; although there have been cases of being able to map booster boxes for the really juicy cards). In Splinterlands, a pack bought from the store is not the same as a pack bought from the marketplace; the former gets airdrop chances and the latter does not. Consequently, the latter will be cheaper. But they'll be the same in all other ways: can drop the same cards, give the same number of airdrop points etc. The main reason vouchers currently have value is they unlock the 2nd and 3rd airdrop cards.
But how much value do the airdrops add? The prices of packs on the P2P marketplace will reflect the fact that they don't get airdrops. (I've read that in Untamed, packs sold for as little as $0.50). Let's find out!
Expected value of airdrops
First, I'd like to calculate an expected value of all the airdrops from a single pack. There are 11 airdrops remaining, 6 of which we know (I think) will be 6 legendary summoners, one for each splinter. The other 5, I think will all be epics and rares, based on the distribution in Untamed. The former will all have drop rates of ~1/500 (slightly different per card probably, but not that's a good approximation). The latter will have drop rates of ~1/75. Legendary summoners are the best (most expensive) cards in the set, so I'll assume they will start at $60, about twice the cost of the current most expensive cards. The epics we'll be generous and say they're also going to be worth about twice the cost of the most expensive epics.
Using these numbers, each pack gives ~$1.20 of airdrop chances. So if you can buy packs from the P2P marketplace for less than $2.80 (a little different than that given the math on vouchers and bonus packs, but that's pretty close), that is actually a better deal than buying them from splinterlands (even if it feels less sexy to miss out on airdrops).
However, it gets better! The above is working on just the basic expected value of the airdrops, but does not factor in the benefits of guaranteed airdrops. If you've read any of my previous posts, you'll know I strongly believe that buying from splinterlands is only worth it if you buy enough for guaranteed airdrops. In this case, removing the possibility of getting 0 airdrops multiplies the value of airdrops by ~1.35, meaning each pack has an expected value of $1.62 in airdrops if you buy at least 500.
Let's dive in to how this plays out over time as cards and packs appreciate.
To illustrate this, I'll calculate the ROI under two strategies with different conditions. Strategy 1 is buying 500 packs (a little under $2000 since they'll be using vouchers for 10% of them), and sitting on the airdrops and packs for some amount of time. Strategy 2 is buying the same $$$ worth of packs from the P2P marketplace shortly after the general sale begins and sitting on them. I'll use the same values for airdrop cards as in the previous section. The two variables are then 1) the cost of packs on the P2P marketplace, which will range from $0.5 to $4 and 2) appreciation (which I'm assuming will affect packs and cards equally) which will range from 100% to 1,000%.
Below are a few tables. The columns are the appreciation factor after some unspecified amount of time (2 means all cards + packs grow in value by 100%) and the rows are the price of a pack on the P2P marketplace shortly after the general sale begins. The cells are the net earnings from that strategy.
Buying packs from the marketplace
The first table is the strategy where we buy packs from the P2P marketplace. You'll notice 2 things. 1) We always net gain money. As long as splinterlands doesn't completely crash, these packs will appreciate and you'll have bought in near the bottom. 2) the earnings don't depend on the cost of the pack. This is nice because this strategy won't have any feel bad moments of not buying in at exactly the right time.
Buying packs from the store
The next table is the strategy where we buy packs from the store. Here, we still see positive values across the board, but they get pretty minimal in certain cases. Because the appreciation is based off the low price in the P2P marketplace, the value of our purchase can immediately go down, and if it doesn't appreciate significantly, we can lose money. Also the net does now depend on the price of packs, as how much our packs are worth at the bottom decides how much they grow over time.
The net difference in the strategies
The final table is the difference between the two. Numbers are positive if buying from the store is the better option and negative if buying from the marketplace is better. We see that the only positive numbers are when pack prices do not drop in the marketplace. I dug into the number a little deeper, and the break even point is ~$3.5 per pack
I was initially surprised by these results, but in hindsight it was pretty expected. The expected value of buying a pack for airdrops is ~$1.6, so a naive guess for when buying from P2P marketplace is better would be ~$2.4, which is pretty much what we see here. The actual difference is somewhat dependent on the price appreciation, but that is the broad pattern. Given vouchers in Phase 2 went for around $2 most of the season, and this included uriel and baakjira, I think $2.50 is gonna be a pretty reasonable price for packs on the P2P marketplace.
So where does this leave me/us? Before writing this, I was 100% going to buy from the store. Now that I've seen this, with numbers I think are reasonable (although please comment and let me know if you see a glaring error in my assumptions), I think the two strategies are similar in their value. I left out the value of airdrop points, which will benefit buying from the P2P marketplace more, since you'll get more packs, but I left out the possibility of GF airdrops from buying from splinterlands, which would get a bunch of extra value, but is rare enough I don't even want to factor that in.
For me, I am still leaning towards buying from splinterlands. The fun of airdrops and the possibility of GF cards to me outweighs the extra packs and airdrop points I'd get
The first takeaway is, as always, if you're buying <500 packs, buy them from the P2P marketplace. The chance of no airdrops means you have the possibility of feelbad moments and losing value relative to just buying packs from the marketplace.
The second takeaway is a common theme of mine: do what is fun and will keep you mentally invested in the game. The two strategies are similar enough in what I think are reasonable and likely prices for packs, so it's up to you. Do you want more packs to open and more SPS airdrops? Buy P2P. Do you want the fun of finding out how many airdrops you got and knowing you'll get some of the best cards of the set? Buy from splinterlands.
Let me know if this has changed your thinking on buying packs and especially if you think my numbers are wrong or crazy.
If you're interested in jumping into splinterlands after reading this, use my referral link below! I'll send you a card to keep (something worth ~$1), and I'll temporarily delegate you some cards to use in your first season!