The best play-to-earn crypto game: It’s like Pokémon Go, but you collect free Bitcoin

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“Holy *beep*! Did I just win some Bitcoin?” I yelled while playing one of the best play-to-earn crypto games. A startled passerby looked at me like I had five heads — and rightly so. I was traipsing around my neighborhood like a madwoman playing a Pokémon Go-like, mobile-app game. However, instead of capturing creatures in the wild, I was hunting for crypto.

And yes, I did actually score some Bitcoin — for free.

A fellow crypto-enthusiast friend put me on to the play-to-earn (P2E) model, explaining that it’s a growing, popular trend in the gaming industry. P2E games are blockchain-based platforms that pay you — yes, you — to play crypto-yielding games.

“Wait a minute, so all I need to do is play games and I get paid in crypto?” I asked incredulously. “Yep,” my friend said. “It’s the next big thing.”

I’m a seeing-is-believing type of person, so I decided to explore the P2E gaming world for myself. “There’s got to be a catch!” I thought — and there is. On the plus side, P2E games are legit. There is a growing number of games that are , indeed, paying users to play. The downside is that many P2E games have a “You have to spend money to make money” vibe to ‘em. However, during my research, I managed to find some P2E gems that distribute cryptocurrency rewards daily while requiring zero upfront investment from gamers.

The best play-to-earn game: Coin Hunt World

The best play-to-earn game is, without a doubt, Coin Hunt World (CHW), the mobile-app platform I was alluding to at the outset. As mentioned, it’s reminiscent of Pokémon Go, but instead of collecting Charmanders and Squirtles, you scavenge for Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (Ether).

CHW is a geo-location game that features an adorable, cube-shaped blue dude that represents you on a digital map. When you move in real life, the blue dude moves, too. When I played CHW, there were blue keys scattered across a digital map that represented my neighborhood.

This isn’t a game you can play sitting at home; I had to step outside and capture all the keys floating around on the map. I ended up walking to a nearby 7-11, my favorite Greek spot, an empanada restaurant, and a few other familiar places to collect the blue keys. After submitting my collected keys to a vault, I was prompted to answer a quiz question (they won’t hand you crypto that easily!). I answered correctly, and in return, I earned some
BTC and Ether — yes, for free!

After trying out CHW for a half hour, I earned 60 cents worth of BTC and 40 cents worth of Ether. Keep in mind, though, that this was my first time using the app; I was still learning how to get the hang of CHW. With a little more dedication and experience, I would have made a few dollars before gassing out from all the walking. According to Reddit, CHW players make about $20 a week — one Redditor claimed that they make $60 a week.

After collecting enough BTC and ETH, you could swap it for fiat (or any other currency) by connecting your Uphold account to CHW.

What makes Coin Hunt World the best play-to-earn crypto game is that it doesn’t dole out — excuse my French — shitcoins to players. BTC and Ether are the big dogs in the cryptocurrency world, so I was taken aback to see these two cryptocurrencies disseminated as rewards. Secondly, this game is completely free to play, which is somewhat of an anomaly in the P2E space.

The downside is that you’re going to need a lot of time on your hands to earn a substantial amount of crypto on CHW. Also, if you live in the boondocks, keys will be more scarce..

I know what you’re thinking, “If you’re getting paid in ETH and BTC, how is CHW making money?” Well, it’s not. In fact, the game is currently losing money, according to CoinHuntWorldWiki. However, CHW eventually plans to make profit by relying on advertising. These ads won’t be like the annoying pop-ups and videos you see on most mobile apps. Instead, CHW wants to charge token teams for using the Coin Hunt World platform to educate users about their cryptocurrencies. Coinbase, the most popular cryptocurrency exchange in the US, does something similar. It incentivizes users to watch animated, educational videos about their partners’ coins and pays them for it (I’ve earned about $20 thus far doing that).

CHW is currently in early-access mode, and as of this writing, it’s only available for Android users on Google Play. It’s also worth noting that one of the co-founders of Coin Hunt World is the CEO of Bittrex, a popular crypto trading platform.

NFT gaming is the future

Remember when Pokémon cards were all the rage? My classmates and I would buy $10 packs of Pokémon cards and cross our fingers that we’d get rare cards (Pokémon with high HP) to elicit envy and crush weaker Pokémons in card battles.

The trading-card craze is on the verge of making a volcanic comeback in the form of NFTs. During my research, I stumbled upon Axie Infinity, an NFT game heavily influenced by Pokémon. Its core gameplay involves having a team of three with creatures called Axies with various skill sets — and you can throw ‘em into battle to face other opponents.

Axie Infinity is arguably the most popular P2E game today, so of course, I wanted to see what the hype was all about. However, I was immediately turned off when I realized I had to purchase three Axies to play the game — and they’re not cheap if you want to be a worthy competitor. I felt my wallet wince when I saw the price tags of the most beastly Axies; they cost somewhere between $230 to $312,000 in the marketplace.

“Who the hell is going to pay $300k for a digital thing-a-majig?” I wondered. But believe it or not, an Axie Infinity gamer made headlines for buying a virtual plot of land for a whopping $1.5 million.

Of course, million dollar sales are not typical on Axie Infinity, but the trading activity is still mind-blowing with people spending about $200 to $400 per Axie to build a battle-ready team. According to CoinGecko, players need at least $690 to start playing Axie Infinity, and the platform just reached one million active daily users in mid-August.

Axie Infinity is making bank, but more importantly, we need to talk about how people are actually investing their hard-earned money on intangible, funky-looking monsters for a silly online game. Why? Investment is the operative word here. A CoinGecko survey revealed that 65% of Axie Infinity gamers make at least 151 Smooth Love Potion (SLP) a day. SLP is an Ethereum-based token that can be earned on Axie Infinity. As of this writing, one SLP is 14 cents, which means more than half are making $21 daily to help recoup their initial investment.

On top of that, gamers can sell their Axies on NFT marketplaces for anywhere between $200 and $350 — or $312,000 if they want to test the waters for ridiculously rich buyers. This is why I believe NFT gaming is here to stay. Why wouldn’t it? I mean, it’s a business model that lures gamers to spend hundreds of dollars on in-game purchases, and players will happily do it because they perceive it as an investment — not a painful splurge. This is every game developer’s dream.

P2E games aren’t just fun and games, though. For some, it’s a living. A YouTube documentary recently highlighted the growing popularity of P2E games in less fortunate countries (particularly the Philippines). “[Axie Infinity] sustained our daily needs, paid our bills, and debts,” said a mother of two who lost her job due to the pandemic. “I was thankful to Axie because, somehow, it helped us.”

I’m focusing on Axie Infinity here, but I’ve seen countless other P2E games where people are buying pricey NFTs in hopes of making profit in the long-run — and they’re not just trading-card platforms either.

I also discovered a handful of driving-simulator games (e.g. Riot Racers and Revv Racing) that require gamers to purchase car NFTs from OpenSea before racing other opponents. Of course, the sexier the car, the pricier it is (the car above is nearly $3,000).

The best NFT game: Blankos Block Party

There’s only one NFT game I’d recommend; it’s called Blankos Block Party. It’s made by a team who also worked on Call of Duty, World of Warcraft and Guitar Hero.

It’s a weird, vibrant, quirky open-world game that looks like you’re living inside a colorful, flashy pinball machine. As a bonus, I didn’t need to spend a dime to play the game.

You can play tag, race against others, dance at block parties, and more with 3D characters called “Blankos,” playable NFTs that can be earned in the game and traded on marketplaces.

This is a graphics-intensive game, so you’ll want to pull out your gaming laptop (and a controller or gaming mouse while you’re at it). It wasn’t running smoothly on my Acer Swift 3). Mythical Games, the publisher behind Blankos Block Party, already inked deals with DJ deadmau5 and luxury brand Burberry to lure more gamers to its platform. Axies and CryptoPunks are the talk of the town now, but I have a feeling Blankos may be next.

Outlook

I don’t know how I feel about P2E crypto and NFT games making a splash in the industry. I suppose it depends on how “the powers that be” plan to implement them. For example, the Brave browser employs a similar model in which it pays users in Basic Attention Tokens (BAT) for giving advertisers their attention. As mentioned, I also dig the Coinbase model where users earn free crypto by watching educational, animated videos about advertisers’ tokens.

Coin Hunt World seems to have aspirations to follow a similar P2E business model, which is why I chose it as the best play-to-earn game. Our attention and data is valuable, so it’s great that more platforms are willing to pay us for it.

That being said, I’ve always had an aversion to platforms that strong-arm me to make in-game purchases because they’re necessary to excel and progress in the game. Many P2E games follow this formula, but I understand that they’re slightly different in that game creators are saying, “Hey, we’re not the only ones making money — you are, too!” But keep in mind that there’s also a chance you may also lose money.

For example, your Axie can be valued at $250 today, but next year, it could be worth zilch. The Smooth Love Potion token Axie distributes to players is 14 cents now, but by the end of the year, the value could plummet. Conversely, the value of both assets could skyrocket, but it’s important to consider the flip side considering the volatility of the crypto market.

Whether you like cryptocurrency or not, it’s not going anywhere, especially in the gaming world. In fact, NFTs fit into the gaming industry like a puzzle piece. NFTs, by definition, are unique, blockchain-based digital collectibles, which screams “in-game purchases” to me. It was only a matter of time before the gaming industry capitalized on the NFT hype.

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