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Best play-to-earn crypto games: It’s like Pokémon Go, but you collect free Bitcoin

Best play to earn crypto games 2021
Best play to earn crypto games 2021 (Image credit: Mythical Games)

“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 (and Ethereum) — 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.

The best play-to-earn crypto 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 (ETH).

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. 

Best play to earn crypto games 2021

Best play to earn crypto games 2021 (Image credit: Future)

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 ETH — yes, for free!

After trying out CHW for a half hour, I earned 60 cents worth of BTC and 40 cents worth of ETH. 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, most 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 ETH 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.

Best play to earn crypto games 2021

Best play to earn crypto games 2021 (Image credit: Future)

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 (opens in new tab), 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.

Best play to earn crypto games 2021

Best play to earn crypto games 2021 (Image credit: SKY Mavis PTE)

The trading-card craze is on the verge of making a volcanic comeback in the form of NFT gaming. 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. 

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. No thanks!

As of this writing, due to the bear market, Axie Infinity's fortunes have taken a turn. Could it recover? Only time will tell.

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. 

Best play to earn crypto games 2021

Best play to earn crypto games 2021 (Image credit: Mythical Games)

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 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. 

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.

Editor's note: As a crypto bear market affects play-to-earn crypto games, this page is regularly updated to reflect the games that are still worth playing.

Kimberly Gedeon, holding a Master's degree in International Journalism, launched her career as a journalist for MadameNoire's business beat in 2013. She loved translating stuffy stories about the economy, personal finance and investing into digestible, easy-to-understand, entertaining stories for young women of color. During her time on the business beat, she discovered her passion for tech as she dove into articles about tech entrepreneurship, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and the latest tablets. After eight years of freelancing, dabbling in a myriad of beats, she's finally found a home at Laptop Mag that accepts her as the crypto-addicted, virtual reality-loving, investing-focused, tech-fascinated nerd she is. Woot!