Screen time around the world is way, way up, which has led to a relative surge in a small corner of the cryptocurrency space, its more casual and entertaining one.
The irony here is bitcoin (BTC) was born from an economic downturn, and most diehards would have thought this would be crypto’s time to shine. And yet, as a financial asset, the top cryptocurrencies have not done well at all in recent months. In fact, crypto appears to be retreating into stablecoins.
And while the HODLing set has generally pinned little hope on crypto’s games and toys, they seem to be the first facet of the industry to see a silver lining in what otherwise looks to be an economic catastrophe.
Status raised a reported $107 million in a 2017 initial coin offering (ICO) in order to build a crypto-powered answer to WhatsApp with a built-in Ethereum wallet. The Crypto Winter of 2018 hit Status hard, however, forcing the startup to let go of 25 percent of its staff in December of that year.
Things now seem to be looking up for the chat app.
“With the rise of government surveillance increasing across the globe as an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, we suspect people are turning to privacy preserving tools like ours,” Status marketing chief Jonathan Zerah told CoinDesk in an email.
The company released version 1.0 in mid-February, though earlier alpha and beta versions had been out since February 2017.
“Status has seen an increase in both installs of the mobile application as well as active peers in the messaging network,” Zerah wrote. “Around March 17 (just over one month after the initial release of v1.0) we noticed a ~50 percent increase in daily installs from the previous day.”
Kin is a blockchain that arose from a messaging app, Kik. It has since sold off that asset and the company is now running entirely on making its fork of Stellar into the most popular blockchain in the world.
The whole focus of this blockchain is putting micropayments inside the fun, time-wasting activities that made things like Instagram and Pinterest into behemoths.
Kin says it had over two million spenders in March. That means people earned kin tokens in one of the network’s 50 or so apps, basically always spending them in the same place. In fact, Kin’s Kevin Ricoy told CoinDesk the firm was on track to see three million spenders by March 31.
This surfeit of attention has proven to be an opportunity for social applications in the Kin ecosystem.
MadLipz is an app that lets users take a clip from any sort of video and easily dub a voiceover on it, usually intended for comic effect.
Amir Alikhanzadeh, MadLipz CEO, told CoinDesk, “It’s not always about just the entertainment value. Humor is a powerful tool to indirectly vent about conditions and situations that people face.” MadLipz has also opened up a virus-specific channel.
The app saw a 42 percent jump in weekly active users for the week of March 15 versus the week of March 8, to 615,000 weekly users. Further, people were spending 14 minutes per session on the app versus 11 minutes before. Notably, the team has seen disproportionate spikes in usage in countries just after lockdowns have been announced, which has also led to a big overall spike in new users.
Another big Kin app, Rave, which allows users to consume media together and chat about it in real-time has also seen an uptick in usage.
“We’ve gone from around a million MAU [monthly active users] to multiple million MAU,” Rave CEO Michael Pazaratz told CoinDesk in an email. Users spend an average of 45 minutes in the app per session, Pazaratz said (because they do things such as syncing up a TV show or movie with a friend located elsewhere).
Apps like MadLipz and Rave plug into Kin because the blockchain rewards apps that drive the most crypto-economic activity each day via its Kin Rewards Engine. App creators can then sell that kin to fund their operations. However, crypto earned by users in kin apps still can’t be taken out and used elsewhere, though the team promises that day is coming.
The boon to games has not been limited to mainstream titles.
Games with crypto at their core but mainstream appeal have also seen strong gains. War Riders, a sort of Mad Max adventure that uses non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to give users game access, also has its own currency token called benzene.
“We’ve been seeing about 70 percent jump in new users and average time spent in the game increased drastically,” Vlad Kartashov, CEO of Carfied, the company behind War Riders, told CoinDesk.
War Riders is free to play, sort of. It requires an NFT representing one of the vehicles to access the game. The company decided to run a promotion last weekend to hook interested users, giving away free war vans to people curious about trying the game. Over 300 people picked up a free van and there’s another similar promotion coming soon.
For context, the least expensive War Riders vehicle sells for about $5 in ETH on OpenSea right now. Others sell for hundreds of ETH, however.
Lucid Sight is a game company that has worked very hard to appeal to the mainstream market without making its crypto elements too obvious. It has brought Star Trek and Major League Baseball to the blockchain, primarily relying on NFT technology to give users who care about these things true ownership.
Lucid Sight CEO sent CoinDesk data on its space game, CSC, which incorporates “Star Trek”-themed spaceships among many many others. They are seeing more players at a time and people are playing far longer. Session times are up to 60 minutes, from 20 minutes before the COVID-19 crisis.
Further, a lot more spaceships are selling. The market cap for CSC in-game items is up $10 million. Lucid Sight has seen 70 percent more sales over the month, as well, to 60 million items.
In a corner of the crypto world that’s part game, part social network, there is Cryptovoxels, a very indie sort of Sim City experience, led by Ben Nolan.
“We were seeing concurrency of five to 10 logged in users before lockdown and an average of 40 to 50 now,” Nolan told CoinDesk.
Two community leaders in Cryptovoxels decided to put the call out for a virtual reality party dubbed “Get Out While You Stay In.” Forty to 50 people were hanging out virtually and artists in the community made special works to decorate the common space.
“We had to do a bunch of work to get the world to scale OK to the event, but I think it went down pretty well,” Nolan said.