$1 Million Bitcoin Scavenger Hunt Attracts 60,000 Digital Sleuths (And New Investors)

Satoshi's Treasure has attracted enough sponsorship to continue making crypto-centric games even after someone wins this initial prize.

May 11, 2019 at 9:00 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 13, 2021 at 9:10 a.m. UTC
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Nothing brings bitcoiners together like a quest peppered with cryptographic clues.

According to Satoshi’s Treasure co-creator Eric Meltzer of Primitive Ventures, so far nearly 60,000 people have signed up for notifications related to the international scavenger hunt for $1 million worth of bitcoin.

On Saturday, at the Magical Crypto Conference in New York, Melzter and the team revealed yet another clue: A series of cryptic images and other hints hidden on business cards distributed at the event.

And, as revealed exclusively to CoinDesk, a group of veteran crypto investors have pledged an undisclosed amount to fund future games and campaigns. These sponsors include Naval Ravikant, Balaji Srinivasan, Mark Pincus, Andrew Lee, IDEO CoLabs Ventures, Nic Carter, Matt Walsh, Meltem Demirors, Li Xiaolai, Jehan Chu and Sam Engelbardt.

"I'd say Satoshi's Treasure is so exciting because it's the pure joy of a treasure hunt," Carter told CoinDesk. "It's global and anyone can participate."

Meanwhile, many have formed online teams to collect the 400 key fragments required to move the prize from the game’s bitcoin wallet, Meltzer said. Yet even the dynamics of these teams highlight how bitcoiners are unique compared to other online gaming communities. For example, software engineer John Cantrell cracked the code for one of the first key fragments then promptly detailed on both Twitter and GitHub how he managed to do it.

“For me, it’s really all about education,” Cantrell told CoinDesk.

Since then, Cantrell also joined several teams and created a free tool called Ordo to help teams organize clues and fairly credit contributions to the hunt, which will come in handy for any winning team looking to divvy up the loot.

Cantrell said so far the largest team using Ordo appears to have 600 members.

Another large team, called the Magellan Clan, told CoinDesk via email it has 100 members from 30 countries. It even made a unique token to reward people beyond the team who provide tips.

With so many players flocking to Satoshi’s Treasure, Cantrell isn’t the only one making tools and services for other players.

The 18-person ToshiCiphers clan, for example, has launched a merchandise store for teams looking to make shirts and other swag. ToshiCiphers clan member Devon Kramer told CoinDesk they’ve had four orders for custom shirts so far.

While many players in this game were, like Cantrell, already bitcoin veterans, some gamers have been attracted to Satoshi’s Treasure by the collaborative play, rather than the prize itself. Clues are spread both around the physical world and online, requiring a wide range of skills and languages for teams to be competitive.

“We have a couple of people who are new to cryptocurrency, didn’t know much about blockchain, but they were brought in by the hunt,” Kramer said.

Kramer’s teammate, who goes by Yann, added:

“I think we are playing the first Great game of the Augmented Reality Era.”

Satoshi's Treasure hunters image via Jess Wang


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