STEPN Runners Undeterred by ‘Move-to-Earn’ Game’s Pricey NFT

While the play-to-earn (P2E) industry has been under scrutiny after the $620 million Ronin hack, another type GameFi is gaining momentum.

The first quarter of the $26 million earned by STEPN, a move-to-earn project based in Solana by Find Satoshi Lab, was $26 million. Similar to play-to earnn, move-to-earn rewards users with cryptocurrency for every step they take.

“As of mid-March, we had 100,000 daily active users, and that number has doubled since,” Chief Business Officer Shiti Manghani, who touted the site’s 1 million downloads, told CoinDesk in an interview.

While many P2E games reward online gaming, STEPN has emerged as an early example GameFi that encourages people to engage in fitness and well-being. Users who buy the game’s non-fungible token (NFT) can earn rewards for every step they take.

That’s creating spillover effects as STEPN grows in strength. One example of this is the upcoming STEPN 5K, which will be held at the AthensDAO conference for Solana-based autonomous organizations (DAOs) in late May. Dean Pappas from Grape, a social networking project leader, will be helping to organize the conference.

“We’re excited to show people the in real life crypto applications, and STEPN is one of the best examples. STEPN succeeds in making the entire experience simple and seamless: Exercise for 10 minutes a day and earn,” he said in a Telegram message.

The app offers rewards for users who have used its native cryptocurrency. GST increased in price by 50% in the last 30 days, according to CoinGecko. It traded at $4.80 as of press time.

However, to reap the rewards you must own NFTs. This is similar to what happened with Axie Infinity, a P2E giant. STEPN users can trade their SOL for NFT sneakers in the game’s mobile app — and then they start running.

These shoes are flying. Manghani says that STEPN trades NFT on Solana daily for more than $12M. The former CEO of home-fitness enterprise Breathe Happy said the project is attractive for users because “you don’t have to buy a £1,000 [$1,300] bike or Peloton.”

The cheapest NFT sneakers at the time of writing are 11.5 SOL (around $1,100). To start running for money, players must have the NFT.

STEPN is planning a rental feature, where shoeless users can effectively lease other players’ sneakers for free and share the earnings from running.

Grape lead Pappas said that the feature was urgently needed.

“STEPN sneakers are getting really expensive,” he said.

Leasing digital assets in P2E games has been criticized for creating “digital serfdom” in which players who cannot afford the NFTs necessary to play these games rent from third-party lenders, who subject players to long hours of gameplay with little compensation.

However, there are also games where participation is free.

Move-to-earn game Genopets, where players are similarly rewarded in crypto for their real-life steps, combines free-to-play and play-to-earn because it costs nothing to mint the NFTs necessary to play and earn tokens.

Genopets’ beta version is still very inconsolable. Jay Chang, cofounder of Genopets, said that it is especially popular on Fridays as new challenges drive 30,000 players to the platform. Jay Chang spoke over Telegram to CoinDesk.

These numbers are not comparable to STEPN and suggest that people are willing to pay more for move-to earn experiences.

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