It’s February 2020 and a massive pandemic is underway, forcing the majority of the world into a lockdown. For Bill Shihara, the co-founder and former CEO of Bittrex, this meant quite a bit of free time to focus on an idea that’s been on his mind for months—an interactive scavenger hunt.
With the help of Jeroen Van den Bosch, a veteran of the gaming industry, Shihara created a simple game concept—explore the real world and find hidden vaults with small amounts of cryptocurrencies inside. An interactive take on the ever-popular airdrops, his geolocation game essentially rewards players for exploring their neighborhoods.
It took six months before the two launched Coin Hunt World with the goal to create a fun way for players to get some exercise and earn crypto.
“A scavenger hunt seemed like the fun basis for a game and as we saw from covid lockdowns, we all needed an excuse to be outside and support our local businesses as our neighborhoods opened up,” Shihara told CryptoSlate in an interview.
It wasn’t long before Coin Hunt exploded—in a matter of months, the game attracted thousands of players across the world with the number growing consistently month over month. As of January 2022, Coin Hunt users had traveled more than 35.4 million kilometers in the game—equal to traveling 888 times around the globe.
Shihara credits Coin Hunt’s success to a simple combination of fun and rewards. He believes that games are a great way to make blockchain and DeFi accessible to a large number of people. Pair that with rewards paid out in Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH) and you’ve got a winning combination.
Coin Hunt has the longest average game session out of any mobile game currently on the market, as its users spend an average of 34 minutes per game. And it’s not just the mobile game category Coin Hunt leads in—it’s also higher than all social media platforms except TikTok.
Unlike Axie Infinity and other popular play-to-earn blockchain games that exploded in Vietnam and other eastern parts of Asia, Coin Hunt has seen the biggest adoption in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. However, the platform won’t stop there and is about to undertake a significant expansion effort—both in its features and its locations.
“We’re now focusing on El Salvador and other Spanish speaking countries, as well as launching in the Philippines this month,” Shihara said.
The platform is currently doing a closed beta test with 1,000 players in the Philippines to balance the game before the general launch. Shihara said that the large scope of the closed beta was necessary to fine-tune the game before its release to what could potentially be Coin Hunt’s largest market.
“Philippines is an exciting market for Play2Earn and we expect to see a huge number of players there,” he added.
“We’re adding more landmarks and mini-games to the experience. We’re also launching new brands with NFT and token drops which is also our most requested feature for the game. Next year, we also want to integrate some DeFi services into the game and make them easily accessible to our users through gamification. “
Shihara said that he expects Play-to-Earn business models and NFT ecosystems to become mainstream, given how well-suited NFTs are for games.
“Players should have control over the content they earn or purchase. They should be able to trade, sell, or migrate the virtual items between games,” he told CryptoSlate.
Coin Hunt’s global team of 30 will certainly be up for a challenge. With more and more Play-to-Earn games competing for the same slice of the market, it’s becoming increasingly hard to stay relevant both in the crypto ecosystem and in the gaming world. However, Coin Hunt stands between the two industries, bringing cryptocurrencies into the real world with an interactive game that incentivizes users with rewards.
This has created an almost cult-like following, with Shihara saying that players have been traveling across state lines in the U.S. to complete challenges, going to other countries, and even going overseas.