Have you ever played Pokémon Go and I thought, “I wish this game let you earn small amounts of Bitcoin by engaging with internet finance memes and a cryptocurrency debit card system?” If so, I don’t believe you, but I have some good news.
Fold AR is a new augmented reality game from Pokémon Go Niantic developer and Fold financial company. The game – which a press release dubbed part of the Metaverse – is very loosely modeled on Pokémon Go but on the theme of cryptocurrency. As explained by Fold CEO Will Reeves, it works with the metaphor of “mining” Bitcoin. So instead of capturing cute monsters, the central mechanic is to find cubes of binary code and touch them like Minecraft blocks until they reveal a price.
The prices include Bitcoin in the denomination of Satoshis, a very small unit currently worth around 1 / 20th of a cent. They also include bonuses for Fold, which already gamifies card purchases through an app that lets you spin a wheel and earn Bitcoin rewards.
contrary to Pokémon Go and other Niantic games, however, Fold AR (which is launched from the Fold app) is currently undefined in a world full of virtual locations that correspond to real world locations. Instead, the game generates a block between 1 and 50 feet from the player every 10 minutes, reflecting the actual mining rate of Bitcoin. The team hopes to launch other features early next year, including a geocaching-like multiplayer system that lets you hide Bitcoin so your friends can find it, as well as some form of non-fungible token system. or NFT, based on Bitcoin.
Part of the goal, Reeves says, is to make a virtual currency feel real by creating an AR setting for it. The game is filled with jokes about cryptocurrencies and memes, with mechanics with names like “Diamond Hands”. But it’s supposed to appeal to both newcomers and existing fans of the cryptocurrency – “It’s a wonderful experience to share with people,” Reeves says. It is also reminiscent of the financial gamification found in the Robinhood non-crypto investing app.
More generally, Fold AR is part of a trend called ‘play to win’ which offers players rewards in cryptocurrency instead of pure in-game currency. The NFT-based winning game Infinite Axis has spawned a complicated economy in recent years, although that seems much less likely here.
Reeves suggested that Niantic could look into Fold AR features – including the play-to-win system – for inspiration. However, he said there was no official roadmap for something like adding financial functionality to an existing Niantic game. He also didn’t specifically reveal which parts of the game Niantic has developed.
In a statement, Megan Hughes of Niantic said that “games always help us push the boundaries of technology and allow us to incubate some of our boldest thinking, but we see incredible opportunities in several categories, including payments”. This is not a totally new turning point for the studio – Entrance featured advertising partnerships with Duane Reade and JambaJuice, among other companies. But with Niantic also increasingly focused on AR glasses, this could offer a sign of what kind of experiences this might involve.