Move to Earn: Fad or The Future?

Does exercising and earning cryptocurrency rewards sound too good to be true? Read on to find out more about the latest trend intersecting between active lifestyle, social and Web3 elements.

If there’s one trend gaining significant momentum in the crypto space right now, it’s move-to-earn — a relatively new niche that includes a variety of products and services that pay users for being active.

Sounds too good to be true? Well, there’s a catch. In the vast majority of cases, users need to fork out a significant amount of money to begin earning. Nonetheless, under the right circumstances, move-to-earn applications could provide an intriguing opportunity to generate income, and might motivate users to increase their physical activity.

Here, we take a closer look at the move-to-earn landscape as it stands, and examine some of its biggest players.

What Is Move to Earn?

As you might have guessed, move to earn platforms provide users with rewards for keeping fit, unlocking an additional income stream for participating in their usual exercise activities, or taking part in specific fitness-related challenges. It comes off the trend of play-to-earn — where users are rewarded, in cryptocurrency, for playing these games. These platforms generally aim to incentivize fitness, helping to reduce obesity and sedentariness, and giving users an opportunity to earn an income for improving their health. Indeed, researchers recently found that improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness lead to a significant reduction in all-cause and disease-specific mortality, with an individual’s maximum oxygen uptake (VO2max) being strongly correlated with their life expectancy. The term move-to-earn was coined and first popularized by the Web3 lifestyle app known as STEPN in September 2021 and has since been adopted by a variety of other apps that reward users for their activity. But the concept can be traced back to much earlier since many insurance providers, employers and even public authorities offer discounts, incentives and prizes to those who complete specific exercise requirements or accomplish specific health goals — such as exceeding a certain number of steps per month or shedding a few pounds.

The way these applications generate rewards can vary considerably from platform to platform, but almost all pay users in the form of their native utility tokens for completing fitness-related tasks — such as walking, running, or swimming. This data is usually tracked by a cell phone or fitness tracker before being uploaded to the move-to-earn app and assessed to see if it qualifies for rewards. Earned tokens can then either be directly traded for goods and services within the app or sold/traded on an internal marketplace or external exchange for other cryptocurrencies. Besides being used to simply reward users, most move-to-earn applications also provide additional utility for their tokens, which acts to drive up demand for new participants and minimize selling pressure on third-party exchanges. This helps to maintain the market value and ensure the move-to-earn rewards remain worthwhile. That said, supply-side pressure can outstrip demand, which can eventually send the value of the token tumbling — as has been demonstrated by the hordes of play-to-earn games that we’re unable to sustain demand.

In the last six months, the number of move-to-earn games has grown considerably, and there are now close to a dozen apps that reward users for being active. Most of these are still relatively obscure, but some have gone on to achieve considerable success.

What Is STEPN (GMT)?

By far the best-known move to earn project, STEPN hit the market with a bang in March 2022 after conducting a token sale on Binance’s Launchpad platform. To begin earning with the Solana-based STEPN app, players need to own one of four types of NFT sneakers: Walker, Jogger, Runner, or Trainer. These have various attributes associated with them, which can affect how much they earn. Users can opt to either buy their own NFT from the in-app marketplace or rent them for free from another user — in return for a share of any revenue they generate while moving around.

As it stands, the total supply of STEPN sneaker NFTs is 99,999 and the floor price is just north of 11 SOL (>$1,100). This makes for a rather high barrier to entry, more so when you consider that competition for NFT rentals is high. Each NFT has four different parameters (Attributes, Types, Levels and Quality) which affect its value, the amount of GST the holder can earn, and how fast it can level up.

These sneaker NFTs and other products can be bought from the in-app marketplace using SOL.

Want to learn more about STEPN? Check out our full deep dive! In return for getting fit, users are rewarded with Green Satoshi Tokens (GST), which can either be sold on a supported DEX/CEX or used in the STEPN app to mint, repair and level up sneakers. STEPN also has a second token associated with it, known as Green Metaverse Token (GMT), which is used for governing the platform. The token can either be purchased from external exchanges or earned by users wearing sneaker NFTs at level 30 or above.STEPN currently dominates the move-to-earn space, with a market capitalization of more than 20x that of all other move-to-earn tokens combined. It has also garnered significant support in the blockchain community in recent weeks and bucked the bearish market trend — with GST and GMT recording 35% and 959% growth respectively over the last 30 days.

As it stands, STEPN is currently operating as a public beta, and new users will need an activation code to get started. The platform is set to conduct an IGO on the Binance NFT Marketplace soon.

The success of STEPN has spawned a variety of similar products, each of which is trying to carve out its own chunk of the move-to-earn niche.

Up and Coming Move-to-Earn Apps

Though STEPN is currently by far the most dominant player in the move-to-earn niche, a variety of other applications have also picked up considerable momentum in recent months. Some of the most popular are discussed below:

What Is Step App (FITFI)?

Arguably the first direct competitor to STEPN, Step App is an Avalanche-based fitness application that rewards users for being active.

As the newest move-to-earn platform, Step App has taken a great deal of inspiration from STEPN, and shares some similarities in the way it operates — such that users need to stake upgradeable sneaker NFTs (known as SNEAKs) to begin earning.

The platform’s utility and reward token is known as KCAL. These can be used to purchase SNEAK NFTs and are earned by participating in the app by staking a SNEAK. It allows players to compete locally or globally in a variety of different ways and uses gamification to help make exercise a more engaging and rewarding experience.

Step App’s second ecosystem token is known as FITFI. This is primarily used to help govern the platform, helping to determine burn rates, revenue splits, development milestones, and more. 50% of the platform’s play income is used to buy back FITFI tokens from the market.

Besides its main move-to-earn functionality, the Step App also includes:

  • Micro-transactions: Users can purchase a variety of items from the in-app shop using credit cards or crypto — including character skins, sneak skins, and map styles.
  • Staked play: Users can use their tokens to enter competitions with their friends or other players.

Step App distinguishes itself from other move-to-earn applications in that it is completely community-funded. The platform recently conducted its public SHO via DAO Maker and is set to launch with a market capitalization of ~$348,000.

With over 90,000 participants registered and partnerships with top-tier athletes already established, Step App is looking to deliver FitFi to a ready-and-waiting audience. The platform is widely expected to launch with a bang given that it was the most sought-after DAO Maker IDO ever.

What Is Wirtual (WIRTUAL)?

Another early entry to the move-to-earn sector, Wirtual is an application that rewards users for participating in various fitness-related challenges, including running, swimming, dancing and working out. Wirtual calls this process “sweat mining”.

To get started, users simply download the Wirtual app and register an account, after which they can then participate in challenges and submit their activity data to earn WIRTUAL coins. Some of these challenges are free to enter, while others are paid.

By holding WIRTUAL coins in the Wirtual application wallet users are assigned to one of 7 holder tiers. The more WIRTUAL a user holds, the higher their tier, and the more WIRTUAL they can earn. Default users (with <100 WIRTUAL held) can earn up to 0.1 WIRTUAL each day, whereas Emerald users (with at least 10,000 WIRTUAL held) can earn up to 3 WIRTUAL each day.

The platform features a shop that sells an array of NFTs that increase the number of VIRTUAL a user can earn each day. At the token’s current value (~$0.65), this equates to approx 6.5 cents/day for default users and $1.95/day for Emerald users — excluding any boosts provided by holding NFTs.

While these figures might seem trivial, it should be noted that Virtual is primarily targeting users in South Asia — including Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines — where these sums can be a reasonable supplement to the average income.

The platform recently announced its Avatar 2.0 technology, which it hopes will add an additional level of immersion to its platform, and enrich the move-to-earn experience for users.

What Is Sweatcoin?

Sweatcoin is a mobile application that pays users for keeping fit by engaging in a variety of physical activities, such as walking, swimming and cycling.

Sweatcoin is unusual among move-to-earn applications in that doesn’t actually use a cryptocurrency to pay users, but instead uses in-house reward points known simply as “sweatcoins”. Likewise, it doesn’t require any upfront investment, allowing users to begin earning by simply installing the app and creating an account.

That said, users can opt into premium membership, which allows them to increase the number of sweatcoins they can earn each day, access a premium marketplace, and double the rate at which they earn sweatcoins. This costs $4.99/month.

Free tier users receive 0.95 sweatcoins for every 1,000 steps they take. The exact value of this changes from day to day and is based on the offers that are available at the time. Users can exchange their coins for an array of goods and services from partners like Tidal, SKULLCANDY and Yoga Club — in some cases, sweatcoins can be used for 100% of the payment, whereas in other cases, sweatcoins can be used to unlock a discount.

Users can also transfer their sweatcoins to other users, sell them through various third-party platforms (mostly peer-to-peer), or donate them to various charities/NGOs through the Sweatcoins For Good feature.

Though Sweatcoin doesn’t currently leverage blockchain technology, there are plans to migrate it to the blockchain and issue sweatcoins as a full-fledged digital asset tradeable on exchanges. Sweatcoin hasn’t yet specified exactly when this will take place but has maintained this pledge since at least 2018.

What Is Genopets (GENE)?

The first gaming project in the move-to-earn niche and one of the first move-to-earn projects full-stop, Genopets launched with one goal in mind — to make fitness more rewarding.

The platform helps users take better care of their mind and body through a gamified experience that sees them nurture, battle and evolve digital critters known as Genopets. These Genopets can be bought, sold and traded, and more powerful pets have improved earnings potential. Like many other move-to-earn applications, Genopets features a two token economy. The first token, $GENE is its governance token and is used for steering the development of the game and its underlying mechanisms. The second token, known as $KI, is the in-game currency that is provided as a reward for playing and can be used to refine crystals and purchase habitats for their Genopets to improve their stats.

Genopets is unusual among move-to-earn platforms in that it’s possible to begin earning without any upfront investment via its free-to-play model — which allows users to mint and sell Genopet NFTs. Its pay-to-play model unlocks additional revenue streams, including in-game earnings in the form of $KI, and the ability to sell a range of other in-game NFTs, such as crystals and habitats.

The game is currently available to play as an open beta, with priority given to those who either own a Genesis Genopet or have staked GENE tokens. The full, public version of the game is expected to launch in the second half of 2022.

To learn more about Genopets, see our deep dive on the platform.

How to Buy STEPN, Genopets and Other M2E Tokens

To participate in STEPN, users can buy SOL on major exchanges. GMT trading pairs have the largest liquidity on Binance, and are also listed on Gate.io, Huobi Global, FTX and other exchanges, centralized or decentralized.

As arguably the second-most popular move-to-earn token (behind GMT), GENE is frequently sought-after by those that believe it could be just as, if not more, popular than STEPN once the public version of the app.The GENE token is currently available on a variety of Solana-based DEXes, including Raydium and Serum. Only a handful of well-reputed CEXes currently support the token, including FTX and By bit. GENE can also be found on a handful of other more obscure platforms, the full list can be found here. The price action and exchange availability of all other popular move-to-earn tokens can be found on our dedicated move-to-earn page.

Are Move-to-Earn Games Profitable?

Many people looking into move-to-earn games are, understandably, looking for one thing — to turn a profit from their physical activity. And while many users will indeed turn a profit, their odds typically depend on the following factors:

  • Initial investment: Most move-to-earn applications require an initial investment, either in NFTs or a utility token. Rarer NFTs and larger token holdings generally unlock improved move-to-earn rewards for participants and can decrease the time it takes to achieve a positive return on investment.
  • Activity level: Given that yields are usually directly proportional to the amount of physical activity a user puts in, those that are highly active are likely to achieve profitability more easily.
  • Saturation: Most move-to-earn games reward users with a fraction of either their utility token’s inflation or from a fixed reward pool. In general, these rewards are divided between users based on their performance relative to all other participants or based on a fixed per-person cap. The more users taking part, the lower the rewards for each user in most cases.
  • Price action: Depending on the price action of the reward token, move-to-earn applications can range from unprofitable to incredibly profitable. Users should bear in mind that tokens with strongly bearish price action will likely be less profitable in the long run than those will bullish price action.

That said, it’s likely to become increasingly challenging to earn on many of these platforms over time, as more users join and the reward pools are split between more people. Likewise, these kinds of apps are frequently targets for manipulation, since it is often possible to generate fraudulent inputs or generate false exercise data using bots or physical contraptions to simulate activity. Though most move-to-earn applications are actively working to tackle this, it is likely that a fair chunk of the rewards will be siphoned off by fraudulent participants.

If these applications continue to grow in popularity, the barrier to entry may also increase by making it more expensive to acquire a large token holding or powerful NFTs to maximize the rate of earning.

Overall, most users can expect to earn a few dollars each day by casually engaging with a move-to-earn application, while some users (e.g. those that are particularly active or have powerful NFT upgrades) can potentially earn far more. For example, STEPN users with rare level 30+ NFT shoes can earn potentially hundreds of dollars worth of GST each day, whereas most users are likely to earn <$20/day.

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