The 28-year-old HCMC office worker says he does not have much time to exercise due to the nature of his job. After Covid-19 was controlled he wanted to improve his health but still made excuses for not exercising until he saw some friends jogging to earn money.
"It sounds crazy but I've been getting paid for running for two weeks now.
"I spent over $1,000 to buy a pair of NFT shoes on StepN, and so I'm going to have to run no matter what to make my investment worthwhile".
StepN is an application built by Satoshi Lab on the Solana blockchain ecosystem. Its first beta was released last December.
In its introduction, the development team said users who own NFT shoes can jog to earn crytocurrency rewards.
Thao Trang, co-founder of Project SEED, says since the second half of March running for money has become a topic of discussion in many groups, both online and offline.
"Many people are now showing off the NFT shoes they own and the amount of money they earn. Some even start exchanging shoes with each other. People do not care what shoes you wear in real life, they are more interested in the shoes in running apps that make money like StepN".
Thanh Binh, the administrator of a 'move to earn' community group with nearly 50,000 members, says the number of StepN players has increased exponentially since the beginning of April.
"Besides sharing experiences, there are also dozens of posts daily asking for a new account activation code. Due to the sudden increase in demand, the application requires newcomers to get a referral code from an existing member."
StepN users need to buy a pair of NFT shoes on the app to be able to start running and receiving crypto rewards. Photo by VnExpress/Khuong Nha
'Move to earn': the next big thing after 'play to earn'
Trang says after ‘play to earn,’ ‘move to earn’ is considered the next big thing and has attracted great attention among the blockchain community.
It combines elements of GameFi, SocialFi and NFT. Projects like StepN reward players for maintaining a healthy lifestyle instead of just playing games.
Many StepN participants expect the application to achieve similar success as the blockchain-based game Axie Infinity.
The app not only promotes running but also spawns many new business models. Some people even buy shoes and then hire people to run. Those who do not have enough money for the initial investment can join the app by running for hire for several hundred thousand dong (VND100,000 = $4.40) a day for around half an hour of jogging.
Cryptocurrency analysis site Wu Blockchain has said StepN "is leaving a footprint around the blockchain world".
Unlike GameFi, it combines outdoor physical activity, community elements and social communication. Like Axie Infinity, StepN is also helping attract a large number of new players into the cryptocurrency and blockchain space.
How does it work?
To join StepN, users need to purchase an NFT sneaker on the app and start running. The amount of money earned per day depends on the type of shoe owned and users' mobility. To increase the amount of money collected, users can level up, repair shoes or use gems.
On average, a new entrant needs around $1,000 to be able to buy shoes and start earning. This model is similar to buying pets or characters to play NFT games. Participants can now buy shoes directly from the app developer or from existing members.
Binh says the price of a pair of NFT shoes on StepN is equivalent to setting up a pet squad in the game.
"Axie Infinity lets you try it out but StepN doesn't. You have to spend money to buy shoes at a high price and calculate the parameters yourself to be optimal. Every mistake can cost money".
The app has two tokens. Green Satoshi (GST) is a utility token with unlimited supply that is used to pay participants for walking. Green Metaverse (GMT) is a governance token with a limited supply of six billion coins.
Players can exchange GST for other cryptocurrencies and/or cash.
Wu Blockchain believes that the two factors making StepN grow rapidly are that it directly fulfills some real needs of the community like fitness training and simple money-making process.
Besides, the prices of the shoes have been rising steadily, meaning users can buy them and resell for a profit.
Jerry Huang, co-founder of StepN, told BlockCrypto that a new player could earn $20-30 a day by walking or running for 10 minutes while a professional could earn $300-450 by walking or running for 60 minutes.
While many people put their faith in StepN, expecting the ‘move to earn’ model to become a trend, others are skeptical about its sustainability.
Anh says he calculated and found he has to run for about a month to be able to break even. However, with the increasing number of players and the constantly fluctuating GST price, it might take him longer.
"Running for money is not as easy as people expect.
"I've been in the play to earn movement and so I understand the risks. The StepN model is still in its infancy. Developers are racing against players to come up with upgrades. If nothing new comes out to retain users, the application might soon collapse after the early players break even, get bored and sell off their shoes and tokens".
Trang says move to earn is essentially a pyramid scheme business model. Each participant has to invest and understand the best way to make money, and face great risks because the cryptocurrency market is inherently volatile, she says.
"In models like this, early players often benefit. Experience from play to earn projects shows that when a certain threshold is reached the in-app economy faces inflation.
"If the developer does not intervene in time, the project may collapse and later participants will be affected".
Wu Blockchain has said that if a project has too many people making money rather than spending it, it is like a pyramid scheme, meaning the money collected from the later players is paid to the early ones.
"But if users are willing to stay on the platform, and the amount of spending is greater than the investment, it can still grow steadily".