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What Are Tap-to-Earn Games? The Crypto Craze Taking Telegram by Storm

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Tap-to-earn games are a new genre of crypto game that have taken the messaging app Telegram—and the world—by storm.

The concept is simple: You message a Telegram bot to start the game, the game loads within the Telegram app itself, and then you tap a coin or icon at the center of the screen to earn points or in-game coins. That’s the core premise, but many newer games are taking this in other directions as well.

Notcoin, one of the first tap-to-earn games to hit escape velocity, conducted the largest gaming airdrop of 2024 thus far in May. Hot on its heels, another tap-to-earn game called Hamster Kombat amassed over 200 million users by June, and made headlines after it became so popular in Iran that government officials accused the game of being part of a “soft war” perpetrated by the West.

What are tap-to-earn games?

Tap-to-earn games are all different versions of the same basic model: tap a coin to earn points.

Despite their extremely simple nature, tap-to-earn games have proven to be popular among the crypto fraternity, and now appear to be gaining the kind of mainstream traction that blockchain advocates could only dream of previously.

That’s because there’s an expectation that the in-game points players accumulate will qualify them for a later cryptocurrency airdrop. Some 35 million players around the world played Notcoin before the game’s NOT token on The Open Network (TON) was airdropped to players. Hamster Kombat’s team has said it will similarly launch its token on the network.

Tap-to-earn gameplay

There are a few core elements that remain the same across most tap-to-earn games. Almost all of them require the user to tap a coin or an icon at the center of the screen to earn points. Players can tap the coin until their energy bar is depleted, at which point they’ll have to wait for their energy bar to refill to resume tapping for rewards.

All tap-to-earn games include tasks, boosters, and upgrades. Tasks are things you can do to earn a lump-sum of points or coins at once, such as joining a game’s community Telegram channel, or following them on Twitter. Many games are implementing tasks from partnered games and projects too, using them as marketing channels for players who are eager to earn.

Tap-to-earn games typically incorporate a social mechanic that encourages users to invite their friends. They usually offer bonuses when the player reaches milestones such as “10 friends invited” or “100 friends invited.” Additionally, most of them will also give the player a percentage of the points earned by their referrals in perpetuity.

Boosters are free boosts that players can use to increase their earning potential. There are usually two core boosters: one that fills up the energy bar so you can resume tapping, and another that adds a multiplier to points earnings for a short duration of time. Many games offer three free daily uses of each booster.

Upgrades differ slightly from game to game, but most tap-to-earn games include some variation of the same upgrades. These usually include an upgrade that increases the amount of points or coins earned per tap, one that increases the player’s total energy limit, and one that increases the rate at which energy replenishes.

Another common feature amongst tap-to-earn games is a “Tap-Bot.” The name varies depending on the game, but the mechanic remains the same: You buy the bot with the points or coins you’ve earned, and it will auto-tap for you even when the app is closed. That lets you continue to earn passively, so you’ll stack up coins or points gradually over time.

Telegram’s biggest tap-to-earn games

  • Notcoin: Launched at the start of 2024, Notcoin kick-started the Telegram tap-to-earn phenomenon by racking up 35 million players—and then launching the year’s biggest gaming token to date with NOT. Notcoin is letting partners tap into its vast audience by paying players in NOT to engage with content, and plans to expand and evolve into what a co-creator called the “Netflix of social, viral games.”
  • Hamster Kombat: Hamster Kombat takes the tap-to-earn core of Notcoin and builds a simple crypto exchange management simulator around it—albeit with hamsters in charge. You can spend your earned coins on various upgrades to boost your passive earnings, thus fueling the play-to-earn cycle. Hamster Kombat says it has amassed over 200 million players and will launch its token on TON.
  • Yescoin: Rising Telegram game Yescoin swaps tapping for swiping as you move your finger or mouse pointer across the screen to claim little pixel tokens. Yescoin also plans to launch its token on The Open Network.
  • PixelTap: PixelTap is a tap-based combat game from the creators of Pixelverse, a budding cryptopunk-themed crypto gaming universe. Rather than tap to earn coins, you’ll tap to smash up enemy combatants. Pixelverse is also launching on TON.
  • TapSwap: With over 60 million players to date, TapSwap is the biggest Notcoin clone we’ve seen thus far, effectively replicating the original tap-to-earn model without any substantial changes thus far. That hasn’t fazed players, however, who apparently hope that its upcoming TON token launch provides as big of a payday as Notcoin did.
  • Catizen: Here’s another rising Telegram game that tries a different kind of gameplay model. Here, you’ll match up cartoon cats on a puzzle board akin to games like Threes and 2049 to upgrade them, thus yielding higher-level cats—and more earnings. Catizen, like the other games above, plans to launch a token on TON.

The Open Network

Another thing that many Telegram tap-to-earn games share in common is that they’re launching on The Open Network (TON), a blockchain network that’s integrated with Telegram. By launching on TON, tap-to-earn games are able to leverage Telegram’s massive user base of over 900 million users.

The user experience is far simpler than in most crypto games or applications, and because most of these games don’t conduct an airdrop until later on in their roadmap, users don’t need to set up a wallet to start playing.

Tap-to-earn games are an extremely simple and abstracted way to onboard users into crypto, with a simple UX and an easy proposition for players. Some tap-to-earn games have migrated from other chains to TON in order to capitalize on the attention the genre is getting on their network.

It doesn’t appear that tap-to-earn games are going anywhere anytime soon. As long as there’s an appetite for airdrops, there will likely be demand for tap-to-earn games.

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