Sam Kondawe starts his day like many other 20 year old Malawian males. He rises early, washes his face, puts on his clothes and waits for the minibus to pick him up and drop him at work. About an hour later, he enters one of many internet cafes in Lilongwe and logs on to The Arena. All around him others are writing emails, working on school and gaming, but for Sam, this is different – for Sam, he is working.
“I wanted to bridge the gap between the real world and video games, and blockchain has allowed us to do that. People spend thousands of hours and dollars building up characters in their favorite game, but at the end of the day, they own nothing. With The Arena, what you win, buy or loot, you keep. It’s that simple.”
–Brian Culwell, founder, BlockStudio Gaming
In The Arena, players from around the world challenge each other and various monsters in first-person-shooter style death battles. What makes it different from hundreds of other similar games is that in The Arena, the stakes are real. Underpinning the entire game economy is an ERC-20 cryptocurrency token called PVP. Your health is measure in PVP, the weapons you buy cost PVP and each hit either adds or subtracts PVP from your total. Additionally, when you buy a weapon in the game, you actually own the weapon.
Later this year, The Arena will launch an online marketplace where players can buy, sell and trade all of their in-game equipment. Similarly, PVP will be listed on exchanges where it can readily be converted to Bitcoin, Ethereum, Zcash or other more mainline crypto-currencies.
For now, players like Sam are accumulating as much PVP as they can, in the hope that they can cash in later this year for a very merry Christmas. For now, The Arena is free and when new players register they are given free PVP to start playing, but later this month, PVP goes on sale at the rate of 1 US Cent per PVP, so every 100 PVP equals $1 USD, which is about what Sam used to make every day with his small maize business. Now, on a good day, Sam says he earns 700-800 PVP in about 4 hours.
“I have almost forty thousand PVP token[s] in less than one month. How can I go wrong? This is $400 USD, and surely I can use this money for many good things, plus the game is very fun to play and I’m good with it.” says Kondawe
The game is currently available for Windows and Mac, but an Android mobile version is only weeks away, and Sam is looking forward to that. He’s got his eye on a new Samsung smartphone in anticipation of being able to play and earn money from anywhere once the mobile version is launched.
For now, as I watch Sam play and rack up PVP, I realize that this is the new frontier. Others realize it too, and are joining in: Sam already has competition in the same cafe. At least one other female, maybe mid-20’s is a few rows down and also playing The Arena. I ask her if she’s winning and she just smiles at me and turns back to her screen, hands flying over the keyboard and mouse.
Will this turn into a full-time career for Sam and others who are growing up in this new day and age of blockchain, cryptocurrency and other emerging technologies? Ten years ago, the notion of being a YouTube millionaire seemed just as crazy, and now there are dozens of newly minted ones each year.
No one can say for sure, plenty seem willing to try.