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People sink thousands of dollars in virtual move-to-earn game WingStep

By Bao Lam   August 8, 2022 | 05:16 pm PT
People sink thousands of dollars in virtual move-to-earn game WingStep
Interface of the move-to-earn app WingStep. Photo by VnExpress/Bao Lam
Nguyen Tu of Binh Thuan Province borrowed money from a bank to pay over US$6,200 for virtual shoes in the NFT game WingStep.

He said he joined in mid-June, soon as the move-to-earn NFT app was released.

He says: "I spent $500 on a pair of shoes. I broke even within 15 days, with the price of my virtual sneakers rising to $600."

He had more than two years’ experience in NFT gaming and had carefully researched the project, and was confident it was a smart investment, especially since it had sponsored a number of blockchain events in the country.

He borrowed money in mid-July to buy five more pairs of sneakers and two phones, which he combined with three phones he already had to start "farming."

"I used to earn around $250 a day before repair costs. I had to repair my NFT sneakers twice a day on average.

"I calculated that I would be able to pay off the debts and start making profits after about 25 days."

But 10 days later the app announced without warning that it needed to do maintenance for more than a day. WSS, a reward token created in the game with unlimited supply, then dropped to $0.0008 despite previously holding at more than $0.001.

On July 26 the application locked the feature that allowed the conversion of reward token WSS into BUSD, a type of stablecoin backed by the dollar.

The following day the app did not allow users to make any BUSD transfers and it later shut down for several days before reopening on July 28. But the number of WSS generated when running was cut by half.

"The nearly $3,000 I had earned is still stuck in the game, unable to be withdrawn, even though the time to pay the bank interest is approaching," Tu says wistfully.

Many others have also expressed indignation on WingStep's Telegram and Facebook communities. Some who invested thousands of dollars for NFT sneakers say their money is now stuck in the game.

WingStep is a move-to-earn running game, which emerged on the heels of the play-to-earn trend. According to the project white paper, the app developers are primarily Korean and include some Vietnamese. The road map for the app’s development runs between the second quarters of 2022 and 2023.

According to unofficial statistics from online groups, some 20,000 Vietnamese accounts have been registered for WingStep, with 10,000 buying shoes in the last three months.

A WingStep spokesperson claimed on the official Telegram channel on July 28 that the game had been attacked by hackers.

"Since July 26 our system has been hacked, disrupting its system and causing WSS prices to fluctuate constantly. We were attacked again while we were working on it, which worsened the situation."

However, this Telegram channel is no longer active, and some people suspect the team behind the app is "buying time" and looking for a way to avoid responsibility.

Vu Thanh, the administrator of a play-to-earn group with over 30,000 members, says WingStep's statement makes it seem like a crypto rug pull scam.

Move-to-earn NFT games are now springing up like mushrooms, causing many investors to get tricked.

"Normally, the app will run smoothly again after the incident. But by that time the token's value had depreciated sharply and no one wants to buy the dip, causing players to suffer huge losses."

The Vi, who has five years of experience in blockchain games, says most NFT games now are "Ponzi schemes" in which fraudsters use money from new investors to pay rewards to existing ones without ever generating any revenues.

"Typically, the initial token price is low, making it possible to purchase characters and items for a low cost. When a lot of people find out about it, the price rises dramatically to help them make a profit. This is the stage where developers start to pull the rug.

"The app developer may eventually flee and disappear. Players are now simply holding a collection of worthless NFTs."

Regardless of how well a project's roadmap is, players must consider the possibility of losing everything, he says.

It is difficult for them to recover their money if cheated since digital currencies and NFTs are not recognized or protected under Vietnamese law.

Thai Thanh Liem, CEO of Vietnamese game studio Topebox, which owns a blockchain game called My DeFi Pet, said at the 2022 Blockchain Global Day event held in HCMC late July that crypto rug pull scams frequently seek funding from investment funds and blockchain user communities through token sales and high valuations.

However, many developer teams have almost no ability to carry out the proposed idea.

Many people lose money on less reliable projects as a result of not being fully equipped with knowledge.

According to Finder, an Australian online data research company, in March-May this year Vietnam was one of the top five countries in terms of the number of NFT gamers. Its survey in Vietnam found 23% of respondents saying they were involved with games.

As for Tu and others who invested thousands of dollars in WingStep, the only hope now is that the game will revive the withdrawal feature so that they can "reclaim as much money as possible" and "stop playing NFT games."

 
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