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Making Easy Money Online by Playing a F2P MOBA Game May Not Be as Tempting as It Looks.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
By Johnson Ge
Dec. 15, 2021 updated 09:23

Thetan Arena, a new crypto-related MOBA game, was recently released and soon attracted countless people. On Dec 13th its official Twitter announced that they already had six million players. Not only is the game fun, but it also features” Free to Play” (F2P) and” Play to Earn” (P2E). Someone even said you can “earn 100 dollars per hour” or “$600 a day” in their YouTube video describing this game.

That sounds promising even for a crypto game and explains the incredible growth in the number of active players. But looking deeper into this game, we find its complicated game design and currency system rather suspicious. Like many other NFT games or "metaverse earning games" on the market, it feels like their mechanics are deliberately designed to be confusing, so if someone accuses this of being a scam or a hoax, defenders of Thetan can reply that these accusers misunderstood the nuance of the game.

 So this time, we looked deep into the game, ran the numbers (and even made a very "exciting" spreadsheet), and tried to find a definitive answer to the question:

Is it possible for people to truly make money from the game?

Well, technically yes. While in reality, and naturally, the complicated design made sure it's not easy to directly earn much from the game just by playing. There are also some "investment opportunities" on the hero trading market that can make big cash, which we'll discuss in the latter part of this article (spoiler alert: it's not easy or good either).

 First, we should explain the earning mechanism of Thetan Arena. The game has an unlimited cryptocurrency named Thetan Coin (THC), which players can earn in many ways, then deposit into the crypto wallet of their choice. After that, players can choose a crypto exchange to sell their THC to USD and complete a cycle of "earning real money by playing a videogame".

That little gold coin is the most valuable stuff in the game so far.That little gold coin is the most valuable stuff in the game so far.

 The highest THC valuation was close to 1 USD though now it has dropped to $0.29 at the time of writing.

The price of THC will determine the actual profit of the player.The price of THC will determine the actual profit of the player.

 In Thetan Arena, players acquire heroes to participate in battles. The heroes in the game are NFT items and must be obtained by trading in the marketplace from another player or buying a Thetan Box that contains one random hero. The NFT heroes will earn a seemingly plentiful amount of THC after each battle. Of course, winning the match means more THC is earned. 

The higher rarity has greater rewards.The higher rarity has greater rewards.

 However, either way of acquiring an NFT hero is costly. The cheapest heroes on the marketplace are often priced over $150, while the cheapest Thetan Box is 1000 THC. Even now with the THC price dropped, the box still costs around $300.

  Not everyone can buy this without thinking twice.Not everyone can buy this without thinking twice.

Players can play the game for free. The game will offer every new player three random non-NFT free heroes. Those heroes cannot be traded on the marketplace and do not earn any crypto THC from battle. The way a player without any NFT heroes acquire THC is from ranking rewards.

 The free heroes cannot profit from the battle directly   The free heroes cannot profit from the battle directly

The first 30 THC (the equivalent of $8-$9 at the moment) can be earned easily in around 10 matches. Considering that a match only takes three minutes so, 30-minutes of playing to earn nine dollars doesn't sound too bad. And if a player can reach Bronze 1 ranking, he can totally earn 210 THC in the climbing. That would be enough for him to purchase a new copy of Call of Duty. But here lies the first trap: those THC cannot be exchanged to legal currency at this point.

 It is in the wallet, but I cannot really touch it. It is in the wallet, but I cannot really touch it.

The THC players earn from the game is actually a token called gTHC and cannot be traded on any crypto exchange. Players need to exchange the token in the game for actual THC in their wallet, but the game sets a limitation that non-paid players (the ones who have not traded for heroes or bought boxes) can only convert 60 gTHC tokens to THC every 48 hours. This capped and delayed profit-sharing method should already be a big warning sign to anyone with some knowledge of modern financial products. It's a common trait shared by many Ponzi or pyramid schemes.

Another limitation is that free-to-play players are not able to claim their THC until they reach rank Bronze 1. It is fully reasonable to have a profit barrier to prevent farming bots. The problem is that it is not easy to get to Bronze 1.

 There will be a 4% fee each time someone claims the gTHC.There will be a 4% fee each time someone claims the gTHC.

For a game that claims to already have 6 million players, you would imagine Bronze 1 is not a difficult target, especially given the name “Bronze 1.” But when we're checking the local leaderboard inside the game, we find that even the top 100 players aren’t even all at or above Bronze 1. And many players on global leaderboard with over 1000 victories and still stuck under Bronze 1. This makes the ladder feels more like a set of grinding goals. .

A funny thing is two weeks ago I easily climbed up to 484,578 while the game claimed to have 3 million players by that time.A funny thing is two weeks ago I easily climbed up to 484,578 while the game claimed to have 3 million players by that time. 

Players must earn trophy scores to rank up. Winning a match will earn you 24 Trophies while losing a match will lose you 24. That means not everyone can reach higher ranks. Bronze 1 requires 4128 trophies. A player with a 60% win rate, which is good, will finally reach Bronze 1 after 860 matches in around 43 hours, to finally cash in the tokens they earned.

So, if a player enjoys playing this game and is willing to play it for a long time. those tokens can be seen as a little bonus reward. If earning money is a player's only target, the opportunity cost is a serious factor, and the hourly wage doesn't look very alluring.

This guy played over 1900 matches with a win rate of around 51% and he is still far away from Bronze rank.   This guy played over 1900 matches with a win rate of around 51% and he is still far away from Bronze rank.

Someone might say “I can afford a hero. I can just buy a cheap one and earn more. No need to reach Bronze 1 that way”. That is how some videos are showing people “earn” like 100 dollars per day by playing the game. So here's our next question:

Is it possible to have a better profit margin after a certain amount of initial investment?

At the first glance, it looks pretty decent. If a player has a legendary hero, each winning match will get them around 30 gTHC. If the THC price is around 50 cents, which was the case when most of these promoting videos were made, the player will earn gTHC that worth $100 in 7-10 matches.

 Just look at the price of it.Just look at the price of it.

However, this calculation didn't count the price of Legendary heroes. 10500 THC, or $3,000 on a loot box to be exact. Legendary heroes also have a maximum daily battle cap of 18-22 matches, and a lifetime max battle cap from 700 to 1000 matches, after that the hero is basically useless and only serves as a collectible item. It will take at least 20 days of playing to earn enough gTHC tokens to cover the cost at a very generous 50% win rate, and exchanging these tokens to THC will take an extra seven days along with the 4% service fee. As the THC is unlimited and the price is unstable, players may find out their profit is shrinking by the time they can finally sell all those THC.

 It takes a long time to earn back.It takes a long time to earn back.

The less costly options like Common and Epic rarity heroes share a similar story. They earn less and still take a long time to turn a profit. And by our calculations, some of them are very likely to lose money instead of earning anything.

The actual profitable way to play is by getting an Epic or Legendary hero from this box. You know how it sounds.The actual profitable way to play is by getting an Epic or Legendary hero from this box. You know how it sounds.

For example, purchasing a Common box with 1000 THC has a 72% chance to get a Common hero with a normal or rare skin. Eventually, at a 50% win rate, the hero will earn around 908-1014 THC in its life cycle. It cannot even cover the box’s price considering the 4% deposit fee.

 There is also a chance to pay 2000 THC on an Epic box only to get a common hero who can earn at most 1800 THC even if they win every single match.There is also a chance to pay 2000 THC on an Epic box only to get a common hero who can earn at most 1800 THC even if they win every single match.

At the moment we are writing this article, Thetan Arena has just updated with a new bonus model. They slightly increase the bonus of Common and Epic heroes at the price of a significant cut on heroes’ daily battle caps, meaning it takes almost double the time needed to earn the same gross profit as before.

Yes, they can change it whenever they find it necessaryYes, they can change it whenever they find it necessary

UPDATE: The THC price has been dropped to 0.18 USD today.

What about the NFT investment part?

Finally, yes, the heroes can be seen as an NFT item and traded on the platforms, so there must be a way for smart people to manipulate the market and make some big profit, right?

But at this point, do we even need to have a thorough analysis of the NFT market of this game? When developers can update and adjust return expectations of heroes in whatever ways they want, whenever they want, even calling its NFT market "gambling" is a big overstatement. Games like Axis Infinity at least has some randomness in the NFT items, and in Thetan Area, all the heroes and skins have fixed appearance, the only difference being a small variation in their stats, and that is meaningless once a hero has reached its lifetime battle cap. 

Thetan Arena’s mechanism is nothing new. It takes the recipe like any other so-called play-to-earn game. They will first create the illusion that the average player can make money, but set tremendous obstacles for the actual cashback. Thetan Arena wraps itself in the sugar coat of NFT and modern technology, but at its core, it's a rigged casino at best.

Peeling away at the technical jabber shrouding this game, Thetan Arena doesn’t look very different from any other ongoing NFT games. One may argue that this is a legitimate investment opportunity. However, judging by our calculations and the feedback we have seen so far, most players jumping into the game hoping to make even a small amount of profit are not going to get what they are hoping for. Instead, they are likely to walk away completely empty-handed. NFTs and blockchain technology might be the cornerstone for a virtual future, but right now, we’ve yet to see them play many more roles than as quirky digital collectibles and marketing buzz-words.