‘Hamster Kombat’ Keeps Demanding More Friends—Enough Already

Hamster Kombat, the viral Telegram-based clicker game that’s tied to an upcoming crypto token launch, has gotten really big—ludicrously big. Big enough that Iranian officials were worried it would distract citizens from this week’s presidential election, per an AP report.

Seriously. The game’s gone viral in ways its creators likely never imagined. But the engagement engine that drives this thing has reached its limit—at least with me. And it might just reach its limit with the hundreds of millions that apparently play the game daily, unless they have an endless stable of friends to shill to.

Hamster Kombat follows in the footsteps of Notcoin, the original viral Telegram crypto game. It similarly asks you to tap the screen to rack up in-game coins—but it also lets you pile up more coins by investing those coins into your fictional, hamster-operated crypto exchange. And it really wants you to invite all of your friends to play along too.

That’s where things get weird—like multi-level-marketing weird.

Hamster Kombat routinely adds new exchange upgrade cards that help you earn more and more funds, and then ties those new cards into its “daily combo,” which gives you a hefty 5 million in-game coins just for using certain cards.

Often, those cards can only be unlocked if you get another friend to start playing by clicking your special referral link. It rapidly becomes clear that this is how Hamster Kombat has purportedly piled up more than 200 million players, by incentivizing players to do their marketing for them.

It’s a dead-simple, number-go-up game—and if your numbers can’t go up because of a requirement that you need to convince more people to jump in, then many FOMO-fueled players are going to be out of luck if they can’t find another buddy to pull into the fray.

I’m starting to hit a wall as Hamster Kombat expects more shilling. No thanks. Image: Decrypt

I’ve been plugging away at Hamster Kombat for a month now, amassing a rather large coin tally inside my game while taking advantage of every new perk and promo I can. Along the way, I’ve managed to convince (aka beg) a handful of my fine colleagues here at Decrypt to join me as we cover this oddly popular gaming sensation.

But Hamster Kombat expects more from me. Newly introduced cards have asked for one more invited friend, or to hit a total of nine invited friends using my referral link to buy them. And unsurprisingly, those cards factor into the daily combo, which means I’m unable to pile up as many imaginary coins ahead of the token drop as I previously had been.

Look, I’m not losing sleep here. I don’t play Hamster Kombat because I’m desperate to claim a crypto bag—I’m not expecting much, and if like Notcoin the makers of Hamster Kombat just let you stake the tokens towards future benefits and rewards, then I’m sure I’ll let ‘em ride. I’m playing to observe this social phenomenon and document what I see.

But this shift illustrates the limits of an engagement machine, even one as massive as Hamster Kombat—and how difficult it is to maintain endless growth without compelling new incentives and benefits. At some point, the hype is bound to cool, and the developers may be pushing a little too hard to make sure that doesn’t happen before July’s planned token drop.

I simply can’t stomach bugging any more of my friends or colleagues to sign up for this game and help put more digital coins into my fictional hamster exchange. How long before more of the allegedly 200 million Hamster Kombat players feel the same way?

The views expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of Decrypt.

Edited by Guillermo Jimenez

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