Last Updated on: September 5, 2023
While at college, from around 1999 to 2003, I had plenty of time to explore the Internet.
I was mainly interested in games. Buying up domains, building websites and contributing to the web would come later.
One of the games our class got obsessed with was Cash Wars (CashWars.com – no longer active).
How the Cashwars Game Worked
CashWars was set in the fictional world of Akzar. It was a map-based browser game in which you had a set number of daily moves. You spent your moves travelling from one square on the map to another. You could increase your daily moves by clicking on sponsor adverts.
Each map square could have an oil field, another player’s base, or just be empty. On an oil field, you can drill to get a random number of oil barrels. These barrels could be exchanged to improve your stats:
- Fortification – The defensive strength of your base when other players attack it
- Strength – Your attacking strength when you attack other players’ bases
- Stealth – Your ability to spy on bases (i.e. see how much cash they have without attacking them)
- Security – Your ability to protect against other players spying on your base
You could also use your oil barrels to improve your oil drilling equipment or buy fortifications for your base.
When you found another user’s base, you could attack them and hopefully steal their money, known as Akzar Cash. In turn, others could attack and steal your money… if they could find it.
Each battle was based on chance. Better stats increased your chances of winning, but it still wasn’t certain. You could still lose Akzar Cash to a low-stat opponent.
We often speculated that the game was fixed to increase your chances of losing when you had lots of Akzar Cash, so that CashWars didn’t have to pay you out.
Gaming the System
The game was easily exploitable. If you worked together with your own “clan” of users, you could work out a map of the world and mark it with the bases of users that had a lot of money.
We built bots to move automatically every day using our maps. The bots were fed with lists of rich bases, and they navigated the map in the most efficient way to attack as many as possible.
The referral system meant that a small percentage of any money earned by your referred accounts would be paid to you. So, of course, we made multiple accounts underneath each other to funnel as much money to a single account that we could cash out with.
I remember the tension building towards the end of the month when your account was sitting on a decent amount of money (around $100 to $200). Inevitably, somebody would find your base and realise it was cash rich, and your location would get added to a bot list.
Then over the next day or two, you could only watch as it was raided over and over, draining that money away to nothing.
Getting Paid by CashWars
If you had enough money at the end of the month, you could cash out and receive a cheque through the post.
Eventually, through luck and persistence, I reached the earnings threshold and cashed out a cheque:
I was delighted. It was the first money I had made online, and it felt magical. I was playing around with a game and getting paid for it!
It was only $21, but friends and family couldn’t believe it. This was 2001, and the idea of earning money from the internet was a fantasy.
I didn’t even pay the cheque in – I would have received about $3 due to me being in the UK and my bank charging a lot for foreign currency cheques.
CashWars Didn’t Last Long
Soon after, CashWars closed down.
The game was too easy to exploit, and the advertisers must have realised that bots were looking at their ads instead of real eyeballs. Eventually, they ran out of money, and everything was gone.
It was a shame as I enjoyed just playing the game, the strategy, and working in a clan with friends. But the internet was full of new and exciting games to try.
Maybe it seems trivial, but that first experience of earning money on the internet set me on the path that led me to where I am today. My mind opened to a new way of making an income, and I often think of this when I need a bit of motivation to push forward.
Did you play Cash Wars? What do you remember about the game?
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