CashWars – The first Play to Earn?
Last Updated on: March 25, 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One of the games our class got obsessed with was Cash Wars (CashWars.com – no longer active).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 moves per day. 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?
So funny, randomly googled cashwars and came across this post tonight. I remember playing this game way back, I was probably in 7th grade at the time. Learned about it from a group of friends I played another game known as 10six with at the time, both were amazing and innovative at the time, not something you see much of anymore.
Just googled cash wars bc I stumbled on an old family friend who got me into it. I remember freaking out because my boys couldn’t work if my mom was playing her video poker game at the same time lol. We had to schedule our uses. My clan even had a couple passwords from other clan members and we’d spy on their message boards. I didn’t know this and used the accounts and posted with them to attack some people and we got found out. So much fun although I never cashed out. Surprised more people don’t talk about it. This is the first google result! Anyway thanks for the trip down memory lane. Oh wait one more thing. I remember one of the top clans was OPEC haha
This is a blast from the past…I operated my own Mutual Defense Network (what you call a “clan” ). I had a website that our MDN members (at the time each MDN was limited to 100 users) could log into that re-skinned the game (which was otherwise basic). It also visually exposed the individual cells that comprised each tile which allowed the user to choose exactly where to drill (where the tile was otherwise a uniform blob). I also had a function that I called “The Incredible Oil Machine” that automatically played out the user’s daily ration of moves. For a brief while we were one of the top MDNs. I never cashed out though. I was more interested in building a successful team (and technology to support their success).
It’s great to know that others still remember this game!
It felt groundbreaking at the time, and it blew my mind that you could earn money from it… although that wasn’t as easy as it looked.
That feeling of getting your base attacked and losing money was devastating… because you knew you would end up on a list of rich bases and they would all now be coming for you 😅
Thanks for the trip down memory lane!
Cashwars was such an awesome game and I’ll always have fond memories of that time. In fact lately I’ve been tinkering with the idea of re-creating something like this using modern Blockchain/NFT tech.
If you do, let me know, I would love to get involved!
I loved this game! I ran a MDN called Funky Monkey Banana Blasters and had a website for the MDN made in Microsoft Publisher 98 cashwarsjammin.cjb.net. I hosted the website for free using a script to kill the adds and had my domain for free killing ads. I also had Juno free 56k internet where I created multiple accounts and killed the ads. I had bots/trainers and multiple accounts on Cashwars. Hung out in the IRC. I remember there being a Sephiroth and Vegetta. I then went on to try Auto Hijack which was a Cashwars clone geared more like Gone in 60 Seconds the movie which was the name of my gang in that one. Then I moved onto Space Ambush 2 after Auto Hijack but Space Ambush 2 only ever had like a test client and some forums. In Space Ambush 2 I had The Imperial Forces and my account was Darth Maul.
The good days of free web hosting… was it GeoCities?
I think every single player ran Cashwars bots. I wonder why it collapsed 😂
I also played Cashwars, my username was egoguy. Like you guys, I got into it around 13-14 years old and played for a couple of years until it was closed.
I was an original Damocles Disciples member and co-leader, eventually moving onto Money Defense Empire (MDE) which was a top MDN under Spontaneous & Hawklords, both of whom who I’ve stayed in touch with over the last 20 years. We had the CWNavigator bot, built off Netscape Navigator, which had exclusive MDN features, where you could just save your usernames & passwords in it and it’d run all your multis one by one for you.
We moved onto Bunkerwars and then Sharkwars when CW closed down, running across Aegis (who lead a failed bid to buy Cashwars from August and Tristan) and Abused1 amongst others along the way.
I reached out to them a year or two later, and they were willing to sell everything then, but still wanted too much money, especially considering the age of the code and email contacts etc.
If Gaurav ever does end up launching something on blockchain/NFT tech, I’d love to be a part of it too, although I don’t have coding experience, I’d love to admin, or even just play.