No Man's Sky players invent their own cryptocurrency and it's worthless (but it's supposed to be)

No Man's Sky multi
(Image credit: Hello Games)

Have you ever thought to yourself that the one thing No Man's Sky really needs to make it great is cryptocurrency? Maybe not—probably not—but some players have, and they've taken it upon themselves to create one. According to this Vice report, though, the goal isn't to make money, and in fact the people responsible for the project hope to keep it worthless.

The cryptocurrency was created by members of Galactic Hub, a No Man's Sky community that operates across Discord, Reddit, and of course No Man's Sky itself that aims to provide a deeper deep-space co-op experience that the game does on its own. The group has been around for more than five years, building itself up into a significant presence and inspiring other groups to create their own in-game societies.

HubCoin, as the group's cryptocurrency is known, is intended as an extension of that community-building effort. It's aimed at players in No Man's Sky's endgame who have effectively transcended the need for the game's built-in currencies but "still desire access to those things which can only be achieved by player activity," Galactic Hub founder 7101334 said.

"They want to commission ByteBeat tracks under certain parameters, they want to pay for an artistic canvas in their base, they want a PC player to save-edit a custom fauna companion for them, they want a skilled architect to help design their base or do interior decoration, or maybe they just want the simple convenience of not gathering their own resources."

The goal of HubCon is to fill that void by incorporating a cryptocurrency that's not a real currency, but instead runs on an Ethereum "testnet." It's kind of like a crypto-PTR: It works the same as "real" cryptocurrency but has no actual value. That means players can't cash out, which dramatically reduces the likelihood of the game being turned into a moneymaking grind. 

Rather than being bought and sold on exchanges, HubCoin is earned through activities like posting on the Galactic Hub Discord and subreddit, using the Galactic Hub wiki, posting on Twitter, and taking part in certain in-game events. Once earned, it can be used for things like purchasing in-game goods and services, tipping players for assistance or information, betting on Galactic Hub Star League events, or shopping on the Galactic Hub Marketplace. It's especially valuable to console players, who don't have access to the same in-game tools as PC players and thus must rely on them for custom assets.

The number of players using the currency is quite small—just 149, according to the report, which represents a little more than half the total number of Galactic Hub citizens, and inflation is a risk as that number scales up. But the bigger potential problem is that even though HubCoin has no official value, there's nothing stopping players from assigning it themselves: If I have a bunch and you want some, you might be willing to throw me a few bucks to hand it over, and I might be willing to take it. To help reduce that likelihood, the Galactic Hub says it will blacklist any player who's caught selling or purchasing HubCoin for real money, in any format.

In response to concerns about the environmental damage caused by cryptocurrencies, the Galactic Hub also switched to a "proof-of-authority" testnet before launching publicly. Proof-of-authority uses less energy than the "proof-of-work" typically used for crypto mining, but it's not clear exactly how much less energy is being used—and less of a bad thing is still, by definition, a bad thing.

Despite the drawbacks, it's an interesting bit of emergent meta-gameplay that could, if it avoids various pitfalls and establishes that it's not contributing to the ruination of the planet, demonstrate the value of crypto as a community tool. I'm not convinced that the system needs to rely on cryptocurrency in order to work, but I'm definitely curious about where it's all going to be in a year or two.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.