Binance VIP trader profited by dumping play-to-earn token

A new investigation has revealed that Binance allegedly helped a secretive whale trader siphon money from the play-to-earn crypto industry. One of these so-called VIPs was DWF, afforded special attention by Binance. DWF allegedly bragged that it “successfully” tripled the trading volume of a token through an artificial, “believable trading pattern.”

Some investigators estimated that DWF manipulated the price of YGG and at least six other tokens on Binance through at least $300 million worth of wash trades last year.

Not too long ago, venture capitalists at Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) told the world a story about play-to-earn crypto. Web 3 and the metaverse would become so large and prosperous that they would spawn a new, sustainable industry for offshore labor. As the result of just one crypto game, a16z wrote, “Gaming was literally lifting an entire community out of poverty.”

In these venture capitalists’ imagined reality, wealthy Westerners would crave billions of dollars of in-game items like pets, outfits, weapons, or virtual real estate. They would pay low income workers to perform time-consuming in-game actions to earn those items on their behalf. 

Even more amazing, this type of activity would become so commonplace and lucrative for both groups that the wealthy class would self-organize into play-to-earn guilds in order to use the power of blockchain to govern, lend, and distribute their assets.

Cheerleading the play-to-earn crypto revolution that never happened

The game was Axie Infinity, which sold a massive collection of NFTs plus two fungible tokens, AXS and SLP. As a result of this proof-of-concept game, “many players in the Philippines were earning more than they had at their previous jobs,” the venture capitalists boasted.

To invest in this amazing future, a16z decided to invest millions into Axie Infinity’s game studio. (Initially it wanted to lead a $150 million round yet only closed a small fraction of that total.) It also poured $4.6 million (plus millions more in tokens) into an Axie Infinity play-to-earn guild, Yield Guild Games (YGG).

A16z wrote that YGG would provide ‘”unparalleled economic opportunities” and unlock a “largely untapped economic opportunity in emerging markets to provide jobs by building a virtual economy in the digital world.”

Read more: Binance banned Tron Foundation for market manipulation, report

Today, the price of AXS is down 95% from its all-time high, SLP is down 99%, Axie NFTs are down 90% on average, and YGG is down 92%. DWF made millions by selling millions of YGG near the peak, according to Wall Street Journal’s investigation.

The real story of play-to-earn crypto, it seems, is the money that has already been made from selling a dream of the future that never transpired.

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