In brief

  • A bar in Leeds is giving gamers a chance to earn Nano by playing Space Invaders.
  • James Coxon, editor at The Nano Center, helped build the arcade machine.
  • Gaming continues to become a potential on-ramp for newcomers in the crypto space.

You can now earn cryptocurrency by playing space invaders IRL. Yes, really.

The retro space invaders arcade machine is located in the Pixel Bar bar in Leeds, UK. It's free to play the game and rewards are paid out in the cryptocurrency Nano (NANO). But how did this crypto-focused machine come about?

Space invaders machine
The space invaders machine in the Pixel bar in Leeds. Image: James Coxon.

At a Nano meet-up in 2019, a hacked-together Space Invaders arcade machine was on display to the Nano community. Players would be required to pay a small amount of Nano to access the game, and the highest scoring player would take the combined jackpot for themselves. But the mechanics were a bit of a mess and the game required plenty of debugging. Since that presentation, James Coxon, editor of The Nano Center, then helped build a second device called Nano Arcade: Space Invaders, which is now available to use in The Pixel Bar.


“Nano Arcade is a modern arcade machine which we were able to connect to the internet and hack up the game so that we could reward players with digital money depending on their score,” said Coxon, who built the device alongside Twitter user @NanoIsSuperior, who wishes to remain anonymous. 

To engineer Nano into the game, Coxon and NanoIsSuperior needed to perform a complex hack. This required the use of a Raspberry Pi and python code to manipulate the game itself. Once an internet connection was established, it was possible to generate a QR code that makes the transfer of Nano possible. 

Working remotely during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic was a major challenge during the project. “The first steps were to get a reliable network connection to the arcade machine so that we could continue to work on the machine even though we weren’t there,” Coxon added. 

Crypto and gaming—a new partnership

Nano Arcade is the latest in a series of innovations that try to mainstream crypto through the gaming community. “While not an ideal use case for all cryptocurrencies there are certain ones that can be integrated into games,” Coxon said. 

Coxon says Nano is suitable due to its feeless nature, speed, and the fact it is technically easy to work with. “Users don’t want to wait around after their game for the payout, Nano is so fat that it’s probably quicker than if we paid out in coins. We personally don’t think that another digital currency could match this,” Coxon added. 


To play the game, users will need to have downloaded the Natrium Wallet, the crypto wallet designed for Nano. After playing the game itself, users will be prompted with a QR code that can be scanned so players can collect their winnings

The first shoot ‘em up video game is now ready for the modern era.

Update: This story has been updated to show that the game is free to play.

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