Introducing Virtual Rewards 2.0!

Geocaching HQ is excited to announce Virtual Rewards 2.0 to introduce another limited number of new Virtual Caches for the geocaching community. Beginning today, an opt-in web page is available for cachers to apply for a Virtual Reward. The page is open until June 1, 2019.

  • Approximately 50,000 geocachers around the world meet the criteria to apply for a Virtual Reward.
  • Those who previously received a Virtual Reward are not eligible to participate in Virtual Rewards 2.0.
  • From all applicants, Geocaching HQ will randomly select up to 4,000 geocachers on June 4, 2019 to receive one Virtual Cache.
  • Approximately 30 active community volunteers are receiving a Virtual Reward, as a thanks for giving their time to support the geocaching community.
  • Winners will have until December 31, 2021 to create their Virtual Cache. The caches must comply with specific guidelines.

The first round of Virtual Rewards resulted in 2,668 new Virtual caches created between August 2017 and August 2018. Those new caches are generally very popular by several measures, including total Favorite points, Favorite point percentage, log length, and find frequency. In addition, the review process did not create any undue burden on community volunteer reviewers. However, the community voiced some frustration with the algorithm used to distribute those Virtual Rewards. With that feedback in mind, we devised this new process for Virtual Rewards 2.0.

Learn more about Virtual Rewards 2.0 in this new episode of the Inside Geocaching HQ podcast.

Here are answers to some common questions:

Yay, Virtuals are back!
Not exactly. Yes, we’re hoping to see up to 4,000 new Virtual Caches in the next year. But we want to make it clear that Virtuals remain a legacy cache type.

Are Virtual Rewards distributed evenly among countries?
No, but they will be more evenly distributed among countries than during Virtual Rewards 1.0 in 2017, when some more active countries received a large number. We will randomly select geocachers within each country, with a set number per country. The number was established by Geocaching HQ, with the intention of favoring countries less established with geocaching. We set the qualifying criteria for cacher hiders as low as possible, in order to achieve better geographic distribution. The approximately 50,000 cache hiders who meet the Virtual Reward 2.0 criteria represent 89 countries. During the 2017 launch, they were from 63 countries.

Can I apply with more than one account that I own?
If you own more than one Geocaching account, please apply only with one account. If we discover abuse, we reserve the right to remove a Virtual Reward.

Could an account receive more than one Virtual Reward?
No, an account can receive only one Virtual Reward, from either the 2017 or 2019 launches.

Can a Virtual Reward recipient give their reward to someone else?
No, Virtuals are still a legacy cache type. Therefore, adoptions are not possible.
As of April 2021, Virtual Reward recipients may adopt out their active published or unpublished Virtual Cache.

How do I find out when new Virtual Rewards are published?
Premium members can set up Instant notifications to be aware when new Virtual Rewards are published. Also, use the Search tool to conduct a worldwide search for Virtuals.

Will there be more Virtual Rewards in the future?
Assuming Virtual Rewards 2.0 goes smoothly, we will consider launching a similar set of Virtuals in the future. But we would likely make changes to the selection process to encourage a new set of participants.

Why not just make Virtual Caches available for everyone to hide?
Because today’s Virtual Caches are rare, and because the remaining Virtuals tend to be well-liked, people often forget (or maybe never knew) that many problems led to the retirement of Virtuals in 2005.

The Virtual Cache type was originally created so people could place hides where physical caches were not permitted, or where muggles were so heavy that a physical cache was not practical. While the intent of this cache type was positive, it created significant problems for reviewers and often led to poor cache quality. Some people used Virtual Caches as a shortcut to create basic caches that did not require maintenance. Guidelines were eventually updated to require Virtuals to have special qualities to set them apart from other caches. However, that introduced so much subjectivity that the review process became difficult for both reviewers and cachers. The decision was finally made to retire Virtual Caches and no longer permit this type of cache unless we could find a way to avoid the aforementioned issues.

We’re hoping this limited Virtual Rewards release will help minimize the previous problems with Virtuals, while delivering more opportunities for the community to enjoy this beloved cache type. Most importantly, it’s a fun reward for cache owners who have contributed so much to the game.

Hopelessly addicted cacher and Geocaching HQ's public relations manager.