The mysterious and controversial cryptocurrency known as Bitcoin is often laughed off as nerd money, but it could very well be poised as the future of gaming. In a world where many of our payments are already digital — think app purchases, Steam sales and Xbox points — Bitcoin is fitting right into gaming’s pay-to-play culture and changing the way we spend and make money when we game.
What Is Bitcoin?
Before understanding how bitcoins could change gaming, it’s important to know just what they are, and it’s not all that easy to explain. Unlike digital currency you find from services like PayPal or even your bank’s website, Bitcoin has no middleman. It’s a digital cryptocurrency created in 2009 (by an anonymous person) that is completely peer-to-peer. Anyone in the world who owns even a fraction of a bitcoin downloads what is essentially a giant ledger that tracks every bitcoin in the world. Those ledgers match up to ensure bitcoins are authentic and then the owners are free to exchange them completely anonymously.
Bitcoins’ origins are controversial, as it was once primarily used to buy narcotics on the dark web. But since, it has evolved to purchase everyday items such as pizza, electronics and even cars. The future of bitcoin is always a bit murky, but lately it’s finding a good home in gaming where users are embracing the new currency, which is currently worth more than $200 per bitcoin.
Bitcoin and Gambling
Because the U.S. has strict laws regarding online gambling, bitcoin is the perfect alternative since, legally, it isn’t money. Gamers are free to bet bitcoins in poker, blackjack and other traditional casino games, all while skirting the laws. There are hundreds of bitcoin gambling sites on the web, hosted in countries all over the world.
Bitcoins as Rewards
So, given that bitcoins are extremely valuable and popular in 2015, how do they fit into gaming? More publishers and platforms are accepting them as payment from both players and advertisers, but the industry is getting more creative than that. Some games actually pay you just for playing well. SaruTobi, a Mario-style game in the App Store, rewards you with bitcoins as the levels become progressively harder. The pool of bitcoins used to pay players comes from advertising revenue and game payments, and is used to incentivize players to keep gaming into levels that may seem unreachable.
Players can also wager bitcoins in a sort of e-sport called Leetcoin, a one-of-kind platform that lets players bet against each other in a series of games using only bitcoins as currency. Leetcoin takes a cut of the pot and could likely make a huge revenue as the sport continues to grow. And since the whole tax situation behind bitcoin is ambiguous, these games and platforms continue to operate without paying much attention to reporting extra income (that means more “money” for both companies and players).
What Does the Future Hold?
Is bitcoin sustainable for gaming? It’s hard to tell as the cryptocurrency is extremely volatile. It may be worth more than $200 now, but it was worth well more than $1,000 less than two years ago. That sort of instability does not bode well for publishers who set bitcoin prices for games and ads. But for now, if you are in the business of cashing in on some digital money, there are games out there willing to pay you just to play.
As with any other site that requires financial information from you, be sure you’re protected with an identity protection service to avoid a stolen identity as a result from what seemed like a little bitcoin gambling fun.