Bitcoin (BTC) might have only recently found mainstream acceptance, with the likes of Steam and Dell jumping on a bandwagon that already included Virgin Galactic and Expedia, but the cryptocurrency has been a staple feature of the gaming world for some time; in fact, some gaming websites operate in Bitcoin exclusively.
What is it?
There’s no shame in not knowing what a Bitcoin is – it’s arguably something that only tech geeks use on a daily basis – but it’d be a stretch to call it a new invention. Bitcoin has its roots in a 2008 paper by a mysterious individual called Satoshi Nakamoto, who wanted to create a currency that couldn’t be controlled by banks.
Bitcoin is unique among currencies in being almost immune to the ills of the modern banking system. Things like inflation and counterfeiting aren’t really possible with Bitcoin, and the way the currency works (using something called blockchain technology, a database of records that acts like a ledger) makes Bitcoin transactions more secure than conventional payments.
The growth of dedicated Bitcoin exchanges has also made the currency more accessible, meaning that Bitcoin has become a true alternative currency rather than a niche investment. You can currently buy a single Bitcoin for about US$614 but, as a single unit breaks down into decimals, you could easily convert US$10 into 0.02 of a Bitcoin, for example.
Who is using it?
Have you ever tried playing slots using BTC the new crypto currency? If you are into online casino games, you may have noticed that iGaming businesses were early adopters of Bitcoin. Vegas Casino, for example, a website that offers sports betting as well as popular games like blackjack and roulette, only accepts Bitcoin at its tables, and offers players the opportunity to exchange for or ‘mine’ free currency.
That latter point – Bitcoin mining – also contributed to the early popularity of Nakamoto’s cryptocurrency. Using high-powered hardware, adopters could contribute to Bitcoin by assisting with the maintenance of the blockchain, and receive compensation in the form of small amounts of the currency.
Bitcoin faucets, the type of mining offered by some online gaming sites, offer a similar compensation model. However, instead of trading computing power for Bitcoin, the task is usually a series of captcha prompts, and the reward received in the hundreds of millionths of a Bitcoin, a sum known as a ‘Satoshi’, after the currency’s founder.
Faucet mining isn’t going to replace your day job but it’s a good introduction to the currency as a whole.
No Man’s Sky
Conventional video game developers are lagging behind online casinos as far as Bitcoin is concerned. However, Hello Games, the developers behind No Man’s Sky, were at least innovative in offering pre-order purchases in Bitcoin, even if the game didn’t quite live up to its obvious promise, and the rewards from those pre-orders caused chaos.
Several online marketplaces such as Steam, Kinguin, and (sometimes) Humble Bundle allow gamers to feed their hobby with Bitcoin but it’s still a rare sight. The main console marketplaces, such as the PlayStation Store, don’t offer Bitcoin purchases directly but it is possible to buy gift cards with the currency from other websites. Expect this to change sooner or later as Bitcoin is creeping up everywhere, in e-commerce sites like overstock.com, airline fares, and even in physical stores like the Sacramento Kings NBA franchise which lets you buy tickets and merchandise with the cryptocurrency.