Since the dawn of networked gaming, providers have looked for ways to keep the money spigot flowing. Games like World of Warcraft have subscription models, where users pay them every month for access to the online world.
Other games like SecondLife have seen extensive use, making Linden Dollars one of the first native “digital currencies.” Also, WoW and Runescape players have long found ways to sell their gold, without regard to game policies on such practices.
Subscription models won’t work for everyone, however, in that gamers only have so much of both money and time. If every game were to adopt it, there’d inevitably be only a few games that saw huge communities. The other option to keep money flowing, and to lower the cost of the games at retail, is to institute microtransactions inside the games.
Microtransactions can work in many ways. With SecondLife, for instance, the users buy the Linden dollars directly from the company and then are able to transact with them in-game. Later, if they choose, they can trade Linden Dollars at online exchanges, similar to Bitcoin. Another way they can work is for users to buy special or even unique items, and then trade them. This is what the
creators of Destiny, Bungie and Activision, have decided to do.
The company will be offering several new items to players in exchange for small amounts of money. The question is, wouldn’t it be better to do something like this using a digital currency like Bitcoin? For one thing, a wider variety of items could be offered at much lower prices, given that high credit card processing fees could then be eliminated. For another, Bitcoin or some other cryptocurrency would lower the likelihood of chargebacks, which can be an actual problem for gaming and pornography companies.
In-Game Economies: The Future?
The advent of cryptocurrency would likely be more exciting to game companies if they understood all that it could provide for them. Entire in-game economies could be built using something like Bitcoin, wherein it wouldn’t matter where the user lived, transactions could be processed for almost no fees, and then the companies could even allow users to transact among themselves, charging additional fees for each person-to-person transaction.
Eventually, all the bitcoins deposited into such a system could end up in the hands of the game owner, though users would have their use of them first. This may seem like a bad idea, but here we actually mean over the course of weeks or months, plenty of time for the user to enjoy whatever they get in return for the coins.
As consumers get less and less likely to want to shell out at all for digital entertainment, gaming being perhaps the last real bastion of such which is not entirely streaming, on-demand, subscription model, companies will need to find ways to recoup costs. Destiny cost $500 million between marketing and production.
The introduction of the new microtransactions could fail ultimately, and the game as a whole could be considered a failure if it does not meet certain profit goals. But in-game economies that allow players to decide what to do with their in-game currency could create entirely new paradigms for both gamers and producers.
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