Bitcoin has skyrocketed in 2020 and everyone is talking about its price. But I want to talk about how Bitcoin is actually used and the new possibilities it makes possible.

Of course, bitcoin is the most difficult form of money in existence and the best store of value. But it is also the most practical form of digital value we have as it is global, interoperable and programmable. So, what other use cases does Bitcoin enable? And what are the revolutionary new capabilities that people didn’t even know they needed Bitcoin?

The ZEBEDEE team had a very simple idea. The purest form of global, digital economies are video games, but they lack a purely global and digital form of transaction value. So why not take an existing popular game and integrate Bitcoin as a value transfer protocol. The question we wanted to answer is, does this add a new dimension to the gameplay that dramatically increases fun and engagement?

On December 27, 2020, we demonstrated this concept live on MintGox to an online audience of more than 5,000 viewers. We successfully brought bitcoin into Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS: GO), a multiplayer first-person shooter video game with 28 million monthly active users. And with that, the first public reveal of ZEBEDEE’s latest product, Infuse, will bring Bitcoin to the world’s most popular games. The results can be seen here:

Watch the event’s Twitch stream.

In this simple integration, players pay a bitcoin bill to bet themselves into a match prize pool and then battle it out to win the lion’s share of the pot at the end of the game. This “skin in the game” completely transforms the experience and depth of engagement.

When you see it, you get that “holy shit!” moment – the realization that something great has just been born. CS: GO is one of those games that you can play mindlessly for hours on end. But wait until you see what happens when you have a real skin in-game that persists outside of the game, instead of just playing for a score. CS: GO tournaments are huge, but now anyone can play to make money, not just the l33t gamers.

This is it. Forget about CBDCs and dream about replacing existing interbank settlement layers. Bitcoin is the native settlement layer for the new virtual economy.

Back To The Future: Reintroducing Value into Games

As my co-founder @Mandelduck has previously writtenHistorically, gaming has always included a concept of ‘skin in the game’ to make things more engaging.

But as we evolved into the digital age, this dimension was lost, only to be replaced by pointless in-game gold:

“There is strong historical precedent for claiming that value transfer has always been an integral part of what makes games fun to play,” he wrote. “But where games have evolved into the digital age, the medium of value transfer between players has not. This leaves a huge gap in the modern gaming experience.

“Value transfer was therefore limited to in-app purchases, loot boxes, in-game advertisements, etc., which demonstrably had an adverse effect on gameplay.

“With Bitcoin and the Lightning Network, we now have a global currency that is both peer-to-peer and interoperable between games – analogous to the use of gold or silver in early games.”

Also see

Leveling the gaming industry

We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. People play games because they are fun, not because they are on a blockchain. When it comes to gaming, the most advanced crypto innovation is putting the cart before the horse by focusing on decentralized, censorship-resistant game mechanics and in-game asset ownership.

Making a successful game is difficult and competitive; blockchain games face many challenges and can target the wrong incentives. The low-hanging fruit is to give already great games and great game developers an extra resource: the ability to programmably integrate the greatest store of digital value into their games.

This is an easy way for video games to unlock a tremendous amount of potential for new types of economics, player engagement and creativity. We have already demonstrated this through new types of activities that were not possible before programmable Bitcoin interactions:

  • Breaking through the fourth wall: Audience members can participate in esports events and interact directly with the game by using sats to pay for power-ups or bounty increases. Blurring the line between players and audiences is something I really hope will be a revolutionary moment in gaming.
  • New revenue models: At the last MintGox tournament, we recorded over 10,000 Lightning transactions. With that amount of value activity flowing through games, there are emerging new ways for game developers to harvest the real economic activity they create.
  • Better ad integrations: In-game ads can reach players more directly. For example, players interact directly with a brand by picking up Bitcoin power-ups from the company brand on a card.
  • Microtransactions: Not only the best players can win prizes as Bitcoin payouts enable micro prizes, creating yet another path for micro income.

How will this end in 2021?

I know 2021 will be the year when everyone on Earth realizes they need a piece of Bitcoin. But not everyone is a trader or investor, or even has the extra cash to stack sats. Gaming is the way emerging generations are boarding Bitcoin and stacking sats through their own skills.

My team at ZEBEDEE will do its part to support this. First, by not only hosting more CS: GO Bitcoin servers, but also striving to bring Bitcoin into every open game we can get our hands on.

I also expect game developers to realize that they can make their own games more attractive and profitable by integrating Bitcoin into their game mechanics. We’re here to back that up with the tools to make that happen and a rapidly growing audience of gamers eager to start pwn.

This is a guest post from Simon Cowell. The views expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.

Simon Cowell is CEO and co-founder of ZEBEDEE, a payment services provider for the gaming industry – built on Bitcoin. He spent the first 10 years of his career in the traditional wealth management industry before turning to Bitcoin full-time in 2016. He was previously head of business development at Bitstamp.

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