These Gaming Studios Are Bringing Bitcoin to Esports
Imagine if every shot, goal or win paid real money to everyday players. Welcome to the world of bitcoin esports.
A player’s screen after being gunned down in CS: GO; the bitcoin balance is represented by the in-game points system in the corner of the screen.(MintGox TV)
Feb 11, 2021 at 8:02 p.m. UTCUpdated Feb 11, 2021 at 8:10 p.m. UTC
Gaming developers have begun integrating Bitcoin’s Lightning Network into their own games and existing titles to provide players with bitcoin payouts.
The Lightning Network is a payment protocol that facilitates fast, near-feeless transactions on a network that operates with different rules than Bitcoin’s primary network.
This in-game rewards economy offers everyday gamers a “stake” in the game and an opportunity to monetize their hobby, a privilege typically enjoyed only by the Goliaths of the professional esports industry.
The end of the match was nothing special. From the outside, it looked like any other Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) esport match, until the final results rolled in.
After the winners were announced, a QR code popped up in the corner of the screen with the message: “You have won 8,673 sats!” (sats being short for “satoshi,” a microunit of bitcoin).
This sats reward corresponded with the player’s match points, the in-game scoring system that traditionally only exists as a means to gain experience points to “level up” in the game. Except these points weren’t just in-game currency, they were actual money that could be withdrawn from the game.
A play-for-pay plugin from gaming studio ZEBEDEE called Infuse makes this possible. It uses Bitcoin’s Lightning Network to facilitate instant, near-feeless payouts to players. Previously in closed-beta, ZEBEDEE’s CS:GO servers are now open to the public.
The release brings Lightning Network compatibility to a mainstream game title for the first time, and it’s something of a milestone for a fledgling industry that uses Lightning-powered games to reimagine how players interact with (and monetize) their favorite pastime.
Lightning Network gaming
ZEBEDEE is just one of a handful of pioneers in the growing (but still rather niche) intersectional industry of bitcoin and video games. They’re approaching Lightning-integrated gaming a bit differently, though. Instead of building a Lightning game from scratch, they’re bringing the Lightning Network to a game with 28 million monthly active players.
“[An] interesting change in the past year has been the drive to bring bitcoin to already popular games. It’s widely known that developing games that reach any level of success is a monumental task,” Des Dickerson, the VP of business operations at Lightning Labs and a MintGox organizer, told CoinDesk.
“In response, companies like ZEBEDEE are restructuring their approach and making it possible to integrate bitcoin into games that have already reached massive adoption.”
The MintGox esports tournament series (that’s “magic internet gathering,” in playful homage to the Mt.Gox exchange and its roots in Magic the Gathering) is a collective that features games from ZEBEDEE, Mandel Studios and Donner Labs.
The monthly tournament series pays out prize pools in bitcoin, with each game providing its own twist on Lightning functionality. Donner Lab’s Bitcoin Bounty Hunt, the first-to-launch Bitcoin shooter, pays out satoshis per kill like the CS:GO integration. One of ZEBEDEE’s from-scratch games, Bitcoin Rally (a Mario Kart clone), litters the road in sats; players can collect these digital coins and chuck them at opponents to stun them, or they can keep them for payout at the end of the match.