Mobile Game Payments as a Tool for Bitcoin Adoption

When you hear “payments in mobile games,” you might think of the “pay-to-play better game” mechanics where you can get a more powerful character if you only pay $4.99.

Or, about how you can only move to a certain part of the map for a small payment of $1.99.

Or how you can only open a certain door with a certain key, which you could get for five hours in the Druid Gardens.

Maybe you think about the $14.99 monthly subscription you pay for this chess app because you will soon become good at chess.

As games opt for more of these small and microtransactions, Bitcoin’s Lightning Network (Lightning) can clearly play a role. Its commerce layer can handle fast and cheap microtransactions as small as a single satoshi (1/100,000,000th of bitcoin (BTC), ~$0.0004), allowing players to easily make in-game payments .

But it’s boring. And that doesn’t quite fulfill Bitcoin’s potential.

What’s less boring is using the Lightning Network to monetize mobile games in the other direction, allowing gamers to earn money for getting good at the game.

This in turn can promote and encourage bitcoin adoption, Bitcoin gaming entrepreneurs believe. In this way, some believe that mobile games can be an effective introduction to bitcoin.

That’s the idea behind companies like THNDR, where Des Dickerson is CEO and co-founder. THNDR creates mobile games where you can earn bitcoins paid through Lightning. Players of these mobile games are eligible for small bitcoin-denominated rewards daily based on their gaming performance over the previous 24 hours.

Basically, players will earn at least some bitcoins that they can claim by withdrawing to a Lightning Network-enabled bitcoin wallet (fees are pretty cheap on Lightning).

In an interview with CoinDesk at the Bitcoin Miami conference in April, Dickerson said his company’s mission is to use their games as a way to introduce people to bitcoin. She said that “gaming is becoming the next social network, and I think mobile gaming is the way we can get more people into bitcoin.”

There’s definitely some truth to that, because mobile games are just incredibly popular. Take Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, for example. You probably haven’t heard of it, but it’s been downloaded over a billion times. But you’ve heard of Halo, which only sold 81 million copies worldwide.

This is partly due to accessibility. In economically developing countries where citizens have less disposable income, expensive PC setups or console systems for playing games don’t really make sense. Instead, citizens choose to play video games on their relatively inexpensive smartphones (yes, $100 smartphones do exist).

Looking at Mobile Legends: Most of its players are from countries like Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, and Myanmar. (Note if you’re counting: these countries combined have a population of over 650 million.)

If we take a closer look at some of these countries, the profile matches quite well what THNDR and similar companies are trying to achieve. Personal remittances represent a significant share of total GDP for the Philippines (9.6%), Vietnam (6.3%) and Myanmar (2.8%). Bitcoin as a way to solve expensive remittances has been discussed for quite some time and has been cited as one of the main points for El Salvador making bitcoin legal tender.

Remittances as a percentage of GDP (World Bank)

“If you look at Satsss, our retention is better than other snake games in App Store and Google Play, so people play longer day after day when bitcoin was introduced in the game.”

Retention is an important metric for mobile gaming activity and monetizing it with bitcoin, at least on the surface, seems to suggest an overall improvement in gaming activity. But what about the broader mission of the adoption of bitcoin? How exactly do these games help with that?

The way bitcoin adoption is spreading through gaming is putting bitcoin in the hands of people who don’t have it yet. Dickerson told us that:

“Gambling is the gateway drug, but what do they do after they get their first bitcoins? After downloading a wallet, they eventually move on and start storing their bitcoins in a secure offline hardware wallet…a important step towards greater financial autonomy.

Dickerson is unashamedly proud of it, and she held back tears as she told us.

She offered even more through some interesting statistics, including telling us that:

“Women between the ages of 35 and 50 in particular are a huge demographic for mobile gaming, and they’re a demographic that could absolutely benefit from an introduction to the Bitcoin ecosystem.”

Just as these women could benefit from getting their first bitcoin from a bitcoin-enabled mobile game, the mobile gamers from the Philippines we mentioned earlier could also benefit.

There is an overabundance of statistics that suggest mobile gaming is big and will continue to grow in the future. Given its size, as bitcoin-enabled mobile games continue to enter the market, it has a chance to play an important role in onboarding the next billion bitcoin users.

Learn more about Payout Week:

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