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Virtual Currency Games

Every little boy’s (and many grown men’s) dream of making a living by playing video gaming is edging nearer to reality. The recent release of HunterCoin and the in-development VoidSpace, games which reward players in digital currency rather than virtual princesses or gold stars point towards a future where one’s ranking on a scoreboard could be rewarded in dollars, and sterling, euros and yen.

The story of the millionaire (virtual) real estate agent…

Digital currencies have already been slowly gaining in maturity both with regards to their functionality and the financial infrastructure that enables them to be utilized as a credible option to non-virtual fiat currency. Though Bitcoin, the 1st and most popular of the crypto-currencies was created in 2009 2009 2009 there have been forms of virtual currencies used in video games for more than 15 years. 1997’s Ultima Online was the first notable attempt to incorporate a large scale virtual economy in a casino game. Players could collect coins by undertaking quests, battling monsters and finding treasure and spend these on armour, weapons or property. This was an early incarnation of a virtual currency in that it existed purely within the game though it did mirror real life economics to the extent that the Ultima currency experienced inflation due to the overall game mechanics which ensured that there was a never ending way to obtain monsters to kill and therefore gold coins to collect.

Released in 1999, EverQuest took virtual currency gaming a step further, allowing players to trade virtual goods amongst themselves in-game and even though it was prohibited by the game’s designer to also sell virtual items to one another on eBay. In Bitcoin Revolution that was entertainingly explored in Neal Stephenson’s 2011 novel Reamde, Chinese gamers or ‘gold farmers’ were employed to play EverQuest along with other such games full-time with the aim of gaining experience points to be able to level-up their characters thereby making them more powerful and sought after. These characters would then be sold on eBay to Western gamers who were unwilling or unable to devote the hours to level-up their very own characters. Based on the calculated exchange rate of EverQuest’s currency as a result of real life trading that occurred Edward Castronova, Professor of Telecommunications at Indiana University and a specialist in virtual currencies estimated that in 2002 EverQuest was the 77th richest country in the world, somewhere within Russia and Bulgaria and its own GDP per capita was higher than the People’s Republic of China and India.

Launched in 2003 and having reached 1 million regular users by 2014, Second Life could very well be the most complete example of a virtual economy up to now whereby it’s virtual currency, the Linden Dollar which can be used to buy or sell in-game goods and services can be exchanged for real life currencies via market-based exchanges. There were a recorded $3.2 billion in-game transactions of virtual goods in the a decade between 2002-13, Second Life having turn into a marketplace where players and businesses alike could actually design, promote and sell content that they created. Real estate was an especially lucrative commodity to trade, in 2006 Ailin Graef became the 1st Second Life millionaire when she turned a short investment of $9.95 into over $1 million over 2.5 years through buying, selling and trading virtual real estate to other players. Examples such as for example Ailin are the exception to the rule however, just a recorded 233 users making more than $5000 in ’09 2009 from Second Life activities.

How exactly to be paid in dollars for mining asteroids…

To date, the opportunity to generate non-virtual cash in video gaming has been of secondary design, the ball player having to proceed through non-authorised channels to exchange their virtual booty or they having to possess a degree of real life creative skill or business acumen that could be traded for cash. This may be set to change with the advent of video games being built from the ground up around the ‘plumbing’ of recognised digital currency platforms. The approach that HunterCoin has taken is to ‘gamify’ what’s usually the rather technical and automated process of creating digital currency. Unlike real world currencies which come into existence when they are printed by a Central bank, digital currencies are manufactured by being ‘mined’ by users. The underlying source code of a specific digital currency that allows it to function is named the blockchain, an online decentralised public ledger which records all transactions and currency exchanges between individuals. Since digital currency is only intangible data it is more susceptible to fraud than physical currency for the reason that it is possible to duplicate a unit of currency thereby causing inflation or altering the value of a transaction after it’s been made for personal gain. To ensure this does not happen the blockchain is ‘policed’ by volunteers or ‘miners’ who test the validity of every transaction that’s made whereby using specialist hardware and software they make sure that data is not tampered with. This is an automatic process for miner’s software albeit an exceptionally time consuming one which involves many processing power from their computer. To reward a miner for verifying a transaction the blockchain releases a fresh unit of digital currency and rewards them with it as an incentive to help keep maintaining the network, thus is digital currency created. Because it can take anything from several days to years for a person to successfully mine a coin groups of users combine their resources right into a mining ‘pool’, utilizing the joint processing power of these computers to mine coins quicker.

HunterCoin the overall game sits within such a blockchain for an electronic currency also known as HunterCoin. The act of playing the overall game replaces the automated procedure for mining digital currency and for the very first time helps it be a manual one and with no need for expensive hardware. Using strategy, time and teamwork, players venture out onto a map in search of coins and on finding some and returning safely to their base (other teams are on the market attempting to stop them and steal their coins) they are able to cash out their coins by depositing them to their own digital wallet, typically an app designed to make and receive digital payments. 10% of the worthiness of any coins deposited by players visit the miners maintaining HunterCoin’s blockchain plus a small percent of any coins lost when a player is killed and their coins dropped. As the game graphics are basic and significant rewards remember to accumulate HunterCoin is an experiment that might be viewed as the first video game with monetary reward built-in as a primary function.

Though still in development VoidSpace is really a more polished approach towards gaming in a functioning economy. A Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game (MMORPG), VoidSpace is set in space where players explore an ever-growing universe, mining natural resources such as for example asteroids and trading them for goods with other players with the goal of building their own galactic empire. Players will undoubtedly be rewarded for mining in DogeCoin, a more established type of digital currency that is currently used widely for micro-payments on various social media marketing sites. DogeCoin will also be currency of in-game trade between players and the methods to make in-game purchases. Like HunterCoin, DogeCoin is a legitimate and fully functioning digital currency and like HunterCoin it usually is traded for both digital and real fiat currencies on exchanges like Poloniex.

The future of video gaming?

Though it is start regarding quality the release of HunterCoin and VoidSpace can be an interesting indication of what may be the next evolution for games. MMORPG’s are currently being considered as ways to model the outbreak of epidemics due to how player’s reactions to an unintended plague mirrored recorded hard-to-model areas of human behaviour to real world outbreaks. It could be surmised that eventually in-game virtual economies could be used as models to check economic theories and develop responses to massive failures based on observations of how players use digital currency with real value. Additionally it is an excellent test for the functionality and potential applications of digital currencies that have the promise of moving beyond mere vehicles of exchange and into exciting regions of personal digitial ownership for instance. In the mean time, players now have the methods to translate hours before a screen into digital currency and then dollars, sterling, euros or yen.

But before you quit your day job…

… it’s worth mentioning current exchange rates. It’s estimated a player could comfortably recoup their initial registration fee of 1 1.005 HunterCoin (HUC) for joining HunterCoin the overall game in 1 day’s play. Currently HUC can’t be exchanged directly to USD, one must convert it right into a competent digital currency like Bitcoin. At the time of writing the exchange rate of HUC to Bitcoin (BC) is 0.00001900 while the exchange rate of BC to USD is $384.24. 1 HUC traded to BC and to USD, before any transaction fees were taken into consideration would equate to… $0.01 USD. This is simply not to say that as a player becomes more adept that they could not grow their team of virtual CoinHunters and perhaps hire a few ‘bot’ programmes that could automatically play the game beneath the guise of another player and earn coins for them aswell but I think it’s safe to say that right now even efforts such as this might only realistically result in enough change for an everyday McDonalds. Unless players are willing to submit to intrusive in-game advertising, share personal data or join a game such as CoinHunter that is built on the Bitcoin blockchain it is improbable that rewards are ever likely to be more than micro-payments for the casual gamer. And maybe this is a good thing, because surely if you receives a commission for something it stops being a game any more?

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