Virtual Currency Games

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Every little boy’s (and many grown men’s) dream of earning money 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 instead of virtual princesses or gold stars point towards a future where one’s ranking on a scoreboard could possibly be rewarded in dollars, and sterling, euros and yen.

The story of the millionaire (virtual) agent…

Digital currencies have already been slowly gaining in maturity both in terms of their functionality and the financial infrastructure that enables them to be used as a credible alternative 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 a lot more than 15 years. 1997’s Ultima Online was the initial notable attempt to add a large scale virtual economy in a game. Players could collect gold coins by undertaking quests, battling monsters and finding treasure and spend these on armour, weapons or property. This was an early on incarnation of a virtual currency for the reason that it existed purely within the overall game though it did mirror real world economics to the extent that the Ultima currency experienced inflation because of the overall game mechanics which ensured that there was a never ending supply of monsters to kill and thus 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 what to each other on eBay. In a real world phenomenon that was entertainingly explored in Neal Stephenson’s 2011 novel Reamde, Chinese gamers or ‘gold farmers’ were employed to play EverQuest and other such games full-time with the purpose of gaining experience points to be able to level-up their characters thereby making them better and sought after. These characters would then be in love with eBay to Western gamers who have been unwilling or unable to put in the hours to level-up their own characters. In line with the calculated exchange rate of EverQuest’s currency as a result of the real world trading that occurred Edward Castronova, Professor of Telecommunications at Indiana University and an expert in virtual currencies estimated that in 2002 EverQuest was the 77th richest country in the world, somewhere within Russia and Bulgaria and its GDP per capita was greater than the People’s Republic of China and India.

Launched in 2003 and having reached 1 million regular users by 2014, Second Life is perhaps the most complete example of a virtual economy to date whereby it’s virtual currency, the Linden Dollar which is often used to get or sell in-game goods and services could be exchanged for real life currencies via market-based exchanges. There have been a recorded $3.2 billion in-game transactions of virtual goods in the a decade between 2002-13, Second Life having become a marketplace where players and businesses alike were able to design, promote and sell content they created. Real estate was a particularly 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 Ailin will be the exception to the rule however, only a recorded 233 users making a lot more than $5000 in ’09 2009 from Second Lifestyle.

How to be paid in dollars for mining asteroids…

To date, the opportunity to generate non-virtual cash in video games has been of secondary design, the ball player having to go through non-authorised channels to switch their virtual booty or they needing to possess a degree of real world creative skill or business acumen which could be traded for cash. This could be set to improve with the advent of video games being built from the bottom up round the ‘plumbing’ of recognised digital currency platforms. The approach that HunterCoin has had is to ‘gamify’ what’s typically the rather technical and automated procedure for creating digital currency. Unlike real world currencies which come into existence when they are printed by a Central bank, digital currencies are created when you are ‘mined’ by users. The underlying source code of a particular digital currency that allows it to function is called the blockchain, an online decentralised public ledger which records all transactions and currency exchanges between individuals. Since digital currency is only intangible data it really is more prone 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 has been made for personal gain. To make sure this will not happen the blockchain is ‘policed’ by volunteers or ‘miners’ who test the validity of every transaction that’s made whereby with the aid of specialist hardware and software they make sure that data is not tampered with. This is a computerized process for miner’s software albeit an extremely time consuming one which involves many processing power from their computer. To reward a miner for verifying a transaction the blockchain releases a new 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 an individual to successfully mine a coin groups of users combine their resources into a mining ‘pool’, using the joint processing power of these computers to mine coins more quickly.

HunterCoin the game sits within such a blockchain for a digital currency also known as HunterCoin. The act of playing the overall game replaces the automated process of mining digital currency and for the 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 searching for coins and on finding some and returning safely with their base (other teams are out there trying 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 go to the miners maintaining HunterCoin’s blockchain plus a small percent of any coins lost whenever a player is killed and their coins dropped. While the game graphics are basic and significant rewards remember to accumulate HunterCoin can be an experiment that might be viewed as the first gaming with monetary reward built-in as a primary function.

Though still in development VoidSpace is 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 very own galactic empire. Players will undoubtedly be rewarded for mining in DogeCoin, a far more established type of digital currency which 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 means to make in-game purchases. Like HunterCoin, DogeCoin is really a legitimate and fully functioning digital currency and like HunterCoin it is usually traded for both digital and real fiat currencies on exchanges like Poloniex.

The future of video games?

Though it is start with regards to quality the release of HunterCoin and VoidSpace is an interesting indication of what may be the next evolution for games. MMORPG’s are being considered as methods 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 predicated on observations of how players use digital currency with real value. Additionally Bitcoin Evolution is an excellent test for the functionality and potential applications of digital currencies which have the promise of moving beyond mere vehicles of exchange and into exciting regions of personal digitial ownership for example. In the mean time, players now have the means to translate hours in front of 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 cannot be exchanged right to USD, one must convert it into a more established digital currency like Bitcoin. At the time of writing the exchange rate of HUC to Bitcoin (BC) is 0.00001900 as 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 new player becomes more adept that they could not grow their team of virtual CoinHunters and perhaps employ a few ‘bot’ programmes that could automatically play the game under the guise of another player and earn coins for them aswell but I think it’s safe to say that right now even efforts like this might only realistically result in enough change for an everyday McDonalds. Unless players are prepared to submit to intrusive in-game advertising, share personal data or join a casino game such as CoinHunter that is built on the Bitcoin blockchain it is improbable that rewards are ever apt to be a lot more than micro-payments for the casual gamer. And perhaps this is a positive thing, because surely if you receives a commission for something it stops being truly a game any more?