Virtual Currency Games

Every little boy’s (and several grown men’s) dream of making a living by playing video gaming is edging closer 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 another 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 been slowly gaining in maturity both in terms of their functionality and the financial infrastructure that enables them to be utilized as a credible alternative to non-virtual fiat currency. Though Bitcoin, the 1st and most well known of the crypto-currencies was made in 2009 2009 2009 there were forms of virtual currencies found in video games for a lot more than 15 years. 1997’s Ultima Online was the first notable attempt to add a large scale virtual economy in a casino 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 game though it did mirror real world 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 though it was prohibited by the game’s designer to also sell virtual items to each other on eBay. In a real world phenomenon which 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 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 in love with 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 the real world 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 on the globe, somewhere within Russia and Bulgaria and its 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 to date whereby it’s virtual currency, the Linden Dollar which can be used to get 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 10 years between 2002-13, Second Life having turn into a marketplace where players and businesses alike could actually 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 property to other players. Examples such as Ailin are the exception to the rule however, just a recorded 233 users making a lot more than $5000 in 2009 2009 from Second Life activities.

How to be paid in dollars for mining asteroids…

To date, the ability to generate non-virtual cash in video gaming 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 life creative skill or business acumen that could be traded for cash. This may be set to improve with the advent of video gaming being built from the ground up around the ‘plumbing’ of recognised digital currency platforms. The approach that HunterCoin has had is to ‘gamify’ what is typically the rather technical and automated process of creating digital currency. Unlike real life currencies that 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 which 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 nothing more than 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’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 is made whereby using specialist hardware and software they ensure that data is not tampered with. This is an automatic process for miner’s software albeit an extremely time consuming the one that involves a lot of 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 being an incentive to help keep maintaining the network, thus is digital currency created. Since it can take anything from several days to years for a person to successfully mine a coin groups of users combine their resources into a mining ‘pool’, utilizing the joint processing power of these computers to mine coins quicker.

HunterCoin the game sits within such a blockchain for an electronic currency also known as HunterCoin. The act of playing the game replaces the automated procedure for mining digital currency and for the 1st time makes it 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 with 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 into their own digital wallet, typically an app designed to make and receive digital payments. 10% of the value of any coins deposited by players go to the miners maintaining HunterCoin’s blockchain and also 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 take time to accumulate HunterCoin is 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 asteroids and trading them for goods with other players with the purpose of building their own galactic empire. Players will be rewarded for mining in DogeCoin, a far more established type of digital currency that is currently used widely for micro-payments on various social media sites. DogeCoin will also be currency of in-game trade between players and the means to make in-game purchases. Like HunterCoin, DogeCoin is a legitimate and fully functioning digital currency and like HunterCoin it could be traded for both digital and real fiat currencies on exchanges like Poloniex.

The future of video games?

Though it is early days 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 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 may be surmised that eventually in-game virtual economies could possibly 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. It is also a good 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 example. In the mean time, players will have the methods to translate hours before a screen into digital currency and dollars, sterling, euros or yen.

But before plateforme de trading en ligne quit your entire day job…

… it’s worth mentioning current exchange rates. It’s estimated that a player could comfortably recoup their initial registration fee of 1 1.005 HunterCoin (HUC) for joining HunterCoin the game in 1 day’s play. Currently HUC can’t be exchanged right to USD, one must convert it into a more established digital currency like Bitcoin. During 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 account would equate to… $0.01 USD. This is not to say that as a player becomes more adept that they cannot 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 state 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 game such as CoinHunter that’s built on the Bitcoin blockchain it is improbable that rewards are ever likely to be a lot more than micro-payments for the casual gamer. And perhaps this is a good thing, because surely if you receives a commission for something it stops being a game any more?