Valve looks set to offer new ways to buy content on its PC gaming platform Steam, with hints of bitcoin payments found in the client’s translation servers.
Rather than directly trading bitcoins through Steam, it appears Valve will be using the third-party BitPay. This hypothetically saves Valve from having to do any internal conversion or calculation based on bitcoin’s current market value, and should make transactions smoother.
Valve already offers multiple ways to pay for games — credit or debit cards, PayPal, Skrill, top-up cards — so adding bitcoin isn’t a huge surprise. There is a possible hurdle for buyers though: wait times before getting your games.
An entry under “checkout_receipt_pending_bitcoin_long” — text that could be presented to consumers after completing a bitcoin purchase — reads “Your purchase is currently in progress and is waiting for confirmation of bitcoin delivery from BitPay. This process can take several minutes to a few days for confirmation. Valve will send an email receipt to you when payment is received for this purchase. During this time you may continue shopping for other games, though you will not be able to re-purchase any products that are pending in this transaction.”
This is likely because, unlike PayPal or credit cards, bitcoin payments aren’t instant. Although BitPay, like PayPal, essentially serves as a guarantor for customers while purchases are processed, Steam could be extra-cautious with accepting the virtual currecy, forcing a holding period before “releasing” a game to players’ account.
If Valve does indeed introduce bitcoin payments, some may already see it as too little, too late. In recent months, debate has risen over the future of the cryptocurrency, prompted at least in part by one developer saying it has already failed.
Saying a small number of people overwhelmingly control the system, which was meant to be decentralised precisely to prevent the pyramid structure of more conventional financial institutions, Mike Hearn wrote that the community, and more importantly, the technology underpinning bitcoin has failed. (Valery Vavilov, co-founder of BitFury, a bitcoin blockchain infrastructure provider and transaction processing company, disagreed.)
When or if Valve officially launches bitcoin transactions remains to be seen, but given Steam’s prominence among PC gamers and the overlap between that community and those using bitcoin, the payment option sure to find its fans.