Valve's Steam, the digital distribution platform which enjoys near-monopolistic control of the entire PC gaming industry, has stopped accepting bitcoins as a form of payment due to the currency's volatility and increasingly unacceptable processing fees.
Regarding the volatility (Bitcoin stands at around $13,000 United States dollars today but it fluctuates significantly and often), Valve said this is problematic in part because Bitcoin's value is only guaranteed for a set period of time. Even though volatility remains problematic, removing transaction fees could make purchases in cryptocurrency much more palatable for consumers.
As per the announcement, the reasoning behind this decision is two-fold: rising transaction fees and bitcoin value volatility. The speculative frenzy has at times created massive lag in the already inherently limited speed of transactions across the Bitcoin network and jacked up processing fees.
"The amount it can change has been increasing recently to a point where it can be significantly different", wrote Chinn.
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Some Bitcoin wallet services can also be slow to broadcast transactions, and take hours, instead of minutes, Walpole said.
When Valve started to accept Bitcoin as a payment method last April, the value of the cryptocurrency was at $450, as pointed out by Ars Technica. "The high transaction fees cause even greater problems when the value of Bitcoin itself drops dramatically".
Explaining the motivating factors behind the move, Valve pointed out that Bitcoin transaction fees have shot up to as much as $20 per transaction, "compared to roughly $0.20 when we initially enabled Bitcoin". If the user then needs to either pay more money, or receive a refund from Steam, they are hit with another costly transaction fee from Bitcoin.
Second, the volatility of bitcoin makes it hard to be certain that you're receiving good value.
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At the time of writing, the price of one Bitcoin was just shy of $14,000.
As a result, Valve said support for Bitcoin has become "untenable", but it said it might reevaluate the cryptocurrency's fit into its business at a later date.
Valve has not announced if they will ever allow the use of cryptocurrencies on Steam again, but for now users should plan alternative options for payment if they were only using Bitcoin. In both cases the once-negligible transaction fees would be at the customers' expense.
We will continue working to resolve any pending issues for customers who are impacted by existing underpayments or transaction fees.
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