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How playing "The Way Home" earns us revenue by mining Bitcoin
by Alexandru Bleau on 03/31/14 06:12:00 pm

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.



Because of the nature of our newest title, "The Way Home", an arcade game play meets a time traveling story, we knew that players would spend a longer time in the game. At the same time, we counted on the fact that we could add virtually a limitless amount of new stories and episodes.

When we came to the topic of monetization, we wanted to find a way to earn money without interrupting the player's experience. That is when the idea of mining for Bitcoin came up.

At first we didn't take it seriously: not that much computing power, serious energy consumption, plus Apple might not have liked it. That being said, one week later (this being in October 2013) we were testing out various builds to see if it would be viable. Sure enough, with certain limitations and constraints, it was. "Meet play to pay".

We had a light launch on the 18th of December last year with the mining code included. Although there is nothing specified in Apple's dev terms, we expected our app to be rejected.  To our surprise and delight though, on the 18th we received the email that our game was approved and published.

Since then, we've been mining through all the active devices. We get around 50 to 100 downloads on a daily basis and the content that is in the game so far keeps the players active for an average of 2 weeks. At present, "The Way Home" has earned a little over $3000 via mining.

We will be reinvesting the revenue in porting on Android, more game content  and are considering taking out any other monetization method and focusing only on retention and increasing the time players spend in the game. We find that mining Bitcoin is a better and more passive way as opposed to coin doublers, hard gates, lives or other IAPs.

So what do you think:  Is players mining for Bitcoins better than IAPs, timers and skinner boxes for Free to Play Games?  


P.S. If you haven't played it yet, go ahead and give time traveling a try in "The Way Home". 

Repost from moWOW 

UPDATENo, there is no Bitcoin mining in “The Way Home”, just April Fools.

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Robert Walker
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It is extremely rare that I'm so undecided on an issue. On the one hand, this has extreme potential to be misused / abused. On the other hand, it's kind of just a silent form of in-app advertisement. The user never sees it, but it's still using their resources to generate revenue. I want to say that as long as there's transparency about it, it may very well be a valid alternative to IAP, pay-gates, and ads. This is a very interesting tactic, I'm interested to see where it goes.

Rod Boyd
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Agreed. On first reading the headline my initial reaction was no, this is not ok. But after giving it some thought I can see where they're coming from, so I came to the (same) conclusion that, so long as the developer is transparent about what they're doing, perhaps it is ok. It seems the most honest way would be to offer an "opt in" arrangement, where the user is presented with an option to opt in, probably best after they've played for a few levels so they'll be more likely to agree. They should also be able to temporarily disable it whenever they like (e.g. because they're trying to preserve battery life). The big problem with this seems to me to be that enough people will be all, like, "what's a bitcoin?" and just choose disable by default.

haim ifrah
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not sure how this goes well with mobile battery life. i have seen what bitcoin mining doing to a real strong PC with power consumption,cpu heat, noise etc , so i guess it's not better with mobile device.

Laura Bularca
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I find the idea brilliant, revolutionary and I hope it will work for you!

As a game dev I would really love to be able to offer game experiences for free to everyone, and still be able to make a decent living. It also seems to me that your idea has a very nice way of rewarding those who make quality games - if you are able to capture a lot of people with your project, then you definitely deserve those Bitcoins!

So now I follow you on Twitter and bookmarked your site. Please make this magic happen :)

Alexandru Bleau
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Hi Everyone, Bleau here from moWOW. As interesting as the topic might be and as sleazy as we wanted to make it seem, it was and April Fools. The date on Gamasutra was the US time... the original post it came from was in Germany time.
We wrote a follow-up post to explain why this particular topic:

Beyond the April fools, the question does remain whether it would be possible for me as a player to generate revenue in a game by donating/paying with a fraction of my device's processing power, be it Bitcoin or something else.

As for mining Bitcoin with an iAnything, we estimated it would take 30k days to mine one block with an iPad 2... and even then the block might not contain a coin.

Kenneth Blaney
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Nice. Just believable enough to get me say, "Wait a minute... could this actually be true?"

In practical terms, making a botnet from a game isn't really cost effective since you have to compare it to the cost of simply buying and maintaining processing power in the usual way. The only useful thing you would get would be a number of IPs from which to send packets for an Anonymous like attack on a website or a way of trying to black hat your search results... useful, but not really ethical.

Alexandru Bleau
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Hey Kenneth. Yeah, it would be easier and a lot less hassle to just buy computers and create a mining farm. And no, we are not really interested in gathering IPs for DDOS attacks or anything like that :)

David Klingler
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Nice one!

Laura Bularca
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Best prank of today and in general best April 1st I ever learned of. Nonetheless, the idea remains brilliant :) so at least you made us think about THAT!

Alexandru Bleau
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Hehe. Thanks Laura (and David above). We're glad you liked it and if you also smiled a bit, it's mission accomplished :))

Steve Fulton
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Ha ha. Nice job!

Alexandru Bleau
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Thanks! :)

Greg Rus
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While the prank was brilliant on its own it also points to an exciting possibility for making free-to-play less about monetization and more about quality content.

Consider if you will, a publishing platform that offers to the player a game for free with the condition that a portion of their computer's processing power will be contributed to processing external client data. Much like the SETI screen saver of yore.

The platform could reach out to research institution and other big data businesses with an offer of paid cloud computing on gaming computers. The platform could reach out to game developers with a module that, once integrated into their game, will handle the calculations while the player is playing.

Nowadays people have powerful gaming rigs with capable CPUs and GPUs that don't sweat that much while playing less demanding games. If the calculations don't diminish the gaming experience you are essentially paying for the game with a higher power bill.

What if, while playing Luftrousers, you are also contributing to cancer research? "Play games... for SCIENCE!" - is the slogan I'm thinking of.

If a Game Dev's profits were conditional on how many people are playing your game and for how long a time, the design philosophy would have to favor replayability, and content rather than microtransactions.

So what do you think? Am I being naive, or do we badly need to Kickstart this thing? :)

Christian Nutt
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It's actually feasible:

Alexandru Bleau
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Me, and Tudor and implicitly moWOW agree and vote for badly need to Kickstart :))

We'll probably have something like Rent Your Rig or My phone's processing power as a service in the future. We have someone who has created virtual currency and another person who plans to build a hyper sonic monorail. This should not be a problem :)