Bitcoin. For the vast majority of us, it’s just an internet buzzword – a bit like lolcats, the dark web, and trolling. However, Satoshi Nakamoto’s landmark invention is now almost as important to commerce as fiat currencies like dollars and the British pound. Notably, Bitcoin recently became the first currency in human history to out-value gold, albeit briefly.
But what is it? For all its popularity, Bitcoin remains shrouded in mystery, a situation that isn’t helped by the reams of jargon (the “blockchain” is the source of Bitcoin’s renown) and the fact that Nakamoto disappeared from the cryptocurrency community in 2010. He hasn’t been seen since – the press has enjoyed “unmasking” the inventor, however.
Bitcoin is a type of money based around the trading of data, rather than notes and coins. All transactions are stored in a database – the blockchain – that’s distributed across thousands of different computers. As every computer has access to the same information, and records are continuously verified, it’s impossible to defraud the blockchain.
Put another way, a fraudulent record inserted at point A on the blockchain would stand out because it doesn’t match the identical data sets held at points B and C.
Bitcoin has been around since 2008 in some form or another, beginning with a white paper released to a niche mailing list and blossoming into a currency accepted at Expedia, Tesla Motors, and Domino’s Pizza. It’s even possible to go into space using Bitcoin – all $200,000 worth of it – with Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.
So, what does all that mean for the entertainment industry?
Predictably, the first companies to accept Bitcoin for goods and services were in some way related to technology, with video gaming arguably the most significant. Steam, Microsoft, Kinguin, Big Fish Games, and Zynga all accept Bitcoin; in fact, the only gaming brands without official support for Bitcoin are Nintendo and Sony. It is possible to buy gift cards for their respective stores with Bitcoin through third-party sites like eGifter, however.
In a similar vein, the online casino niche includes some of the earliest adopters of Nakamoto’s currency. A brand like Vegas Casino carries roulette, poker, and a range of slot machines playable only in Bitcoin. It’s a bold decision but Vegas Casino provides ready access to a money exchange service for players who visit now but lack the requisite cryptocurrency.
The most important service on earth – Netflix – has also been associated with Bitcoin in recent months following chief exec David Wells’ comment that it “sure would be nice” to get the currency onboard to solve issues surrounding payment methods in Latin America. The same logic was behind Valve’s decision to adopt the cryptocurrency for its Steam platform.
Bitcoin made in-roads into US cinemas last summer following the release of the movie Dope, a film that uses Nakamoto’s invention as a plot point. Almost a thousand theaters of the AMC and Regal brands began accepting Bitcoin through GoCoin, a payment processor, and online ticket seller, MovieTickets.
As a final point, there are also a fair few documentaries and movies out there for anybody interested in the Bitcoin concept, such as Bitcoin: The End of Money as We Know It (2015), The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin (2014), and Banking on Bitcoin (2016).