Zynga Links Up With BitPay For A Bitcoin Payment Test In FarmVille 2, CityVille And Other Web Games

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Gaming giant Zynga has started to accept the cryptocurrency as a payment option for those buying tokens for virtual goods on the web versions of FarmVille 2, CastleVille, ChefVille, CoasterVille, Hidden Chronicles, Hidden Shadows and CityVille. It makes Zynga the first major gaming company to accept Bitcoin.

Zynga posted the news first on Reddit rather than release an official announcement. It is calling this a “test” being run in partnership with BitPay — the startup backed by the likes of the Founders Fund and Li Ka-shing that is vying to be the “PayPal of the Bitcoin world.”

“We wanted to share with the r/bitcoin community that Zynga Inc. (NASDAQ: ZNGA) is now conducting a Bitcoin test with BitPay (https://bitpay.com/), a leading Bitcoin service provider, in select Zynga.com web games,” Zynga wrote in a post on Reddit.

“In response to Bitcoin’s rise in popularity around the world, Zynga, with help from BitPay, is testing expanded payment options for players to make in-game purchases using Bitcoin. The Bitcoin test is only available to Zynga.com players playing FarmVille 2, CastleVille, ChefVille, CoasterVille, Hidden Chronicles, Hidden Shadows and CityVille. The games can be accessed at http://zynga.com.

“Zynga is always working to improve our customer experience by incorporating player feedback into our games. We look forward to hearing from our players about the Bitcoin test so we can continue in our efforts to provide the best possible gaming experience.”

We have tried buying tokens for the games ourselves and confirm that Bitcoin is coming up as an option in the UK — meaning that it’s likely that this is a global rollout.

We have reached out to Zynga to ask whether it plans to extend this to other games — namely those on mobile and its real-money gambling effort, currently live in the UK.

On the mobile front, considering that Zynga has a huge business on iOS devices, extending Bitcoin acceptance there could prove problematic, considering that Apple has recently shown that it does not support Bitcoin transactions.

Up to now, Bitcoin has not made much headway in the world of gaming, although it is seeing some traction in online gambling, where one Bitcoin-wielding player netted a $1.3 million win on one Bitcoin-based gambling site.

One of the attractive points about Bitcoin compared to more established currencies and payment platforms is that transaction fees tend to be lower than those of platforms that transact in more established currencies like dollars.

The deal is a nice coup for BitPay, which in December said it had processed $100 million in transactions in 2013. The startup has largely grown on the back of partnerships with merchants to process payments for things like electronics, precious metals, “and other low-margin products.” These merchants, the company has said, see “a large increase in profitability by accepting Bitcoin payments.”

That should come as good news for Zynga, which is focused on cutting costs while it grows revenues. The company was once a rising star with big social gaming hits like Farmville that people played via Facebook.

More recently, it’s fallen on harder times with a massive drop in users — its last quarterly report noted that daily active users were halved to 30 million compared to a year ago, with falling sales alongside that — as consumers flock to newer casual games and newer experiences from other publishers like King.com and Supercell.

The company has been trying hard to shore up its business and recover, appointing Microsoft veteran Don Mattrick as its CEO to replace founder Mark Pincus, laying off staff, and shuttering unprofitable games. In that vein, adding Bitcoin acceptance may not translate into billions more in sales, but it could give the company a little burnish of good PR among investors for being an early mover and innovator, as well as a boost of credibility among Bitcoiners who might come to play on the platform as a result.

(With thanks and H/T to Daniel Z.)