Bitcoin and the Pokémon GO phenomenon

Last week the world saw the launch of Pokémon GO, a roleplaying game for mobile. The latest installment in the Pokémon franchise quickly went viral and gamers around the world flocked to parks with their eyes glued to their screens to “catch ‘em all”.

Social media quickly filled up with screenshots and memes, news outlets had a field day and the subsequent rally in Nintendo’s share price is second to only one: the most recent Bitcoin price rally.

For us at Luno and others in the Bitcoin space, it’s been an interesting topic of conversation. For one, judgemental eyes have moved from those with their virtual money to those with their virtual creatures.

But does enslaving a race of virtual creatures have anything to offer the Bitcoin ecosystem, or vice versa? The emergence and overnight success of an augmented reality game such as Pokémon GO gives merit to the idea that mobile adoption and mobile gaming is still growing. Now, does the same “GO” for mobile payments?

The payment system within the game allows players to purchase virtual items to progress faster in their goal of catching all the Pokémon. Payments are made usually by credit card or prepaid voucher.

Although the Google Play Store and Apple App Store do not directly accept Bitcoin (…yet?), it is possible to buy prepaid vouchers with Bitcoin and then use these to acquire all the virtual gear you’ll need.

Mom and Dad may be much more willing to give you some Bitcoin than their credit card information. This enables minors and people without credit cards to participate in the virtual goods economy. Even if you do have a credit card, using Bitcoin to buy Play Store or App Store vouchers saves you from the risk of sharing your credit card details and other sensitive information online.



With its low transaction fees, Bitcoin is ideal for micropayments. This makes it an ideal payment mechanism for the purchase of digital content, like Pokéballs in this case.

Certainly it would be even more fantastic if Pokémon GO, or any of the countless other games with in-game economies would implement Bitcoin acceptance directly. Imagine going to the Pokémon store and purchasing your Pokéballs, incense and lucky eggs with Bitcoin in under 30 seconds. A straightforward integration with a Bitcoin wallet could turn this into an overnight success for Bitcoin.

Because Bitcoin is totally interoperable, players could then transfer any value earned in-game to other games that support Bitcoin (think Minecraft), or even spend it on real world goods. We’re already seeing posts on Craigslist from people offering to train your Pokémon. It would be perfect if one could pay these third parties for their services with Bitcoin earned in-game.

Until then, we Bitcoiners wait. One day we’ll catch ‘em all, on the moon.

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