Steam has stopped accepting bitcoin in payment for games. It’s blaming high transaction fees and logistical problems caused by the cryptocurrency’s extreme price volatility.
While one of the selling points of cryptocurrencies is no transaction fees, it is possible to pay a voluntary fee. This goes to the ‘miner’ that creates the relevant block and understandably many miners will give priority to transactions with a fee. That’s led to a situation where effectively the more you’re willing to pay for a bitcoin transaction, the quicker the payment is processed. That’s particularly relevant for online payments for digital games where a customer expects to be able to complete the purchase and download the game with little or no delay.
According to Steam, the transaction fees needed to make bitcoin a viable payment method were around 20 cents when it first started accepting payments; today the average cost is pushing $20, something that is unworkable given the value of the transactions for digital games.
It also says that the price volatility of bitcoin is making payments unsustainable. While the price has generally been rocketing, there have also been short but substantial swings downwards.
That creates the problem where a Steam customer trying to pay the equivalent of, say, $30 for a game will make a bitcoin payment. By the time the transaction is completed, the amount of bitcoin they paid (and Steam receives) may be worth substantially less or more than that $30.
The difference is often so great that Steam has to either issue a partial refund in bitcoin or ask the customer to make a top-up payment, both of which mean another transaction fee. In fact the price volatility is so great than in some cases customers have made a top-up payment, the bitcoin price has changed again, and the total amount Steam has received is still significantly short of the dollar value.
As a result, Steam says supporting bitcoin has “become untenable.” It says it may re-evaluate this decision at a later date.