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Games-mart Steam halts Bitcoin payments

Hyper-volatility means transaction fees can hit $20 – if they go through before the price of Bitcoin changes

Online games-mart Steam has stopped accepting Bitcoin payments.

A Wednesday post from the service said the cryptocurrency's volatility made it just too hard to use.

“Historically, the value of Bitcoin has been volatile, but the degree of volatility has become extreme in the last few months, losing as much as 25% in value over a period of days,” the post stated.

That's a problem because “When checking out on Steam, a customer will transfer x amount of Bitcoin for the cost of the game, plus y amount of Bitcoin to cover the transaction fee charged by the Bitcoin network. The value of Bitcoin is only guaranteed for a certain period of time so if the transaction doesn’t complete within that window of time, then the amount of Bitcoin needed to cover the transaction can change.”

“The amount it can change has been increasing recently to a point where it can be significantly different.”

If that happens, Steam either asks the punter if they want a refund or if they want to send more Bitcoin. In either case, “the user is hit with the Bitcoin network transaction fee again”.

And those fees have soared: Steam said they had hit “$20 a transaction last week (compared to roughly $0.20 when we initially enabled Bitcoin).”

The posted therefore concluded that “At this point, it has become untenable to support Bitcoin as a payment option” but left open the option of revisiting the cryptocurrency in future.

Steam's actions suggest that Bitcoin's booming value may make the cryptocurrency less useful in the real world. Whether the cryptocurrency's investors want to use it there is another matter entirely. ®

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