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Big Fish Partners With Coinbase to Accept Bitcoin in Online Games

Another vote of confidence for the digital currency.

Casual gaming company Big Fish is adding a new way for players to make in-app purchases in its games: Bitcoin, by way of a new partnership with the virtual currency exchange Coinbase.

Mobile payments are already processed by Apple and Google, so the change only applies to the Web portal, where Big Fish currently offers some 4,000 downloadable and in-browser games. Those Web games accounted for about half of the company’s $266 million gross revenue in 2013, according to a press release.

In an interview with Re/code, CEO Paul Thelen said Big Fish chose to embrace bitcoin to bring in new revenue from those who haven’t used or wouldn’t use the existing payment options, credit cards and PayPal. Plus, working with Coinbase saves the company a bundle on credit card processing fees.

About eight percent, or more than $10 million, of the company’s $133 million in Web revenue last year went to the credit card companies. Like other bitcoin processing companies, Coinbase offers a much lower fee: Zero percent for the first $1 million in payments processed, and an “extremely small” percentage for bitcoin payments after that, Thelen said.

Big Fish chose Coinbase over competing processing companies for technical reasons, he added.

“Their APIs were best suited for the way our transaction system was architected,” Thelen said.

Big Fish expects to be the third- or fourth-largest company of any kind accepting bitcoin, and is the second major online game company to do so. Zynga began testing the waters of bitcoin earlier this year by allowing FarmVille 2 players to use it to buy farm bucks.

Although the company won’t push the digital currency onto players who prefer to keep using credit or PayPal, Thelen said bitcoin is maturing to a point of greater respectability in the public eye. “Hacky” early companies, he said, are being edged out by more professional options that will make it more trustworthy.

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