ZBD enables Bitcoin winnings in Splitgate tournament.
Image Credit: ZBD
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ZBD, a game-focused fintech firm creating instant Bitcoin payments for gamers, has teamed up with 1047 Games to enable players to play the Portal shooter Splitgate for Bitcoin prizes.
Hoboken, New Jersey-based ZBD, formerly Zebedee, did all the heavy lifting to integrate Bitcoin payments into the free-to-play, player-versus-player shooter to deliver real-time Bitcoin rewards for tournaments and team battles on the PC version of Splitgate.
The collaboration between ZBD and 1047 Games offers something new for Splitgate enthusiasts, offering an enticing tournament prize pool of 0.5 Bitcoin (equivalent to around $18,000 at current market rates).
Gamers from the U.S. and Brazil competing in the 4-versus-4 team deathmatch tournament, commencing on December 10, and culminating in a grand final on December 22, will have a chance to seize these valuable rewards.
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ZBD’s technology in esports and competitive play will enable instantaneous Bitcoin payouts to participants as tournament winnings. The integration will provide instant sats — which are tiny fragments of Bitcoin — to gamers, presenting a novel competitive edge for Splitgate gameplay. For instance, players could earn sats for their in-game plays, such as hitting a headshot.
A limited beta warm-up ahead of the tournament, scheduled from December 2 to December 10, will allow participants to prepare for the main event. Interested gamers can register for the tournament via the dedicated ZBD and Splitgate Discord server, receiving comprehensive instructions on how to join.
One of the most significant advantages of ZBD’s technology is the immediate delivery of tournament winnings, an aspect often delayed for days or weeks in traditional competitive gaming circuits. While participation in PvP battles for a share of the Bitcoin prize pot is open to all without entry fees, contributions can be made for competitive battles.
Since its inception in 2019, 1047 Games’ debut project, Splitgate, has garnered over 18 million downloads across multiple platforms. The multiplayer shooter, known for its player-centric portal mechanics, redefines the FPS genre with its fresh gameplay approach.
Ben Cousens, chief strategy officer at ZBD, said in a statement, “We’re delighted to collaborate with Ian, Nick and the phenomenal team at 1047 Games to redefine the reward system in gaming and give players a revolutionary new way to experience in-game competition. For developers and publishers alike, this integration delivers a proven gamer retention model as evidenced by this partnership, and the additional 100-plus games powered by ZBD. With the ZBD-infused version of Splitgate, we’ve raised the bar for competitive gameplay by seamlessly providing Bitcoin rewards to gamers who demonstrate skill and loyalty.”
“We created the technology to let players compete in real time for Bitcoin,” said Cousens in an interview with GamesBeat. “We treat it as a real-time payment rail. Your phone vibrates and you are sent your winnings from the match. The really unique thing is all payments are real time and it doesn’t matter how big or small they are.”
About 25% of ZBD’s other gaming activity happens on the Cash App now, though many in this case can cash out their winnings by buying Steam gift cards or Splitgate gift cards.
“The reason we do all that is we don’t think Bitcoin needs to be front and center in the play experience,” Cousens said. “You get real-time access to competitive play for real money if that’s your thing.”
Cousens got to know Splitgate’s leaders after investing in them while he was at Lakestar.
“They have a real=time player base. But it has previously been a problem to have slow payments. When we do it on Bitcoin and the Lightning Network, it’s global out of the box. We handle all that behind the scenes. There are no minimums and no maximums,” Cousens said. “This is the future of esports as we can invisage it. It is democratized for anyone can access. They can self organize tournaments. They keep 99% of their earnings, with no unnecessary middleman. It reduces time to get paid.”
Ian Proulx, CEO and Co-founder of 1047 Games, commended the seamless integration of ZBD’s API into the PC version of Splitgate.
“With Splitgate, we’ve proudly carved out a reputation for creating highly innovative gameplay experiences and exciting iterations on an established genre and gameplay mechanics,” Proulx said in a statement. “While our studio is solely focused on our upcoming title, Splitgate continues to have a loyal and engaged player base. The ZBD team seamlessly integrated their API into the PC version of our game. Through our partnership with ZBD, we spotted the opportunity to reward our loyal players with something new, and once again demonstrate our commitment to experimentation and innovation in video games.”
Tournament winners will receive sats in their ZBD wallets, which can be instantly cashed out, spent, sent to friends, or redeemed for gift cards. ZBD’s innovative technology, supported by significant funding since 2019, operates atop the Lightning Network, enabling instant Bitcoin transactions and bridging the gap between virtual and real-world transactions.
Previously, ZBD was going after the market for rewarded gameplay in mobile casual games.
“We built an experience where if you don’t have money, you can open the casual app and earn money. Then you can use that to buy into the tournaments and you can see how far your own skill will get you,” Cousens said.
Cousens said ZBD was able to integrate the Bitcoin payments into the game without having much help from 1047, beyond the permission to do so. Splitgate also doesn’t need to be updated on Steam to enable the Bitcoin payments as it is a server side integration.
ZBD works behind the scenes to secure regulatory permissions, as skill-based gaming — where players wager real money in games of skill, not games of chance — is legal in 41 states. It makes sure it has necessary licenses and it does customer verification checks, implements geo fencing and deals with know your customer (KYC) anti-money laundering regulations.
This first tournament will be limited to the U.S. and Brazil. ZBD said that it is working to gain permission from game companies to implement competitive play with Bitcoin rewards.
“We live in an era where creators try to make a living and give up to 40% to 50% of their income to platforms,” Cousens said. “We charge 1%. This is a pioneering technology.”
About 100 other games currently use ZBD, mostly on mobile. The team has 70 people. I asked about dealing with bots in multiplayer, human-to-human games, as that has been the subject of litigation between Skillz and AviaGames. But Cousens said Splitgate’s devs have worked hard to provide anti-cheat technology using tech they acquired from an anti-cheat company. He isn’t worried about that as the company validates gameplay on the server and so Splitgate servers are a source of truth.
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