Valve is preparing to implement Bitcoin support on Steam, numerous reports today suggest. The digital currency is likely to be a payment option quite soon, too, if screenshots taken from Steam's private developer forums are accurate.
"We are excited to announce that Steam is going to start accepting payments via bitcoin," reads the announcement (via PCGamesN). "We’re using an external payment provider to process Bitcoin payments to help partners reach more customers on Steam.
"Bitcoin is becoming an increasingly popular online payment method in some countries, and we’re enabling a system that insulates partners from risk and volatility while still providing value to the end customer."
Steam will charge the user based on the current value of Bitcoin in their region – so it's not an exciting new way for Australians, for example, to bypass common region-specific cost increases. For developers and publishers, no action is required: they'll continue to set their prices according to whichever currency they prefer, and Steam's external payment provider will operate the currency conversion automatically.
Meanwhile, the external payment provider will also convert the Bitcoin back to local currency on Valve's end. "At no time does Valve receive or hold Bitcoin," the announcement insists.
Interestingly, the use of Bitcoin in Australia could lead to consumers side-stepping local GST costs, due to the government's view that Bitcoin is "akin to a bartering arrangement". According to Australia's tax website, "there will be no income tax or GST implications if you are not in business or carrying on an enterprise and you simply pay for goods or services in Bitcoin." While Australians don't pay GST on Steam purchases at the moment, they're likely to do so starting next year.
It could also throw a spanner in the works regarding regional consumer protection laws, which cost Valve a lot of money recently.