I've been messing around with bitcoins a lot lately. I'm putting all four cores of my 570 into mining, playing blackjack with what it spits out, and stock piling that into real cash. I've been waiting for a real game to take advantage of it for a long while now.
Apparently there's a thread on the Steam forums where a bunch of people who knew nothing about bitcoins ranted about what a bad idea it'd be for Valve to accept the digital currency, but I have to differ. It would cost them a few hours of labor to implement, and then payments they get with that option would save them ~2.5% on transaction fees. It converts into meat-space dollars without much hassle. I think it'd be a mutual win for Workshop users.
There is a game out there called "Dragon's Tale" or something. It's essentially a casino with weird novelty games. While that's *an* approach, I'd like to see something closer to the MMO model.
Say the game costs ~$15USD worth of bitcoins a month to play. 25% of those bitcoins go into a kitty. Higher level the monsters have a bigger the chance to have to access that money. The amount of money the monster drops is also dependent on level. To pull some numbers out of my butt, say they have a .0025%/level chance to drop .000000001 btc/level. Odds of the game losing money is very slim, assuming the number of mobs killed per pay cycle is controlled.
Now, since vendor trash would have a real world value, you'd eliminate it. Anything a mob drops can be used for crafting. The auction house gets a standard 5% cut of all sales (additional revenue stream) and enterprising players can make real, bill paying money off of other players. I think the game's economy should be open - players can withdraw and deposit bitcoins from external sources at will.
One last twist: since MMOs aren't graphically intensive, the client could double as a mining client, and the game could double as a mining pool. This means players earn some bitcoins just from staying online. Albeit not as much as they might if they were running their PCs as dedicated miners. The bitcoins earned in this way would be stored in a separate wallet. The player could choose to pay for the game out of this wallet, deposit funds into their character's account, or transfer it into their external wallet to do whatever with. Traditionally mining pools also keep a cut for themselves, which is a third revenue stream.
The cool part about this is the game makes money while the user generates bitcoins, and the user will likely spend those bitcoins on the subscription or for in game items - creating more revenue. From the player perspective, they're playing for free (or at a discounted rate), or at least getting free loot. Since the game's economic focus will be on player-to-player trade, the game shouldn't feel too sleezey.
One thing I was worried about with this idea is rampant inflation. However, since the players are essentially using real money, they'd likely withdraw any significant piles of income to spend out side of the game (or to feed back in via subscription fees).
So we have a game that could theoretically be profitable. We have a model where some players could make money from the game, which if executed properly, would draw more players to the game. Now I just need a fun game. I have an idea for a 3 faction pvp based MMO with some novel mechanics, but I'm not a game designer. When it comes to balancing HP/Mana/damage/abilties/etc I'm hopelessly lost.
Since professional baseball money+a AAA game isn't enough to get an MMO out the door, I guess this business model is for someone with the fiscal means of shipping a game.