Xbox and Windows users can now add money to their accounts with Bitcoin, the mysterious cryptocurrency that has made waves in the last few years for presenting the first, arguably viable, decentralized currency to compete with government-backed systems. The option to buy Xbox credit with Bitcoin was noticed and posted to Reddit by user shafnitz and subsequently confirmed by a help page on Microsoft’s commerce site.
The move makes Microsoft one of the largest tech companies yet to embrace Bitcoin, following Dell and Newegg’s lead from earlier in 2014. Microsoft began to quietly support the currency in recent months by adding a Bitcoin converter to its search engine, Bing.
According to Microsoft’s help page, Bitcoin cannot be used to purchase products directly at this time, but rather must first be used to add funds to a Microsoft account, which can then be spent on games, music, and videos from the Xbox, Windows, and Windows Phone stores (though not yet on physical merchandise). Bitcoin transactions are non-refundable and currently only supported in the United States. No word has been given about plans to roll the feature out in other countries.
While supporters of Bitcoin are generally thrilled about the announcement, Oxford economic sociologist Dr.Vili Lehdonvirta, speaking to TechRadar, cautioned against overestimating the announcement’s impact on the currency overall:
“Microsoft is the latest in a string of progressively larger firms to start engaging with Bitcoin. However, like many of the earlier adopters, my understanding is that Microsoft is not actually receiving Bitcoins itself, as it uses a partner that converts customers’ Bitcoin payments into dollars. This means that Microsoft itself will not be accumulating and thus spending Bitcoins, which somewhat limits the significance of this announcement. Microsoft is not entering the Bitcoin economy as such.”