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Play Games, Win Bitcoin With THNDR Games CEO Desiree Dickerson

Company Name: THNDR Games

Founder: Desiree Dickerson, Jack Everitt, Greg Flor and Rafal Gawel

Date Founded: Originally founded in 2019 | Re-launched in 2021

Location of Headquarters: London, UK with remote team members

Amount of Bitcoin Held in Treasury: “Not enough” (said Dickerson jokingly)

Number of Employees: 6


Public or Private? Private

Desiree Dickerson believes that games are a powerful way to onboard people to Bitcoin.

She posits that, in recent history, games have been used to get people accustomed to using new technologies.

“They put games on the original PCs to get users familiar with a mouse,” Dickerson told Bitcoin Magazine.

“This is similar to Snake and Nokia,” she added, explaining that the game Snake was added to early Nokia feature phones “to get users familiar with the Nokia handset.”

Dickerson sees games playing a similar role when it comes to getting people used to using bitcoin on the Lightning Network.

This is why, in 2021, she helped launch a revamped version of THNDR Games, a company that has developed a suite of mobile games through which users can win sats just for playing.

And she was the perfect person for the job considering both her background as both a gamer and her experience in working with the Lightning Network.

Dickerson’s History With Gaming And Lightning

Dickerson has been gaming since she was a child.

“I grew up gaming with my dad,” she recounted. “He had NES, and I grew up playing Duck Hunt with him.”

While she’s been exposed to a variety of different games over the course of her life, as her dad had “every single gaming console,” she said that she currently thinks of herself as a “cozy gamer” and that she isn’t into more consuming (and frightening) games like HALO.

“It just has to be absolutely mindless like picking weeds in Animal Crossing,” said Dickerson with a chuckle of her current gaming preferences.

Not only does Dickerson have a long history with gaming, but she’s also been involved with the Lightning Network since just about its inception.

She began working at Lightning Labs in June 2018 and stayed there for three years before starting at THNDR Games.

Dickerson met THNDR’s original founder, Jack Everitt, while she was still at Lightning Labs. She’d come to the realization that gaming was a way to spread bitcoin, and Everitt, a gaming developer, was already hard at work developing THNDR.

The two started working together on a project called MintGox (a play on the defunct Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox) in which they showcased what companies like ZBD, Satoshi’s Games and Donner Lab were building in the Bitcoin gaming space.

By October 2021, Dickerson was CEO at THNDR.

Building THNDR Games

In the following years, THNDR rolled out 6 games, all of which were more akin to cozy games than they were to extended-play first-person shooters or other types of games that required more prolonged involvement.

These games included Club Bitcoin: Solitaire, a classic Solitaire game; Tetro Tiles, a combination of sudoku and tetris; and Bitcoin Snake, a version of the aforementioned Snake.

By September 2022, Club Bitcoin: Solitaire was the 21st (the numerical significance of which wasn’t lost on the THNDR team) most downloaded app in the Apple App Store.

In October 2023, River’s Lightning Network report highlighted the fact that THNDR was responsible for 3% of the Lightning Network’s transaction growth.

Even with this success, though, Dickerson and the team at THNDR still worried that it might not be enough to make the business as profitable as they wanted it to be.

“I think the problem that we saw was that we’d launched these mobile games and they were semi-successful, but does this really scale as a venture-backed company?” Dickerson shared.

“We started thinking ‘Hey, we’ve created this new genre of Bitcoin reward games, but does it really solve a problem?’” she added.

While pondering these questions, Dickerson and the THNDR team looked to the broader online gaming space and found a dimension of it that was ripe for disruption.

Gambling and Skill-Based Wagering: Clinch and THNDR’s Next Frontier

In their research, Dickerson and the THNDR team found that the payment system for virtual casinos and online sports betting was antiquated and full of friction.

“Payments in those spaces is just completely broken,” explained Dickerson. “There are super-slow withdrawals, high fees and not a lot of flexibility with buy-in and withdrawal thresholds — and Bitcoin solves that.”

So, THNDR shifted its focus to developing a system that employed the Lightning Network’s near instant settlement time as well as its ability to process microtransactions in efforts to solve the payment problems it had discovered.

In October 2023, THNDR launched Clinch, an API that facilitates instantaneous, borderless, low-fee, and peer-to-peer wagering on Lightning. Using Clinch, online casinos, sports books and competitive gaming platforms could level up their payment systems.

THNDR also built its own skill-based wagering version of Solitaire that lets users bet notable sums of money.

“You couldn’t become a millionaire playing our [original] Solitaire game, but you can now if you start doing the skill-based wagering,” said Dickerson (not necessarily encouraging users to bet more than they can afford to lose).

“85% of our users actually requested it, and it really uncaps the monetization potential of not just Solitaire, but a suite of different games,” she added.

(To provide some context for just how much monetization potential it unlocks, Dickerson shared that the most successful company with a skill-based Solitaire game makes $25 million per month from that one game alone.)

THNDR is also looking beyond the business-to-customer (BSC) model, as it works to create white label solutions — pre-built products that a company develops and then sells to another company which then uses the product under its own name — especially for sports betting platforms.

“It’s an engagement and retention tool specifically for sports betting because, in between matches, users just leave the app because it’s like, ‘Okay, this game’s not gonna be finished for like another two hours. I’m just gonna close the app. There’s nothing to do,’” explained Dickerson. “They wanna keep people in the app and keep them betting on more things.”

Beyond Bitcoin

The team at THNDR is also looking at which other assets they can use within games.

“We’d love to explore Taproot assets or other assets and like stablecoins,” Dickerson told me.

However, don’t expect to see THNDR employing tether (USDT) on Tron anytime soon.

“Users don’t actually need to see the Bitcoin piece,” began Dickerson.

“They can bet in fiat or USD, and it all happens on Bitcoin. I’d love to expose them to bitcoin, but it’s really the properties of Bitcoin that are solving the payment issues in sports betting and skill-based wagering,” she explained.

With that said, Dickerson and the team at THNDR have hardly become fiat maximalists. They’re Bitcoiners at heart and one particular element of THNDR’s design proves it.

Disappearing Sats — For Your Own Good

Dickerson said that many THNDR users end up going down the proverbial Bitcoin rabbit hole, in part because THNDR prompts them to.

“We have a three day expiration on prizes, and if you don’t cash those prizes out, you lose them,” said Dickerson.

“You have to download a [Lightning] wallet if you want your prizes. We are getting people partially down the rabbit hole where they’re getting a wallet on their phones. This is a big step, because 80% of our users are totally new to Bitcoin,” she added.

Dickerson added that THNDR will happily refund sats to those who’ve had theirs expire. She mentioned that users can contact THNDR to make this request.

With that said, she also noted that THNDR could have very easily written into the terms and conditions of its service that the sats that disappear after three days are gone forever. The reason it doesn’t, though, is because it wants its users to learn how Bitcoin and Lightning actually work, not just maximize profits.

“We just want people to cash out and have the sats for themselves,” said Dickerson. “That’s not a business move — it’s a Bitcoiner move.”

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