Though not officially announced, a redditor discovered on New Year's Day that the Fortnite merchandise shop, Fortnite Retail Row, had added Monero as a payment option. The store has partnered with the cryptocurrency payment provider GloBee to accept Monero on Fortnite's behalf without "risk of price fluctuations." Shoppers can choose to pay using the privacy-focused coin via Retail Row's regular checkout process.
Riccardo "fluffypony" Spagni, lead maintainer of Monero, noted that Retail Row's acceptance of the cryptocurrency is part of Project Coral Reef. The initiative, funded by the Monero community and GloBee, was spearheaded by fluffypony and entrepreneur Naveen Jain to raise awareness of the coin.
But why was Monero the only coin included on Retail Row? Project Coral Reef is specific to Monero, but even other Monero community members have questioned why cryptocurrencies like bitcoin were not added as well.
When asked why bitcoin was not added, fluffypony responded, "Lack of privacy, but they're [the Fortnite store provider] considering LN [Lightning Network] because it restores *some* privacy to Bitcoin." Indeed, the team at Lightning Labs has suggested using atomic multi-path Lightning Network payments, which would break transactions into pieces and increase user privacy.
Fluffypony maintains that the Fortnite shop has "a number of options" when it comes to cryptocurrency, which includes Bech32-enabled bitcoin, a variation on bitcoin addresses that's purportedly less expensive to spend from and more resistant to typos. That said, fluffypony said the store is ultimately concerned with giving "users an alternative that is privacy preserving."
Privacy is an evergreen concern for institutions looking to integrate cryptocurrency into their payment models. That's partly why privacy coins, such as Monero, the zk-SNARK-based Zcash, and Dash, were created – not only to provide users with security when making transactions but also to give organizations the privacy they desire around blockchain-based activities.
It's important to note that Retail Row sells physical Fortnite-related merchandise. The shop is not an in-game marketplace for accessories and collectible items, such as skins. Fluffypony commented on the distinction, noting that "the checkout [process] is independent" of an individual's Fortnite account. In this way, gamers can discreetly buy merchandise without worrying about their "name[s] being tied to Fortnite purchases."
Although initiatives like Project Coral Reef seek to promote adoption of Monero, the coin's flavor of privacy does not sit well with some. For example, the Japanese crypto exchange Coincheck delisted three privacy coins, including Monero, on June 18. Moreover, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has indicated an interest in tracking anonymity-enhancing cryptocurrencies such as Monero.
But the DHS has a point. Monero has been the cryptocurrency of choice for some looking to mine crypto on the side or on the down low. In fact, torrenting website The Pirate Bay began to mine Monero using visitors' processing power, and a February 2018 Asian malware attack caused some Android devices to mine Monero without users knowing. Such actions would reasonably alert the DHS to the potential of privacy coins.
Despite the hesitation and scrutiny Monero has received, its inclusion on Retail Row represents greater adoption of cryptocurrencies more broadly, especially considering that Fortnite is a massively popular mainstream video game. As one redditor believes, "[T]hat's some pretty awesome adoption."