Razer faces backlash after asking gamers to mine cryptocurrency for rewards

SoftMiner promises store credit in return for cryptocurrency mining -- but users have spotted the hidden costs.

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Razer has launched a new scheme touting store rewards in return for cryptocurrency mining, but the payoff may not be as good as you think.

Cryptocurrency mining is a means to gain virtual coins in return for power, made possible through a PC's GPU.

In the early days, this was how Bitcoin, one of the most well-known forms of cryptocurrency, was acquired. However, as these coins were mined, fewer and fewer were found in the wild, until the average user's power was simply not enough to mine effectively and profitably.

Since then, other coins have emerged which can, in some cases, be profitable to mine, including altcoins such as Monero (XMR) -- a cryptocurrency which is also often mined through web domains via malicious cryptojacking scripts.

This week, Razer launched a cryptocurrency mining project designed to cash in on the industry. Dubbed SoftMiner, the program harnesses a user's Windows PC power -- recommended as a minimum setup of a GPU of at least a Nvidia GTX 1050 or AMD RX 460 -- when a PC is idle.

In return for computing power, Razer is offering users Razor Silver, which is virtual credit that can be used to purchase games in the firm's online store.

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"The new app to put[s] snoozing machines to work, solving blockchain puzzles in the background in exchange for sweet, sweet Silver," Razer says.

Up to 5,000 users per week are supported and rewards are based on the computer power and bandwidth on offer. Razer has warned that earnings will be lower when there is "high traffic" on the application.

The scheme is the result of a partnership between Razer and GammaNow, a cryptocurrency software mining service which encourages users to mine in return for game-related rewards.

A Razer spokesperson told Motherboard that the cryptocurrency mined goes to the third party, and in return, Razer earns a fee. As such, the coins never appear in either Razer or the user's hands.

All of this sounds good on the surface -- put an idle PC to work, earn credit to buy new games. But do the benefits outweigh the advantages?

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Razer says that a user could earn up to 500 Razer Silver, on average, every 24 hours.

A $5 Razer gift card equates to 1500 Razor Silver in the company store. This means that each Razor Silver is worth roughly $0.003.

If Razor is to be believed, this would take three days of a GPU going full pelt to earn -- without taking into account the electricity cost to do so.

High-ticket items, such as games, cost far more. Tomb Raider: Shadow of the Tomb costs 98,000 Razor Silver; a Razer DeathAdder Essential mouse costs 51,000; Razer Kraken Pro V2 headphones cost 112,000, and the Razer Huntsman Elite keyboard costs 280,000 credits.

196 days, 102 days, 224 days, and 456 days each, respectively, to mine enough to purchase. In the latter case, the $199.99 keyboard is theoretically impossible to earn, as the Razor Silver earned by mining is only valid for one year.

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So, some items appear to be impossible to earn; the user must cover the additional electricity their PCs use for mining -- which may cost more than the credit on offer -- there is wear-and-tear on your hardware to consider, and if you simply have the desktop software in auto-mode to run in the background your PC's performance will be impacted and slowed down.

Suddenly, it doesn't seem like such a good deal, and SoftMiner has been met with heavy criticism across social media. Some have labeled the program a "scam," a "hustle," and "exploitive."

"Blockchain technology has many good and legit use cases -- it can promote accountability and transparency," one user said. "Yet, you picked one of the scammiest and shadiest way to implement it."

Other users have vowed to turn away from Razer products and remove software developed by the company, indicating a lack of trust prompted by the launch of the miner.

The software does not show users what they are mining, or how much. If they are interested in mining, directly doing so to gain altcoins which can be stored -- rather than in exchange for loyalty points which will eventually expire -- might be worth doing instead.

ZDNet has reached out to Razer with additional questions and will update if we hear back.

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