In the space of a mere two weeks, in-game NFTs have suddenly become a lightning rod in the gaming industry. Non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, are in-game items with blockchain-verified ownership, which is a novel concept in the gaming world. However, both game developers and gamers are already pushing back on the concept, despite its nascent status. Many appear to see NFTs as simply a more pernicious version of loot boxes and micro transactions, with the argument being it is just a way for developers to coax more money from their customers, instead of something that actually makes games more immersive or enjoyable.
The first signs of resistance are coming from Ubisoft developers, according to Kotaku. This is quite notable since the company was the first one out of the gate with a new platform it calls Quartz, which would allow gamers to acquire free NFTs from in-game activities. Though the initial launch of Quartz was only in one game, Ghost Recon Wildlands, gamers were so pissed Ubisoft ended up de-listing the launch video from YouTube, but still ended up launching the platform. While all this was happening, Ubisoft employees were privately grousing about it on the company’s internal communication platform, with many wondering what problem NFTs were solving, and whether Ubisoft would eventually mandate its inclusion in all titles across the company. Messages viewed by Kotaku included, “I still don’t really understand the ‘problem’ being solved here,” wrote one employee. “Is it really worth the (extremely) negative publicity this will cause?” Another asked, “How can you look at private property, speculation, artificial scarcity, and egoism, then say ‘yes this is good, I want that, let’s put it in art?’” One forlorn developer summarized the situation by saying, “I normally try to stay positive on our announcements but this one is upsetting.” So far, there has been no clarification from Ubisoft about its future plans for NFTs in other games in its portfolio.
Another company that faced a massive backlash was GSC Game World, which is creating S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chernobyl. The developer recently announced the inclusion of NFTs into its upcoming title in a lengthy tweet, which was eventually deleted, but saved by The Verge. In the tweet, the developer wrote that they decided to include some “NPC faces” as the initial NFTs, and acknowledged, “some of you thought we would go a bit too far from here.” Despite going to great pains to inform their audience they had every intention to “Do NFT right,” the company eventually relented to online pressure, announcing in a tweet they were removing NFTs from the game completely.
Over at Microsoft, Phil Spencer, who is the company’s head of gaming, recently told Axios that they are still trying to wrap their collective heads around this new phenomenon. “What I’d say today on NFT, all up, is I think there’s a lot of speculation and experimentation that’s happening, and that some of the creative that I see today feels more exploitive than about entertainment.” Microsoft is in a similar position as Valve Software, in that it controls a game downloading platform, and can choose which games are allowed onto it, and which ones aren’t. For its part, Valve has already banned NFT and blockchain-related games from Steam, but Spencer says they haven’t figured out where the line is drawn just yet. Summarizing his views, he noted, “I don’t think it necessitates that every NFT game is exploitive. I just think we’re kind of in that journey of people figuring it out.”
On the other side of the coin, there was the news this week that Peter Molyneux’s new game, Legacy, sold over £40M worth of NFT “land” for the yet-to-be-released blockchain-based business sim. People were able to buy these virtual plots of land in the game’s universe using cryptocurrency, and the pieces of land allowed them to form business associations and invite other players to be their business partners. Given the amount of money involved here, for a game that isn’t even released yet, it appears that at least some gamers are not only not upset by this type of novel transaction, they are embracing it, and are eager to join the fray. Whether that will be the case across other titles and genres seems unlikely given the resistance it’s generated thus far.
- Ubisoft Will Add NFTs to Games Starting with Ghost Recon Breakpoint
- Peter Molyneux’s New Game Has Already Sold £40M Worth of NFTs
- El Salvador Wants to Build a Volcano-Powered Crypto City