The video game industry has never been shy about embracing new technology, but the speed at which publishers and developers have jumped on board the NFT hype bandwagon has been dizzying. Seemingly overnight, game makers announced how they plan to integrate the tokens into their product, with one eye on the metaverse and another on bigger revenue.
Players, however, have none of it. And this repression can have an impact.
The trickle of gaming companies moving away from NFTs that began in January is becoming a constant stream and threatening to become a flood.
EA is the last to pump the brakes. In November 2021, CEO Andrew Wilson said that NFTs “will be an important part [of] the future of our industry in the future. This week, during an earnings call with analysts, he backed away from that statement.
“The collection will continue to be an important part of our industry and the games and experiences we provide to our players,” he said. “Whether this is part of NFT and blockchain, well, that remains to be seen. And I think the way we think about it is that we want to provide the best player experience possible, and so we will evaluate that over time. But right now it’s not something we’re fighting against. »
On the same day, Team17, a highly regarded indie developer and publisher, abandoned his plans to create NFT collectibles for its long term Toward frankness, following an intense series of negative comments from almost every corner.
— AGGRO CRAB (@AggroCrabGames) January 31, 2022
Just a day prior, Team17 had trumpeted a partnership with Reality Gaming Group for MetaWorms, to create NFTs that would give fans “the chance to own a unique piece of video game memorabilia.” Fans hated it, as did business partners Aggro Crab Games and Playtonic Games, who used Team17 as a publisher for their games in the past, proclaiming they would no longer work with the company because of the move.
— Playtonic (@PlaytonicGames) February 1, 2022
It’s not just the studios that are backsliding. Troy Baker voice actorwho helped bring The last of us and Bioshock Infinite to life, had planned to launch an NFT line with VoiceverseNFT, a company that uses software to create and sell AI voiceovers. Apparently anticipating possible objections, baker said next to the ad, “You can hate. Or you can create. What will it be?”
On Monday, he was forced to eat those words.
Thank you all for your feedback and your patience. After careful consideration, I have decided not to pursue the partnership with VoiceVerseNFT. Intentions aside, I heard you and I apologize for accusing anyone of just “hating” by simply disagreeing with me.
— Troy Baker (@TroyBakerVA) January 31, 2022
Other high-profile game companies are staying out of the fray completely. Microsoft, Epic Games, and Valve have all said they won’t adopt NFTs in games.
Yet despite the three recent high-profile reversals, the industry hasn’t completely abandoned NFTs. Ubisoft, for example, continues to embrace the tokens, with one executive saying fans are “not getting what a digital secondary market can give them.” (Ubisoft, btw, has earned a reputation as the publisher that most ardently pursues and evangelizes any kind of new technology in hopes of becoming a leader in this field.) And GameStop still intends to launch your own NFT marketplacein partnership with Immutable X to create a fund for game developers valued at “up to $100 million”.
Player objections to NFTs are two-fold. Environmental impact is certainly a factor, but most gamers think it’s just the latest way for game makers to get them to pay more to enjoy a title – an extension of microtransactions, game boxes loot and other monetized practices that have become part of the modern gaming landscape.
The problem, however, is that (right now) the loudest protests come from the most hardcore gamers. That’s enough for publishers to slow their turnover, though it may not be enough to make them abandon NFTs entirely. The general public is much more accepting of inconveniences like microtransactions when properly framed – and this might just be the first trick of NFTs in games. (Ubisoft, for example, says it has seen people sign up for 10,000 digital walletsdespite minting only 3,000 NFTs for Breakpoint from Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon.)
These first experiences with games and NFTs could be an opportunity for publishers to see where the limits of players are. And armed with that knowledge, publishers could resurface the technology in modified form down the road. (Sceptical? Advertising in games, you may recall, sparked similar outrage…and is now commonplace.)
There is, however, one thing that could prevent this: Microsoft is leading an industry charge for the transition games to a subscription model– and its acquisition spree lately is forcing Sony to react. Charging players a monthly fee (which can sometimes be adjusted), instead of a fluctuating amount per game, could result in a wider distribution of revenue for publishers and platforms. And maybe, just maybe, it will stop game makers from chasing the siren call of instant NFT riches.