Publishers are having second thoughts about integrating NFTs into games amid backlash, controversy, and the concept’s possible decline.
With every economic boom comes an inevitable crash, and the NFT bubble is set to burst. Consumers are understandably wary of non-fungible tokens with rising awareness of the potential risks such investments involve. Like many new frontiers, the NFT market is going through some growing pains — wild speculation, fraud, scams and the heavy environmental toll of blockchain technology is scaring people off, including gamers.
Throughout 2021, several gaming publishers announced plans to integrate NFTs into new and existing games, and each one has met with a wave of backlash. A common comparison is drawn between NFTs and microtransactions, and while the latter has slowly been accepted as an inevitability, the former seems to be a step too far for most. These announcements have been almost unanimously unpopular among consumers, flooding twitter and forums with protests and heavy disapproval.
These crypto collectibles have already negatively impacted the gaming sphere, as the practice of farming cryptocurrency requires huge amounts of computer processing power. The rise in crypto farming was already increasing demand for computer hardware, made worse by the affect the global pandemic has had on supply lines. These factors have made computer hardware scarce, dramatically inflating the cost of parts like memory chips and GPUs. Even new consoles like the PS5 and Xbox Series X have been in short supply, and that doesn’t look like it’s going to be changing any time soon.
Major blows have already been dealt to NFTs in the gaming realm. Steam recently updated their guidelines to disallow any applications that issue or allow the exchange of cryptocurrency or NFTs. As one of the leaders in digital distribution services, Steam is a huge platform that could set a precedence for the rest of the industry. That being said, Epic Games has stated that they are open to hosting games that implement NFTs, though they have yet to announce any plans to mint NFTs of their own.
Thankfully, negative feedback seems to be effective in convincing publishers to think twice about pursuing NFTs. GSC Game World quickly backpedaled on their plans to include NFTs in STALKER 2: Heart of Chernobyl after the initial announcement was met with heavy criticism on social media. Sega was met with similar backlash. Despite Sega filing to trademark “Sega NFT” and “Sega Classics NFT Collection,” CEO Haruki Satomi expressed some hesitancy to use NFTs. In a December 2021 management meeting, Satomi said Sega would reconsider using NFTs after seeing the negative reception among fans. He expressed that if fans perceived the move to embrace NFTs as a simple cash grab, Sega should consider “letting go of the idea.”
Square Enix and Ubisoft haven’t hesitated, however. Both publishers have publicly insisted that they will be moving forward with their plans to pursue the use of NFTs in their games, much to the displeasure of fans and developers alike. While Square Enix’s plans are unclear at this time, Ubisoft Quartz has launched and is already off to a bad start. The company’s response to their fans’ lack of enthusiasm was less than sympathetic, with executive Nicolas Pouard claiming that users just “don’t get it.” Unsurprisingly, this hasn’t earned back any of the good will of Ubisoft’s fanbase.
Not everyone’s ventures into NFTs have gone poorly. Peter Molyneux’s Legacy has sold over $57 million worth of NFTs pre-launch, but it’s too early to tell if the “Blockchain Business Sim” will prove to be successful or sustainable. It wouldn’t be the first time Molyneux ran with an idea that turned out to be overambitious. Molyneux has a habit of making bold claims about product features that are noticeably missing in the end, as were the cases with Spore and the Fable series. Both IPs ended up disappointing fans who found the games lacked the depth that Molyneux had hyped up during development.
While Molyneux may not be running a scam, there are plenty of examples of those who are looking to take advantage of investors. Evolved Apes was supposedly a crowd-funding effort to launch the development of a fighting game based around the NFTs investors bought. The anonymous developer known only as Evil Ape vanished a week after the NFT launched, taking $2.7 million worth of Etherium with them. Without any warning the Evolved Ape twitter account and website went dark, leaving its investors behind without their money.
The good news is that despite the hype, NFTs could be seeing a decline in the near future. Search trends show a waning interest, and the many controversies that have emerged from the NFT market have made a bad impression on consumers. While businesses obviously care about profit, public perception is clearly important to drive that profit. With enough pushback, consumers may be able to convince publishers that NFTs are unwanted and unwelcome in their games.
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