NFT is a term that has been creating quite the buzz over the past year. A concept that stemmed on the idea of an individual owning unique digital items that cannot be replaced. There have been various takes on NFTs both good and bad, and how an individual perceives NFTs may completely depend on their experience with it. So far, the concept NFTs have been applied in the fields of art, music and other creative medium. But the videogames industry is undergoing an internal conflict with the very idea of NFTs. Some see it as the future of the industry, while others see it as something that does not belong in games whatsoever. Why does this conflict exist, and where does it stem from? Let’s find out.
To understand this better we need to understand what NFTs are. NFTs, or Non-Fungible Tokens are digital items which could be anything, from an artwork, a music file or anything in between. The term fungible simply means replaceable, which implies that the items are unique and cannot be replaced with a copy for a similar value. The term token refers to a digital certificate of ownership that secures the value for that item, which is stored using blockchain technology. The idea is similar to that of owning an expensive original piece of art which goes for millions. Something that cannot be replaced by a copy and hold the same value. And here in comes one of the main points of contention. Unlike the piece of art found in a millionaire’s mansion, NFTs are not physical, tangible items. These exist digitally and are restricted to a life in pixel form. While this is a deal breaker for many, a group of people do exist that find it appealing. And as a result, you may find stories where a JPEG sells for millions of dollars.
If you’re wondering “Hang on a second. This is very similar to in-game purchase and microtransaction in videogames”, then you are correct. Well, mostly. The concept is very close to in app purchases in games, but NFTs do have the prospect of being solely owned by oneself and thus being sold to another if the owner so pleases. So, in theory NFTs and videogames seem like a match made in heaven, thanks to a large user base already used to the concept of purchasing digital items. And there are existing use cases to support this theory. There are games solely built on creating and selling NFTs launched not too long ago, that are raking in big money, valuing their companies past the billion-dollar mark. And this has been keenly observed by game publishers who have shared their enthusiasm on the prospect of NFTs being implemented in their games.
It all looks good for NFTs in videogames so far. But look closely and there is far more resistance towards NFTs than anything else so far in the history of videogames. For starters, the gaming community has been at odds with the creators of games over the notion of microtransactions and practices like loot boxes ever since the introduction of these concepts. There is still a strong community of gamers that does not support the idea of in-game purchases. It took many years of tweaking and balancing to get gamers to ease into the idea of microtransactions being part of the experience. Companies came up with AAA quality free to play games in order to support their live-service ventures. In many cases, a lot of measures have been taken to ensure that micro-transactions do not become a necessity in order to enjoy the game.
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Most often then not, the end-consumer is provided with a great value proposition out of the extra money they spend on games. Today, the resistance towards microtransactions may not be as big as what it was a few years ago, thanks to companies adapting to customer’s needs and finding the right balance between cost to customer and value of the game’s content. But there is still a downside to this where some games still have an unreasonable amount grind, making the game squarely built around microtransactions. Not to mention lack of new releases from once consistent studios. A franchise like GTA has not seen a new release since 2013 as its online component has been very successful.
All of these issues look magnified many folds with the implementation of NFTs. Given that the primary activity it is to transact using real money, the fear among gamers is that the whole idea of a game being a video game being played to have fun will be completely lost. And it’s not just gamers that share this sentiment. Game developers that fall under major publishers that have tried implementing NFTs in their game have been vocal in their stance against it. Ubisoft was the first to introduce NFT in it Ghost Recon franchise, which saw a less than stellar launch. The company had announced that NFTs will feature in its other franchises as well. On the flipside there have been rumours of its staff being vocal against the idea of NFTs, and addressing the issue with the management. There have also been instances of companies calling off their plans of implementing NFTs after major fan backlash.
In its current form NFTs are not in a welcoming place with videogames, and major game publisher are closely watching the trends, while some being more enthusiastic than others in its implementation. Is there place for NFTs in games? Sure! As mentioned earlier, NFTs and videogames do seem like a match made in heaven. And it can be true if implemented correctly. The existing success stories of companies that have built games solely around NFTs is a proof of that concept. However, the key difference here is that those companies and their games are not based on existing popular IPs that cater to the conventional gamer, but new original ones that target a different subset of audience. The resistance from the gaming community, both gamers and developers, stems out of the sentiment that games will no longer be fun to play if they are built around making money. Such was the sentiment during the advent of micro-transactions, but the industry eventually found an audience and its audience see value in the offerings today, while there are still gamers who only resort to single player experiences. NFTs are seen as a threat to games by many, but there is an audience that is curious. What companies need to do is create new IPs where the games are built around NFTs to find that audience and leave the existing IPs do their own thing and cater to its existing player-base. Will this happen? Only time will tell. For now though, NFTs in games seem like an interesting thing to watch out for. Hope it does more good to the industry and it’s consumers, than it does damage.
So, what do you feel about NFTs. Have you purchase any? Have you played any games that offer NFTs? Sound off in the comments.