Fierce Battle Rages As Minecraft Developers Challenge The Game Industry’s NFT Love Affair

A fierce rift has developed between some of the world’s largest video game publishers and their staff over the adoption of NFTs and blockchain technology.

A fierce rift has developed between some of the world’s largest video game publishers and their staff over the adoption of NFTs and blockchain technology. Now a team of insiders wants to hold the industry’s crypto advocates accountable for introducing harmful consequences.

Studios including Square Enix Holdings Co., Konami Holdings Corp. and Sega, have expressed an openness to using non-replaceable tokens and blockchain technology in their games, spying on a potential for profit in an industry that typically struggles to monetize the products it creates. . Blockchain was a major topic of discussion at this year’s Game Developers Conference – an annual top-level gathering for creators – with companies promoting a decentralized future where players can buy a sword in one game and play with it in another.

But the disagreement between leadership and the employees who actually make the games is huge. Proponents who support the introduction of digital ownership in games visualize players stockpiling tradable merchandise or turning their hobby into an afterthought. But many developers say NFTs exploit gamers’ trust, creating tiered communities in games that benefit the wealthiest players while failing to address the risks of crypto scams and inherent environmental costs. Publishers such as Ubisoft Entertainment SA and Team17 Group Plc were forced to roll back or abandon NFT projects entirely this year after staff showered leadership with hundreds of scathing comments.

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Against this backdrop, an independent group of game developers, artists and employees of Minecraft creator Mojang Studios have joined forces to draft a pledge on digital ownership, calling on studios to fully educate themselves on the downsides of NFTs and cryptocurrencies. before being implemented in games. Signatories must pledge not to build games that create artificial scarcity and speculation, disproportionately benefit early adopters or wealthier players, or use energy-intensive and volatile cryptocurrencies.

“For us as game developers, NFTs are changing the meaning of what a game is, and that’s quite disturbing to us,” said Cory Scheviak, a Minecraft game developer who co-wrote the pledge with fellow Minecraft concept artist Mariana Salimena. “People can make all the side arguments they want about giving people jobs and the things they say are positive. But in the end, it was never really about players. It was never really meant to help people. It’s always about making as much money as possible.”

The pledge was published Tuesday by the eco-gaming group Climate Replay of Scheviak and Salimena, alongside a comprehensive guide to NFTs and their impact in the gaming industry, and also reflects input from the climate-focused wing of the International Game Developers Association, academics and Xbox Game Studios, whose parent company is Microsoft Corp. Mojang in 2014 for $2.5 billion.

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A spokesperson for Microsoft’s Xbox, which handles communications for Mojang, said the company “is aware and investigating NFTs, cryptocurrency and other emerging technologies, but has nothing to share yet.”

Among those who promised to sign the pledge prior to its publication are Totally Accurate Battle Simulator publisher Landfall Studios, Scheviak said, as well as a host of Mojang employees who did not contribute to the guide’s creation. Once live, it will be distributed to developers at most major studios for consideration.

reputational damage

The growth of play-to-earn games like Axie Infinity, which are typically blockchain-based and reward users for playing the game with special crypto tokens, is a particular concern for developers. Paula Angela Escuadra, a game researcher who co-chairs IGDA’s climate-focused group and contributed to Climate Replay’s guidebook, said the rise of Axie guilds — where crypto traders hire teams of players to earn tokens on their behalf — has inherent ethical risks with this emphasized kind of gaming.

“We now have access to more than 2.5 billion players and we have the opportunity to show them a world that could be different,” added Escuadra. “But in reality, play-to-earn and NFTs perpetuate the damage caused by the financial and economic systems we already have in the real world. It paints a portrait of a world that is still very much focused on making money. .”

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Axie’s $600 million hack last month also poses another risk: By taking more money from players, gambling companies are taking even more responsibility for ensuring the safety and relative value of those funds. Since the attack was made public in late March, the value of Axie’s AXS token – and with it players’ winning potential – has fallen by almost 40%.

Gaming aside, speculation in NFT trading has so far rewarded investors poorly: data from Nansen in March showed that, on average, one in three NFT sets had expired with little to no post-creation trading. Yosuke Matsuda, president of Square Enix, which makes the Final Fantasy franchise, told shareholders in January that he expects an “eventually straightening out” in NFT deal business this year, having already invested heavily in blockchain game development.

“The game industry has been under attack for its ethics for as long as it has existed. If you go all the way back to Pong, people said we were rotting kids’ brains,” said Grant Shonkwiler, a games consultant and former producer of titles like Fortnite and Doom. “Most of my friends in the industry are like, ‘Why would we want to sacrifice the goodwill we’ve built with gamers for this, or hurt the planet more?’”

Arun Agarwal
I am Arun Agarwal, a passionate blogger and gamer. I love to share my thoughts on games and technology through blog posts. I’m also an avid reader of books about history, philosophy, science-fiction, and other genres as well as an anime fan. I like reading books that give me new perspectives or help me think differently about the world around us.