Say what you like about NFTs — and with the market around most of them currently in a catastrophic meltdown, everyone else is surely saying what they like — but the tech has made it out of the limelight in its short and dirty time , at least accomplished something quite remarkable.
Never before have I seen a technology inspire game companies to announce that they absolutely will not use it; This industry is usually relentlessly neophile and willing to give just about any idea that comes up on the technological spit a chance, be it good, bad or no matter what makes the growing list of companies publicly distancing themselves from NFTs a particularly unusual event.
At a glance, this week’s statement from Minecraft inventor and Microsoft subsidiary Mojang falls largely into that category. However, it’s worded a little more forcefully than what many other companies are saying, and takes the time to make specific arguments against the use of NFTs in Minecraft, rather than just briefly assuring players that there are no plans to implement them like other companies have done to have.
Never before have I seen a technology inspire game companies to announce that they absolutely will not use it
Mojang’s statement repeatedly references NFTs creating “scarcity and exclusion,” which clashes with the company’s vision for Minecraft, and denounces the shift in focus to speculation and investment as something that detracts from the enjoyment of actually playing the game. These aren’t new arguments – they’re the very criticisms that have been widely leveled at NFT business models and the concept of “pay-to-earn” since they were first discussed in video game circles.
Mojang’s concern that NFTs introduce a haves and have-nots paradigm that contradicts their core gameplay and community principles is well-founded, and applies equally to games well beyond Minecraft.
Indeed, the have-have-not paradigm is the central promise of NFTs, whose proponents often breathlessly describe for-profit, for-profit behavior in a way that makes it very clear that they see it as a desirable trait and not the entertainment and pleasure hole that it actually would be.
There is very good reason for Mojang’s decision to make such a strong statement and so clearly outline the core arguments against NFT integration, where other companies have generally shied away from such direct involvement in the debate. That’s because Mojang’s testimony isn’t really about their own plans for Minecraft: it’s about the company’s intent to take action against third parties who have built NFTs and NFT marketplaces on the Minecraft platform. This activity has put Mojang in something of a nightmare in this regard, as NFTs have been created and integrated into its game, although the company itself had no intention of doing so.
When a company voluntarily chooses to create NFTs based on their IP or in connection with their games, that’s one thing. Most game companies seem to have either sworn off the idea altogether or lost interest in the idea after a failed early experiment – the obvious exception at the moment being Square Enix, which decided this week to launch some half-baked NFTs months later Most of the rest of the world decided they were a crap idea. But hey, if a company decides to voluntarily dip its foot in these stagnant, polluted waters, that’s entirely up to them.
This is a very different situation than waking up one morning to find that a third party has created an NFT article and marketplace that builds on your game and leverages the openness of the game designed to accommodate modders and creators of content, not serve as a breeding ground for self-proclaimed Web3 entrepreneurs.
The question here is one of responsibility. When a company decides to get involved with NFTs for their games, they implicitly take responsibility for the idea — if the company flops, if fans hate the idea, or if NFT buyers feel like they’ve been ripped off down the line for whatever reason The sole blame lies with the company that developed the game, integrated NFTs into it, and minted and sold the tokens.
When a third party builds an unauthorized NFT system based on modifying a game to support NFT skins or models — or even using the platform as a springboard to more ambitious endeavors, as some Minecraft NFT entrepreneurs have suggested – then both control and responsibility were taken away from the developers of the game.
However, most players and observers will not make this crucial distinction between Minecraft and unauthorized third-party Minecraft NFTs; Mojang would have no control, no influence, no direct responsibility and almost 100% blame if anything went wrong.
When a company decides to create NFTs, that’s one thing. This is a very different situation than a third party creating an NFT marketplace on top of your game
The incentive for NFT developers to cling to a platform like Minecraft is obvious – in fact, the main NFT platform for Minecraft, a project called NFT Worlds, has an entire page on their website explaining why they are developing their ideas applied to Minecraft rather than developing its own NFT game, all of which boils down to Minecraft being popular, familiar and open while creating new games is expensive, risky and difficult.
Given the tremendous problems encountered by most other attempts to build NFT games, it’s perhaps not surprising that someone would consider simply plugging NFTs into someone else’s popular game; Given the Wild West nature of the NFT space, it certainly comes as no shock that nobody seemed to question whether this was even remotely ethical.
Minecraft is arguably the perfect storm for this kind of endeavor – it’s a hugely popular game whose openness to easy modification or content addition is a big part of its appeal to some segments of its audience. No other game of comparable popularity has comparable openness – but that doesn’t mean other games out there don’t face similar challenges from overzealous or just plain unscrupulous wannabe NFT entrepreneurs.
Building an NFT ecosystem on the bones of an existing, easily modifiable game is relatively low-hanging fruit for those who believe there is fortune to be made in video game NFTs, especially now that it’s a difficult one building a halfway decent game most of them have a scratch clear to them (strange, isn’t it, how that little fact has escaped the attention of so many evangelists who posed as video game experts when they declared that NFTs are the holy grail for all sorts imaginary problems with existing games).
Now that Minecraft is likely to aggressively monitor such behavior, attention will turn elsewhere, and other game companies may be forced to address this issue decisively, rather than just ignoring NFT combat entirely.
Any company that has an open-source or modder-friendly game out there – even an old game, given the recent boom in popularity for new mods that build on classic games – will question their terms and whether they allow it, want to reconsider Type of activity; Lest you be blamed for an NFT deal you never wanted to be involved in.