Indie game marketplace itch.io is the latest in a series of game companies to reject NFTs as part of their business. Like most announcements in the modern world, it was proclaimed from their Twitter account on February 5th. The Tweet reads:
A few have asked about our stance on NFTs:
NFTs are a scam. If you think they are legitimately useful for anything other than the exploitation of creators, financial scams, and the destruction of the planet the we ask that please reevaluate your life choices.
— itch.io (@itchio) February 6, 2022
It’s a nice, succinct, and conclusive statement regarding their stance on the matter. This kind of bold declaration is a promising trend of companies that want to distance themselves as far as possible from the NFT-scape and avoid customer backlash.
Thankfully, itch.io isn’t alone in its recent condemnation or rejection of NFTs. In a turn-around so swift it even embarrassed PS5 store shelves, Worms publisher Team17 back-peddled on their previous plans to integrate NFTs. They stated on their website and Twitter the following:
Team17 is today announcing an end to the MetaWorms NFT project.
We have listened to our Teamsters, development partners, and our games’ communities, and the concerns they’ve expressed, and have therefore taken the decision to step back from the NFT space.
— Team17 (@Team17) February 1, 2022
This was posted on February 1st, only a single day after they initially announced their MetaWorms NFT plans. But we don’t just have consumer backlash to thank for their reversal; developers inside Team17 expressed utter disdain and contempt for their initial eagerness in joining the NFT space. Aggro Crab Games (Going Under) and Playtonic Games (Yooka Laylee), who both developed games under Team17’s publishing arm, came out with these gems on Twitter:
— AGGRO CRAB (@AggroCrabGames) January 31, 2022
— Playtonic (@PlaytonicGames) February 1, 2022
Other gaming initiatives that have rejected NFT implementation include Discord, Stalker 2, EA, and prominent voice actor Troy Baker.
On the other end of the spectrum, companies like GameStop and Ubisoft have recently announced their intention to blaze trails in the NFT-verse. GameStop’s stance on the matter was made clear in a recent press release: “GameStop’s NFT marketplace, which is being built for launching gaming developer-focused NFT projects.” Okay, so they’re saying how developer-friendly it is, “… in-game, carbon-neutral economies in which gamers can buy, sell and trade in-game assets (e.g. digital real estate, swords, skins).” Oh, good, it’s environmentally friendly and consumer-friendly too! Yippee … Yeah, companies are starting to blow sunshine about how green NFTs are now. In addition to GameStop, Ubisoft’s recent announcement of their Quartz initiative, taking the form of cosmetic hats and armor in Ghost Recon: Breakpoint, also bows down to the knees of the NFT bandwagon. The video introducing Ubisoft Quartz was just recently unlisted on their official YouTube channel (we have the link for you here):
Jeez, talk about getting ratioed. Brutal.
The most comically arrogant NFT statement comes from SquareEnix president Yosuke Matsuda. He had a legendary New Years’ declaration, which was met with scorn and appropriate servings of ridicule unilaterally. The most egregious of the group of dystopian utterances was this cute nugget of brilliance:
“I realize that some people who ‘play to have fun’ and who currently form the majority of players have voiced their reservations toward these new trends, and understandably so. However, I believe that there will be a certain number of people whose motivation is to ‘play to contribute,’ by which I mean to help make the game more exciting. Traditional gaming has offered no explicit incentive to this latter group of people, who were motivated strictly by such inconsistent personal feelings as goodwill and volunteer spirit.”
Yeah, I… I’m just going to move on to the next part of the article and leave that there before I laugh myself into a coma again. Here’s the link to the president’s letter in full if you want a good laugh and cry.
For those who don’t understand what all the fuss is about regarding the controversy, let’s zoom in on what an NFT world entails. First, NFT stands for “non-fungible token,” which is just an interesting way to say a thing that has a niche non-standardized value. As you can already imagine, loot boxes and microtransactions in the gaming world are a close sibling to this new form of nickel-and-diming the consumer whale. Not only are NFTs actively consumer-hostile in a number of ways, but they’re also environmentally damaging due to the computational output required to compete in the ongoing “mining” arms race. To comprehend just how energy-draining NFTs are, take a look at the website of the Ethereum cryptocurrency used in NFT transactions. Ethereum.org has a page explaining the proof-of-work nature behind Ethereum’s energy consumption: “Since the right to mine a block requires solving an arbitrary computational puzzle, miners can increase their odds of success by investing in more powerful hardware. These incentives cause an arms race with miners acquiring increasingly power-hungry mining equipment. Ethereum’s proof-of-work protocol currently has a total annualized power consumption approximately equal to that of Finland and carbon footprint similar to Switzerland.”
As the debate about NFTs in the gaming space spirals on, we’ll most likely see more and more companies show where they stand on the issue. Consumer backlash and environmental concerns will no doubt continue to act as a deterrent going forward, which serves as further validation that speaking out to companies about concerns and bad practices is vital to positive change in the industry. Of course, plenty of companies continue to march to the beat of the investor trend drum at the expense of the vocal consumer. Whatever the side taken, the modern trends in crypto are starting to become more widely understood as more people begin to see past the mists of sparkly marketing and corporate-speak of these businesses.
For a more comprehensive idea of what NFTs and cryptocurrencies are in the gaming space, check out these highly informative webpages and presentations explaining in-depth what and where they came from, what they are, and what their implications are at large.