Third-party NFTs in games are Web3’s latest unethical twist | Opinion

Say what you like about NFTs – and with the market around most of them currently in what could charitably be described as a catastrophic meltdown, everyone is certainly saying what they like – but the technology has, in its short, sordid period of limelight, achieved at least one thing that is quite remarkable.

Never before have I seen technology inspire video game companies to rush out to announce that they absolutely won’t use it; this industry is generally relentlessly neophile and ready to give a shot to almost any idea that comes from the tech pike, whether good, bad or indifferent, which makes the growing list of companies that have made statements publicly distancing themselves from NFTs in a particularly unusual event.

At a glance, the statement from the creator of Minecraft and Microsoft subsidiary Mojang this week largely falls into this category. It is, however, a little stronger than the statements of many other companies, taking the time to make specific arguments against the use of NFTs in Minecraft rather than just briefly reassuring players that there are no plans to put them. implemented, like other companies. have done.

Never before have I seen technology inspire video game companies to rush out to announce they absolutely won’t use it.

Mojang’s statement repeatedly references NFTs creating “scarcity and exclusion”, which goes against the company’s vision for Minecraft, and denounces the shift in focus towards speculation and investment as something that detracts from the joy of actually playing the game. These are not new arguments – these are precisely the criticisms that have been widely leveled at NFT business models and the concept of “pay to win” more broadly. ever since they started being talked about in video game circles.

Mojang’s concern that NFTs introduce a “haves and have-nots” paradigm that is contrary to their core gameplay and community principles is well-founded and applies to games far beyond Minecraft as well.

Indeed, the “haves and have-nots” paradigm is really the central promise of NFTs, whose proponents often breathlessly describe rent-seeking and profit-seeking behaviors in a way that makes it very clear that they view it as a desirable feature, and not like the black hole of entertainment and pleasure that it actually would be.

There is a very good reason behind Mojang’s decision to make such a strong statement and outline so clearly the main arguments against NFT integration, where other companies have generally avoided such direct engagement in the debate. That’s because Mojang’s statement isn’t really about their own plans for Minecraft: it’s about the company’s intention to crack down on third parties who have built NFT and NFT marketplaces on top of the platform. -Minecraft form. This activity has left Mojang in a nightmare situation in this regard, with the creation and integration of NFT into its game despite the company having no intention of doing so itself.

If a company voluntarily chooses to create NFTs based on its IP or connected to its games, that’s one thing. Most game companies seem to have given up on this altogether or lost interest in the idea after a failed first experiment – ​​the obvious exception at the moment being Square Enix, which decided this week to launch half-baked NFTs. months later most of the rest of the world decided it was a bullshit idea. But hey, if a company decides to dip its foot into these stagnant, polluted waters of its own free will, it’s entirely up to them.

It’s a totally different situation to wake up one morning to find that a third party has created NFT items and an NFT marketplace that’s built on top of your game, leveraging the openness of the game that was designed to encourage modders and content creators, not serve as breeding ground for self-proclaimed Web3 entrepreneurs.

Mojang’s concern that NFTs introduce a “haves and have-nots” paradigm that is contrary to their core gameplay and community principles is well-founded and applies to games far beyond Minecraft as well.

The question here is one of responsibility. If a company decides to get involved in NFTs for its games, it implicitly takes responsibility for the idea – if the company fails, if fans hate the idea, or if NFT buyers feel been scammed for some reason. online, the blame lies solely and squarely with the company that built the game, embedded NFTs into it, and minted and sold the tokens.

If a third party builds an unauthorized NFT system based on modifying a game to support NFT skins or models – or even to use the platform as a springboard for larger endeavors, such as some Minecraft NFT contractors l ‘ hinted – then both the control and responsibility was taken away from the creators of the game.

However, most gamers and watchers won’t make this crucial distinction between Minecraft and unauthorized third-party Minecraft NFTs; Mojang would be left with no control, no input, no direct accountability, and damn 100% blame if something went wrong.

If a company chooses to create NFTs, that’s one thing. This is a totally different situation than a third party creating an NFT market on top of your game.

The incentive for NFT creators to cling to a platform like Minecraft is obvious – in fact, the main NFT platform for Minecraft, an effort called NFT Worlds, has an entire page on its website explaining why she based her ideas on Minecraft rather than creating her own NFT game, which is to say that Minecraft is popular, familiar and open, while creating new games is expensive, risky and difficult.

Considering the huge problems with most other attempts at making NFT games, it’s perhaps unsurprising that someone would come up with the idea of ​​just sticking NFTs into someone’s popular game. other; Given the wild nature of the NFT space, it’s certainly no surprise that no one involved seems to have questioned whether this was a remotely ethical thing.

Minecraft is arguably the perfect storm for this type of endeavor – it’s a hugely popular game whose openness in terms of ease of modifying or adding content is a big part of its appeal to certain segments of its audience. . No other game with comparable popularity has a comparable openness – but that doesn’t mean other games won’t face similar challenges from overenthusiastic or simply unscrupulous NFT contractors.

Building an NFT ecosystem on top of the bones of an existing, easily moddable game is relatively easy fruit for those who are convinced that there are fortunes to be made in video game NFTs, especially now that the difficulty of building a half-decent game from scratch became clear to most of them (strange, isn’t it, how this minor fact escaped the notice of so many evangelists who presented themselves as video game experts explaining how NFTs would be the holy grail for all sorts of imagined problems with existing games).

With Minecraft now likely to aggressively police such behavior, attention will shift elsewhere and other gaming companies may find themselves forced to take a strong stance on this issue rather than simply staying above the NFT fray. .

Any company with an open-source or modder-friendly game — even an older game, given the recent boom in popularity of new mods built on classic games — will want to reconsider their terms and whether they allow it. Type of activity; lest you be held responsible for an NFT company you never wanted to be a part of in the first place.

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