Third-party NFTs in gaming are the latest unethical twist from Web3 | Opinion

Say what you will about NFTs – and with the market around most of them currently in what has been charitably described as a catastrophic collapse, everyone else is certainly saying what they like – but the technology has, in its short and sordid time in the spotlight, accomplished at least one rather remarkable thing.

I’ve never before seen a technology inspire game companies to scramble to announce they won’t use it; this industry is usually relentlessly neophilic and ready to slam almost any idea that comes up the tech pike, be it good, bad or indifferent, making the growing list of companies that have made statements publicly distancing themselves from NFTs, in a particularly unusual event.

In short, this week’s statement from Minecraft creator and Microsoft subsidiary Mojang falls squarely into that category. However, it’s a bit more strongly worded than many other companies’ statements, taking the time to lay out specific arguments against using NFTs in Minecraft, rather than just curtly assuring players that there are no plans to implement them, as other companies have done.

Never before have I seen a technology inspire game companies to scramble to announce they won’t use it

Mojang’s statement repeatedly referred to NFTs creating “scarcity and exclusion” that goes against the company’s vision for Minecraft, and condemned the shift in focus to speculation and investment as taking away from the joy of actually playing the game. These aren’t new arguments—they’re precisely the criticisms that have been leveled widely at NFT business models, and the pay-to-win concept more broadly, since they first started being talked about in video game circles .

Mojang’s concerns that NFTs are introducing a “haves and have-nots” paradigm that is antithetical to their core gameplay and community principles is well-founded and applies equally to games far beyond Minecraft.

Indeed, the haves and have-nots paradigm is indeed the central promise of NFTs, whose proponents often breathlessly describe rent-seeking, profit-seeking behavior in a way that makes it abundantly clear that they see it as a desirable feature, not a recreational black hole. and pleasure that would actually 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 when other companies usually avoid such direct engagement with 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 deal with third parties that build NFTs and NFT markets on top of the Minecraft platform. This activity has put Mojang in something of a nightmare situation in this regard, with NFTs being created and integrated into the game, even though the company has no intention of doing it themselves.

If a company chooses of their own free will to create an NFT based on their IP or related to their games, that’s one thing. Most game companies seem to have either sworn off it entirely or lost interest in the idea after a failed early experiment – the obvious exception at the moment being Square Enix, which this week decided to release some semi-finished NFT months after most of the rest world decided they were a bad idea. But hey, if a company decides to dip their toe into these stagnant, polluted waters of their own volition, that’s entirely up to them.

This is a completely different situation than waking up one morning and finding that a third party has created NFT items and an NFT marketplace that is built on top of your game, using the openness of the game that was designed to encourage modders and content creators , rather than serving as a breeding ground for self-styled Web3 entrepreneurs.

Mojang’s concern that NFTs are introducing a “haves and have-nots” paradigm that is antithetical to their core gameplay and community principles is well-founded and applies equally to games far beyond Minecraft

This is about responsibility. If a company decides to get involved in NFTs for their games, they implicitly take responsibility for the idea – if the venture fails, if fans hate the idea, or if NFT buyers feel they’ve been ripped off for whatever reason down the line. the fault lies solely and squarely with the company that created the game, integrated NFT into it, and mined and sold the tokens.

If a third party builds an unauthorized NFT system based on game modding to support NFT skins or models – or even uses the platform as a springboard for more ambitious endeavors, as some Minecraft NFT entrepreneurs have hinted at – then both control and responsibility are removed by the creators of the game.

However, most players and observers will not make this crucial distinction between Minecraft and unauthorized third-party Minecraft NFTs; Mojang was going to be left with no control, no input, no direct responsibility, and almost 100% of the blame if anything went wrong.

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

The incentive for NFT creators to get involved with 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 it turned its ideas to Minecraft rather than creating its own. own NFT game, all this boils down to is that Minecraft is popular, familiar and open, while building new games is expensive, risky and difficult.

Given the massive problems most other attempts at building NFT games have faced, it’s perhaps not surprising that someone would come up with the idea of ​​simply sticking an NFT into someone else’s popular game; given the wild west nature of the NFT space, it’s certainly not shocking that no one involved seems to have questioned whether this was a remotely ethical thing to do.

Minecraft is perhaps the perfect storm for this kind of effort—it’s a wildly popular game whose openness in terms of being easy to modify or add content to is a major 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 won’t face similar challenges from over-enthusiastic or simply unscrupulous would-be NFT entrepreneurs.

Building an NFT ecosystem on the bones of an existing, easily modded game is relatively low-hanging fruit for those convinced that there are fortunes to be made in NFT for video games, especially now that the difficulty of building a half-decent game from scratch has become clear for most of them (strange, isn’t it, how this minor fact has escaped the notice of so many evangelists posing as video game experts when explaining how NFTs will be the holy grail for any imagined problems with existing games).

With Minecraft now likely to aggressively police such behavior, attention will shift elsewhere and other gaming companies may be forced to take a firm stand on the issue rather than simply staying above the NFT fray altogether.

Any company with an open-source or mod-friendly game – even an old game, given the recent boom in the popularity of new mods built on classic games – will want to re-examine the question of their terms and conditions and whether they allow this kind of activity; so that you don’t end up being responsible for an NFT business that you never asked for.

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