Developers, including Totally Accurate Battle Simulator’s Landfall have begun signing an environment-focused anti-NFT pledge.
The pledge was set up by Climate Replay – a gaming-centred group made up of various developers raising awareness of the climate emergency – and six studios have signed it so far.
Alongside Landfall, KO_OP has signed the pledge (most known for the Lara Croft GO: The Mirror of Spirits expansion) alongside other developers Bearwaves, Godolphin Games, Cloudy Games LLC, and Brainless Labs. 127 individuals have also signed the pledge alongside the studios, featuring a mix of developers and fans.
Cory Scheviak, game designer and founder of Climate Replay, said the pledge has been well-received so far, and that developers see it, “as a way forward for the gaming industry to have a framework for responsibly implementing this technology. All in all, the response I’ve seen has been wholly constructive and well-received, both from fans of NFTs and critics,” he added.
NFTs aim to allow for ownership of digital items and some developers and publishers have already explored letting gamers own certain unlocks, such as Ghost Recon Breakpoint’s limited edition Quartz gear.
But implementing NFTs comes with certain gameplay risks, Climate Replay said on its website, as developers could alienate their player base, stop gamers just “playing for fun”, encourage bots, and more. More seriously, implementing NFTs and their blockchain systems (which track and allow the dealing of NFTs) requires serious energy consumption, and therefore emissions, that are also bad for the environment.
As a result, Climate Replay’s pledge is asking developers to only consider implementing NFTs if it’s right for the gamer and makes use of technology that doesn’t cause significant environmental damage.
Additionally, it says that implementing digital ownership technology should not: rely on unregulated cryptocurrency, disproportionately benefit early adopters or wealthier players, encourage informal jobs (grinding in a game solely to make money), or be implemented without full transparency.
The exploration of NFTs in games has been a widely controversial topic so far. Ex-Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aimé said last week that, while he’s a believer in blockchain technology, it has to be implemented to work for the gamer first.
“I bet I’d have some takers here today if I wanted to sell my Animal Crossing island from the latest Nintendo Switch version. I’d like to be able to monetise that,” he said. Though “it can’t just be an approach by the developer [who thinks] that it’s interesting or it’s a way for them to make more money.”
But that’s the problem according to executives at PlatinumGames (developers of Bayonetta and Nier: Automata), who said that companies investing in NFTs are doing so purely as money-grabbing schemes instead of player-focused incentives.
Specific developers who’ve received severe criticism for NFT implementation include Worms studio Team17, who announced a range of “MetaWorms” collectibles before cancelling it a day later, and the wave of backlash even prompted employees to speak out on their overall poor treatment.
Beating the 24 hour record, STALKER 2 developer GSC Game World announced and cancelled its NFT plans within an hour, saying that, “based on the feedback we received, we’ve made a decision to cancel anything NFT-related.“
NFTs were also banned from Steam as Valve president Gabe Newell said they were linked to “a lot of sketchy behaviours” and “out of control” fraud. This was reflected by smaller indie game marketplace itch.io, who called NFTs a scam and said anyone investing in them should re-evaluate their life choices.
Some companies such as GameStop and Ubisoft are sticking by NFTs though. The publisher’s aforementioned inclusion of NFTs in Ghost Recon Breakpoint – the “most expensive” of which could only be obtained after playing for 600 hours – was announced in December to further backlash, but executive Nicolas Pouard said that gamers just don’t get it.
“For now, because of the current situation and context of NFTs, gamers really believe it’s first destroying the planet, and second just a tool for speculation,” he said. “But what we are seeing first is the end game. The end game is about giving players the opportunity to resell their items once they’re finished with them or they’re finished playing the game itself.”
Ubisoft announced it was ending support for Ghost Recon Breakpoint in April 2022.
Battlefield and FIFA publisher EA, like Ubisoft, expressed early interest in NFTs, saying it thinks they’ll be “an important part of the future of gaming”. This had changed a few months later though as EA announced it was “not driving hard” in the direction of NFTs, though not necessarily ruling them out.
Ryan Dinsdale is an IGN freelancer who occasionally remembers to tweet @thelastdinsdale. He’ll talk about The Witcher all day.