NFTs are hot. The art, fashion, and food industries have embraced them. So has Hollywood and professional sports leagues and stars. But there’s one group that isn’t interested: gamers. While some game developers are eager to implement NFTs, many are appalled by what they see as a greed-motivated cash grab.
Well-known brands like EA and Ubisoft received enormous backlash from the gaming community (including their employees). Critics argued that introducing NFTs into gameplay through play-to-earn (P2E) gaming would turn the recreational gaming world into a hyper-consumerist place gamers want to escape from.
Gamers are Skeptics
Blockchain games need to take a different approach to receive acceptance from the broader gaming community. Rather than presenting NFTs and other digital assets as a speculative earning opportunity, blockchain game developers should address problems their technology can solve.
The concept of digital goods isn’t new to the gaming community. The cash grab started in 2006 when Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion made in-game horse armor available for $2.50. In 2021, gamers spent $23B on microtransactions in PC games. Gamer demand for digital assets isn’t shrinking. Activision, the video game publisher responsible for Call of Duty, made $1.2B alone in Q3 2021 from in-game purchases.
The gaming community’s voracious market for digital assets makes scams and predatory tactics a prevalent industry problem. Fraudsters lure unknowing players into scams by offering free skins, a common occurrence on the Steam platform. When a fellow gamer offers a free skin or a quick way to rank up (like getting free V-bucks on Fortnight), gamers – especially the 20% under 18-years old – are likely to take the bait.
Scammers aren’t the only actors who want gamer money – game developers, especially those creating free games – need a way to generate income. These games make money through in-game purchases for items like skins or loot boxes. Because so many gamers are children, a growing number of concerned decision-makers are calling for more regulation. For example, a UK parliamentary committee recently argued that the government should ban loot box sales to children.
Given this context, is it any wonder why the gaming community is wary of engaging with blockchain games, platforms that promise to pay you after you make (you guessed it) in-game purchases? Shouldn’t we expect the gaming community to question NFTs, assets that appear to work like the loot boxes jaded gamers already resist?
What Can the Blockchain Offer Gamers (Besides Another Way to Spend Money)?
P2E games are a fast-growing crypto opportunity that would seemingly appeal to today’s typical gamer. Put simply, P2E games pay gamers cryptocurrency to play. But most P2E games have a high barrier of entry – you have to buy NFTs (sometimes hundreds of dollars worth of NFTs) to get started.
Recently, NFTs have managed to infiltrate traditional games as well, signifying that the concept goes beyond simply making money and the world of P2E. When these digital assets are tokenized, suddenly their in-game value extends beyond the confines of the specific game or platform it was made to be consumed on or in.
Gamers have a healthy skepticism about using NFTs and other digital assets as speculative earning opportunities. If blockchain game developers want in on a market of over 3B gamers worldwide, they should emphasize how blockchain technology and NFTs can solve existing problems instead of highlighting their money-making potential.
For example, gamers may spend an average of $100 in microtransactions in just one game annually. Purchased items become useless once a new version of the game comes out since their value depends on a central entity – the developer. NFTs can solve that problem by extending the life cycle and use cases for these assets. NFTs can allow an easy way to verify not only ownership of an item but they can also verify an experience.
Similar to PlayStation’s Trophies or Xbox’s achievement list, NFTs can represent a moment in time or display a special status or rank among the community. Gameplay experience can even be improved.
Just like some NFTs allow holders to access exclusive events or venues in real life, they can be used to keep highly skilled players in their own “locked” servers without creating the background infrastructure. Suddenly owning an old or outdated skin can show how long you have played the game, and can even translate to bragging rights.
Another common issue gamers face is difficulty vetting other players to build guilds or teams. Is it possible for gamers to use the blockchain as a place to maintain their gaming records? Gamers willing to turn their accounts across gaming platforms into NFTs creates a transparent record of ownership on the blockchain, a way to encourage recruitment into top-performing gaming guilds.
Let Gamers Lead
If blockchain game developers can prove their usefulness to gamers, they can also earn their trust. Eventually, P2E will seem less like a cash-grab and more like an opportunity most gamers have dreamed of since they first lost themselves in the worlds of Roblox, Super Mario, or League of Legends.
Exciting conversations about the metaverse are entering the mainstream, but gaming enthusiasts have tested the waters, adopted the technology, and lived the lifestyle for years now. Gamers understand the future of the internet because they push the limits of digital possibilities for fun.
That said, blockchain game developers should pay attention to the gaming community’s caution about NFTs. Competitive gamers go for gold, so when they finally accept blockchain technology into their world, you know you’re on the winning side.
Will Deane, is the founder and CEO of Rainmaker Games