NFTs (non-fungible tokens) and blockchain technology have become a big topic within the games industry in the past year or so. Many big companies have attempted or are still attempting to add NFTs. GSC Game World famously announced the STALKER Metaverse only to backtrack a few days later; Ubisoft introduced the first NFTs in a triple-A game to Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Breakpoint; Square Enix aims to eventually introduce 'story-focused NFTs' to its games; SEGA says NFTs are part of the future gaming alongside cloud services; and, last but not least, Tomonobu Itagaki just announced a PC MMO that revolves entirely around trading digital tokens.
That's not to say there isn't any opposition. Indie game store Itch.io publically stated they believe NFTs are a scam; Warren Spector, the creator of System Shock and Deus Ex, said they are ridiculous; Blizzard promised not to engage in any of that, and even Electronic Arts doesn't have current plans in the area.
A few days ago, Mark Venturelli (CEO of Rogue Snail, the studio behind the upcoming game Relic Hunters Legend) joined the chorus with a surprising talk delivered at Brazil's International Games Festival. The session's original title was 'The Future of Game Design', but Venturelli actually delivered an anti-NFTs talk, much to the dismay of some of the sponsors involved in the event.
Speaking to PC Gamer after the talk, Venturelli explained:
It was a bit of a gimmick. I start, 'Hey, this talk is about the future of gaming'. And then I start talking about it, and I say, 'Well, actually, fooled you!' This talk is not about the future of game design, because I start talking about all the trends that I've seen in my 15 years in the industry, and now we have new trends, let's talk about them. That's when I scratch the name of the talk and say, 'Why NFTs are a nightmare.'
I've heard that the sponsors got really mad. They tried to break into the talk while I was talking, but the organization would not let them. That doesn't surprise me, because the organization, not at a single point did they censor me, did they stop me from putting what I wanted on the slides. I gave them access to the slides before the talk. There was never any kind of intention on their side to shut me up or anything like that.
Venturelli also said that the idea of allowing players to get some real value by reselling game items once they're moving on to another game is not at all sound, as in such economies big groups would strangle individuals.
This is such a naive proposition. The expectation versus reality here is so bizarrely far apart because what's actually going to happen is that organized groups are going to operate and scale with ever-diminishing margins, and just push out everybody else. Because that's what happens. If you play EVE Online or Runescape, or any other game that simulates economy, that's what happens. Organized groups are going to fucking crush you. What actually is going to happen is that if you just naively play a game and have fun—imagine that—then you want to sell your stuff, your stuff is not going to be worth anything. It's gonna be worth fractions of a cent, but what you give in return for that fraction of a cent is that you're completely powerless now. Your fantasy, your ability to be impactful in the world as an individual is gone, because now it is controlled by these guys.
You can watch a recording of Venturelli's Why NFTs are a nightmare talk below, though beware that it is delivered in Brazilian Portuguese.