Why gamers hate NFTs and what can make them change their mind

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I work in Web3 and hear a lot of hostility from traditional game fans towards NFTs and blockchain based games. Just mention that a game studio is experimenting with NFTs could cause social media feeds to be flooded with 140-character slack.

Game fans are known for their passion and occasional emotional reactions to change, but the source of this fear is worth investigating more deeply.

(For the purposes of this article, let’s define an NFT as a digital asset that uses its association with a cryptocurrency to track its provenance and is also listed on a marketplace or in conjunction with a playable virtual ecosystem.)

The history

In 2012, Electronic Arts (EA) was voted the most hated company in the world. They kept winning that prize over and over over the past 10 years, but only recently lost to companies like Comcast and The Trump Organization. The main reason behind EA’s low public opinion was also the key to EA CEO Andrew Wilson’s meteoric rise: loot boxes. Loot boxes are essentially virtual slot machines that randomly offer gameplay benefits and virtual items. To receive in-game bonuses, a player must redeem in-game tokens. (These are known in Japan as Gacha mechanics.)

In the beginning, players receive compositions and a plethora of loot boxes. However, once players are pulled deeper into the game, rewards become incredibly hard to come by without a serious commitment. That is, unless a player quickly follows the process by using real money to buy credits (and with it a digitally induced dopamine hit). Similar companies like King and Zynga have structured their entire product lines around this psychological Skinner Box

The community agrees that gaming used to be a system where a gamer had the full experience of a particular game upon purchase. Now, with downloadable content, loot boxes and microtransactions, the gaming landscape has irrevocably changed. A game can be given away for free, but developers have placed a vast majority of game content behind paywalls. There have been a number of iterations of loot boxes and microtransactions over the past 10 years, and some gamers have reluctantly accepted the practice, but only if it’s done deftly and doesn’t affect the player experience.

A few unspoken community rules for gamers have emerged:

  • The content available with the first purchase should contain the bulk of the experience.
  • Essential items should not be placed behind microtransactions.
  • A gigantic grind, or any kind of boring and repetitive game mechanics, shouldn’t be necessary to get around microtransactions.

It’s about the money

Even before the gaming market started creating virtual slot machines, gamers have always bent their wallets into virtual worlds as a form of status and identity. In World of Warcraft, the purchase of gold from third-party sellers was so widespread that Blizzard created a WoW Token which allowed players to convert real money into in-game currency. Likewise, Eve Online has had: plex as in-game currency since 2008. Plex can be redeemed for subscriptions to the game. As a result, Eve Online is not just a full-time economist for their virtual world, but also for news-grabbing headlines such as those around the $150,000 in-game heist

This isn’t the first time companies have tried to incorporate hard currency into Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs). Games like Entropia Universe and Habbo Hotel monetized their models and became famous for transitioning into neo-capitalist scam hellscapes† Roblox, the most successful source of inspiration for the current NFT gaming landscape, has multiple scandals related to the rampant abuse of third-party game development on its platform.

Hope is not a strategy

How does this backstory relate to NFTs? The message is that NFTs in gaming are inevitable. NFTs are the pinnacle of the gamification of trading and digital goods, built on an economic foundation built over the past decade.

The real question is not why NFTs occur in gamesbut how can NFTs add value to gaming? (as opposed to an extra cash grab)? Most NFT gaming companies lack real gaming mechanics and instead cater to speculators who ride the crypto price and tokenized market cap waves hooked up to the platforms. The most important rule for adding value to gaming with NFTs: the base game should be a truly engaging and collaborative experience where people are freely included, challenged and can create community.

With the exception of early indie open-source games, gaming has never been a “pure” experience without economy. World of Warcraft, for example, used a variety of psychological tactics to seduce players to get addicted to playing their game. When players eventually quit, World of Warcraft players would try to sell their accounts for real currency. When the fruit of a gamer’s labor can be correlated to real currency, it adds an element to the gaming experience rather than detracting from it.

How NFTs can be used to improve gameplay and gamer status

NFTs are a tool for verifiable ownership and often fulfill a primary need (and joy) for collecting and status, but like all tools, NFTs can be used for both good and bad purposes. The market must develop games that provide authentic experiences for players while providing compelling opportunities for gamers to earn NFTs that enhance and enhance the gaming experience. Emerging technologies such as AR + VR open up windows of opportunities for gamers to carry their NFT items in the physical or digital world. The interoperability of NFTs and metaverse avatars is developing rapidly, giving users the freedom to experience gameplay across platforms.

The art of storytelling in gaming is turning into a more interactive and all-encompassing experience.

Currently, the metaverse platform The sandpit creates an NFT ecosystem that makes it easier for people to build games and immersive worlds by turning a game’s components (the art, game mechanics, and animations) into NFTs. The blockchain-based Sandbox game offers a decentralized gaming ecosystem that enriches extraordinary creators developing assets and worlds through a tokenized economy. (Non-NFT games like Hytale have a similar mission but have no way to monetize their creator marketplace.)

Aiming to bridge games and NFTs is entirely possible. I remember playing the first version of DOTA on Battlenet, which has now grown into a multi-billion dollar industry. How long will it take for the first mass-adopted AAA blockbuster NFT game to be produced? When such a title and community arrive, will the company remain within the ecosystem that helped it exist, or will it, like Riot, branch out?

The next chapter of NFT-based gaming, like the entire NFT industry, is currently being written and the possibilities for creative disruption and responsible value creation are limitless.

Beaugart Gerber is the vice president of sales for noooan augmented reality company that has partnered with Disney, Redbull, and Warner Bros. and recently implemented a project with The Sandbox.

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