Mojang has finally weighed in on NFTs in Minecraft, and the official word is: they’re out.
Minecraft is the best-selling PC game ever with a vast playerbase that’s ripe to be funneled into an NFT-fuelled metaverse. But Mojang has released a statement (opens in new tab) pointing out that the ‘NFT mentality’ detracts from the essence of what gaming is about. And as a result, it won’t be supporting them or any blockchain technologies in the game.
It also highlights the inherent problem many people have with NFTs. Which is that their value can disappear like a fart in the wind. This is big news at a time when publishers and developers are choosing a side. On the one hand, we’ve got companies like Square Enix embracing NFTs with its recently announced partnership (opens in new tab) with NFT ecosystem Enjin. And on the other, Mojang telling NFT bros to get bent. And the NFT-lovers aren’t too happy about it.
Why is Minecraft banning NFTs?
First off, it’s important to note the language at play here, which allows room for backtracking somewhere down the line. Mojang says that “integrations of NFTs with Minecraft are generally not something we will support or allow.” Implying there may be some exceptions.
Not wanting to close the door on any future opportunities, it adds that it’ll be “paying close attention to how blockchain technology evolves over time to ensure that the above principles are withheld and determine whether it will allow for more secure experiences or other practical and inclusive applications in gaming.”
But for now, it’s not on the table, for a few reasons. The first is that it flies in the face of inclusivity, with Mojang feeling like it creates “a scenario of the haves and the have-nots.” Of course, there’s the financial side of things crapping all over the core gameplay experience too. “The speculative pricing and investment mentality around NFTs takes the focus away from playing the game and encourages profiteering, which we think is inconsistent with the long-term joy and success of our players.”
Reliability of third-party NFTs are also flagged, which opens players up to getting scammed:
“We are also concerned that some third-party NFTs may not be reliable and may end up costing players who buy them. Some third-party NFT implementations are also entirely dependent on blockchain technology and may require an asset manager who might disappear without notice. There have also been instances where NFTs were sold at artificially or fraudulently inflated prices.”
And of course, here’s Mojang pointing out the obvious problems in its breakdown of what NFTs are all about:
“The purchase of an NFT provides the token that states the ownership of the original digital file. Yet, with any digital file, that file can be copied, moved, or even deleted. NFTs and blockchain have also been associated with speculation, where prices are driven up rapidly and as we have recently seen, may fall rapidly.”
So based on all of that reasoning, Minecraft won’t be hopping on the NFT bandwagon, stating in no uncertain terms that “blockchain technologies are not permitted to be integrated inside our Minecraft client and server applications nor may they be utilized to create NFTs associated with any in-game content, including worlds, skins, persona items, or other mods.”
Why are NFT supporters disappointed?
Minecraft bringing the hammer down on NFTs is kind of a big deal. As metaverses go, it’s a massive one with access to the malleable little minds of millions of kids. And the rest of us grown-ups too, of course. Fortnite is busy creating its own version of that, by creating spaces that are dedicated to more than just battle royale gameplay. But Minecraft has a long-established audience, and is prime real estate, as it were.
The reaction from NFT proponents to the new has been an interesting one. And certainly, if you’re invested in the tech and have been building your metaverse projects in Minecraft, you’re fudged in the B for sure. Adam McBride, host of The Adam McBride show, weighed in on the news over on Twitter (opens in new tab). And he doesn’t beat around the bush with his verdict.
Microsoft just had its Blockbuster v.s. Netflix moment.They chose to go full Blockbuster 📉And in the process fumbled their Web 3 bag.A thread🧵 pic.twitter.com/nu4Lo8STQqJuly 20, 2022
The thread makes for an interesting read, but as he points out in another tweet (opens in new tab), it’s a “sad day for a lot of friends who thought that Microsoft would be cool with it.” Opportunistic cash grabs using games with a large, young audience as a jumping off point is questionable at the best of times. But this is precisely the problem with NFTs – you can have the rug pulled from under you at a moment’s notice. And there’s no recourse.
Just look at F1 Delta Time, the official Formula 1 NFT game that shut down earlier this year. Some players sunk hundreds of thousands of dollars into digital assets that were rendered absolutely worthless.
Fellow NFT bros on Twitter chimed in to label Microsoft and Mojang as obtuse, and blind to the opportunities that NFTs bestow.
“Microsoft has nearly missed every social/digital paradigm shift in the past 20 years. Not surprised by this tbh in the least,” said one (opens in new tab).
“That is absolutely crazy they don’t see the future. As mentioned, they have missed on lots of innovations, but this will be their biggest L,” commented another (opens in new tab).
McBride responds to someone in the that thread who speculates that Mojang’s decision could be motivated by “fear of the decentralised aspects or fear of being superseded by new players in the game.”
Someone’s even thrown a Ghandi quote into the chat, which is a bit of an overreach. I’d go so far as say it’s bloody bonkers, but it resonated with the NFT crowd apparently, including McBride.
We’re here 😉 pic.twitter.com/VAv0pZraFiJuly 20, 2022
Back in his original thread, McBride says that Microsoft has “failed to realize that Minecraft is more than a video game. It’s a Metaverse. One that could be a foundation upon which thousands or even millions of micro-worlds are built.”
I’d argue that this is most definitely not the case. A lot of games that have been around before the term ‘metaverse’ started being bandied around fit that description. And it’s a bit cringey when you have people like Mark Zuckerberg talking about it as if it’s a brand new concept. Like bro, have you ever played an MMO?
Speaking of Zuck, McBride dives into a rather predatory take (opens in new tab). “Think about how much Meta would have paid to have that kind of door into Web 3. Instead, Zuck is stuck trying to get people into Horizon Worlds. Minecraft has nearly 140 million active users, mostly kids, who don’t know what the metaverse or Web 3 is. Yet.”
He framed this news as Microsoft “fighting Web 3” along with that Ghandi quote, lamenting that the company is “shutting the door on potentially billions of users of a Minecraft metaverse.”
Metaverses can (and do) exist without the need for the blockchain, NFTs, or play-to-earn. Not every video game with a social aspect needs to adopt the technology. When you start seeing successful games as a money-making medium, especially ones with younger players, and want to coopt that space for play-to-earn shenanigans, you’re missing the point somewhat.
Minecraft is a metaverse and it’s doing just fine. Gamers are already contending with microstransactions and loot boxes, which are prone to legal scrutiny. Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft have already taken a stance on the latter to stop any funny business. NFTs will be subject to the same treatment as they become more prevalent, I’m sure. But we simply don’t need NFTs in games.