If there is one technology that is controversial right now, it's non-fungible tokens (NFTs). Everywhere they pop up, people seem to get upset. It could be because they don't understand what the technology offers, or it could be because they absolutely do understand. Either way, companies all over the internet have been looking to add NFTs into their products, and many have changed course after consumer feedback. This week, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 developer GSC Game World felt the wrath of their community after announcing NFTs in the upcoming game.
What is an NFT?
Non-fungible tokens are verified certificates of authenticity for a digital item. Take, for example, a meme started by an individual. While the meme can and will be used by people all over the internet, the original ownership is still technically in the hands of the creator. That creator could transfer the ownership of that image to someone else, but how would you know that it's actually theirs? That is where NFTs come in.
Now, in the gaming space, NFT technology represents an opportunity for people to officially do things that are usually done against terms of service. In some games, we see a very active third-party market for things like skins, items, and in-game currency. People agree to trade items in-game for money transferred outside of the game. Of course, this creates the possibility for people to steal from one another - take the money and never complete the trade in-game.
With the introduction of NFTs into the mix, you get a guaranteed transfer of ownership. Each of the in-game items could be minted through the blockchain, protecting gamers who want to sell in-game items, while making official the process.
The short S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 controversy
On Wednesday, December 15, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chernobyl developer GSC Game World announced that they intended to implement NFTs into the long-awaited game. There were 3 ways in which the technology would be implemented. First, they would offer a token that allows the bearer to place a virtual version of themselves into the game. The character would go to the person holding the token at a particular moment, a little like a reverse game of hot potato.
A second NFT offering, which would have launched in February, would offer "highly secretive genesis packs." Gamers were worried that this would make for a direct "pay to win" feature in the game, which the developers tried to ward off saying that the results of the purchase "won't influence the gameplay itself or give in-game advantages over other players." The third use would be the traditional implementation, allowing people to buy and sell in-game items.
Nearly immediately, the gaming community was up in arms. Gamers were not happy to hear this news, as NFTs in gaming have become the biggest target for hate. Generally, they appear to be viewed as a new way to take additional money from gamers, an extension of the microtransaction explosion of the past few years. Within a few hours, the company addressed the backlash publicly, posting a now deleted tweet (screenshot) in which they defended their decision. The company said,
Why did we choose NFT? It's a new technology, and we are eager to << do NFT right >>: give certain fans an opportunity << to get into >> the game without interfering with other players' experience. That's why the tokens are entirely optional and have no impact on gameplay or story (no weapons, quests, locations, etc.) and can be activated only before the game release.
This did not swap gamers, who continued to fight the move. Within minutes of posting the explanation, the tweet was gone. This was a clear example of "oops" in action. Within 36 hours of the initial announcement, the company released a new statement on Twitter, saying,
We hear you.
Based on the feedback we received, we've made a decision to cancel anything NFT-related in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2.