This week, Sony Interactive Entertainment, the division behind the PlayStation, announced a new feature to the platform: PlayStation Stars. The new feature aims to take on the Microsoft Points system, though this one appears to be limited to the PlayStation ecosystem. Gamers will be rewarded with Stars for specific tasks which can be exchanged for rewards. While this sounds much like similar loyalty programs, Sony made a significant mistake: referring to "digital collectibles."
The NFT Connection
For one reason or another, one of the things that have become a naughty word in the gaming industry has been NFTs or non-fungible tokens. These theoretically unique assets have garnered a lot of hate among the gaming community, so it was no surprise when gamers became concerned about the phrase "digital collectibles." The idea of Sony getting into the NFT space was not a welcomed one for most gamers, who see NFTs as a way for companies to profit off of gamers. Sony rewarding users with NFTs was seen as opening up a secondary market of one-of-a-kind collectibles that could and would be traded, sold, and eventually stolen.
The rumors were driven by a section of text from the announcement, which read,
They are digital representations of things that PlayStation fans enjoy, including figurines of beloved and iconic characters from games and other forms of entertainment, as well as cherished devices that tap into Sony's history of innovation. There will always be a new collectible to earn, an ultra-rare collectible to strive for, or something surprising to collect just for fun.
Sony was quick to step on these rumors and fears. In statements to online publications, company spokespeople said that while some of the collectibles would be rare, the technology is not based on a blockchain and none of the collectibles are one-of-a-kind - both being requirements for NFTs.
The digital collectibles are only part of the rewards system, though. Players can also get loyalty points which can be used to purchase real items, including in-game items, Store items, and even direct Store currency. This new feature will be free to join and will be completely separate from the newly revised PlayStation Play.
This is far from the only backlash to NFTs in gaming. Some of the response has been reasonable, seeing a new way for companies to make money off of gamers who have already spent a lot of money on a game. Some of the response, however, seems to be a misunderstanding about what an NFT is, or how it might be included.
One of the best examples of a place where NFTs would make gaming better is existing in-game items. Take, for example, a limited-edition skin in a game like Fortnite. The skins are made available for a short period of time and are never available again. However, if you are a new player of the game, then there is no chance that you can ever get that skin. If those skins were purchased and owned as an NFT, it could be bought and sold safely at any point in existence.
For other games, these in-game items can be transferred currently, but it can be unsafe. You could give it to someone, but what if you want to sell it? One player is required to take a huge risk of loss: either the buyer gives the money and hopes the seller shows up in-game to transfer the item, or the seller gives the item in-game and hopes the buyer sends the money. Through a secure blockchain system, those item sales and transfers would be safe and guaranteed.