A response to Christopher Natsuume
Both the video and your response have given me a lot of food for thought.
The video is a rejection of the current narrative surrounding NFTs and P2E as the future of games, from someone that knows the industry inside and out. On this, I have a lot of sympathy, seeing a lot of the rhetoric surrounding music & blockchain and questionable basis that a lot of funding has been raised.
I think there are three key areas that he draws attention to that are worth highlighting:
Business model - The narrative around NFTs is essentially one that moves revenue generation away from platforms & publishers and instead to NFT creators and users. Taking the functional challenges to one side, which Christopher explains in great detail in the video, there is a fundamental problem in that the proposed route forwards would significantly reduce a platform’s ability to make money. From a business incentives point of view, this seems illogical as a direction for publishers to move themselves towards. A counter to this could be that it’ll happen anyway and publishers need to adapt, with a likely move being moving down-the-chain into the NFT sales function.
Impact on the industry - However, if publishers are forced to move in that way then it changes what they are. Instead of competing around making the best games, they are competing around making the most effective NFTs. This feels like significant regression for the entire industry, and is likely the reason for such an impassioned response from the game dev community around this growing narrative. Put simply, the Games industry has been through a golden era, resulting in it being the most valuable entertainment sector in the world, and ultimately, many incredible games. A lot of people read NFTs as a threat to that.
Longer term impact on the quality - Reduced/changed business model for publishers, and a refocus on direction for investment and development, will lead to a strategic shift away from quality of games. Unlike other industries, the Games industry has a lot of historical examples of these impacts. “Free to Play” brought with it a model of shipping sub par products, often still in a relatively beta state, with pay-to-play mechanics designed to improve the product for users. This has improved over time, which is evidence towards NFTs not being a complete fool’s errand, but it is understandably a cause for concern. Real Money Transactions (RMT) have also caused great issues in the gaming community. Taking WoW for example, the current instances of WoW Classic are basically a lost cause where going on the black market and paying $/£ for resources is an expectation to compete at any reasonable level. This is an entire economy that the publisher is not part of, which reduces the enjoyment of the game for everyone, with no discernible advantage in terms of investment in the underlying game. Those not engaged within the black market economy, out of principal, or because they can’t afford to, are at a huge disadvantage to those that are. And players that do pay for RMTs are essentially engaged in a competition of who can spend the most money. Neither is good for the game.
The above is really just focussed on the NFT commentary, though there are elements of P2E within the RMT aspects. P2E looks in its current form like putting turbochargers on the farming bot mechanics that have plagued gaming economies since the the old Runescape days. It’s completely understandable that any game dev looking at this narrative will be thinking “what the fuck, no”.
I’m not sure about the “pro gaming” comparison. The best competitive games do a good job of balancing their buff/nerf iterations so that they reach an intended outcome across all levels of play. Furthermore, I’d argue that the professional gaming scene has developed to be a significant net benefit for the wider community, through bringing in investment, raising awareness, and giving career opportunities to players who are good enough. This is a world away from P2E grinders that are selling resources to richer players that can’t be arsed to do it themselves, causing inflation in the overall economy and resulting in RMT as a requirement to play.
With that all said, I completely agree that it is important to base all of this within the overall context of where development of blockchain x entertainment is, and how much further it has to go. The ridiculous valuations around projects right now are an understandable distraction, and the ponzi-grift elements don’t help. But every new thing needs to have time to find its role, as long as that doesn’t cause long term damage.