The sandbox-style video game Minecraft, owned by Microsoft, is prohibiting the use of NFTs on its servers and NFTs that are based on the game’s assets, such as worlds, skins or persona items.
The game developer Mojang shared in a recent post that Minecraft would soon ban blockchain on game servers, run independently by fans and creators, and it would prohibit the use of Minecraft imagery to create NFT projects.
“To ensure that Minecraft players have a safe and inclusive experience, blockchain technologies are not permitted to be integrated inside our client and server applications, nor may Minecraft in-game content such as worlds, skins, persona items, or other mods, be utilized by blockchain technology to create a scarce digital asset.”
The reasons for this NFT ban are that, firstly, the use of blockchain and NFTs creates digital ownership based on scarcity and exclusion, which contradicts Minecraft values. Secondly, NFTs are not trustworthy as they are created by unknown third-party actors, who could disappear, and are sold at artificially high prices. They support creation as it is as one of the Minecraft intrinsic values, but strive to provide a safe marketplace, where the value of creation is recognised.
“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.”
There are projects that have turned Minecraft assets into NFT collectibles, like the Polygon-based NFT Worlds, which sells virtual land plots that can be used on a custom Minecraft server. NFT Worlds has generated over $164 million worth of NFT trading volume to date. In light of the recent Minecraft matter, NFT Worlds co-founder ArkDev tweeted that they were trying to figure out how the new guidelines would affect them. He added that a pivot for the project could be a possibility but they weren’t planning to leave.
Actually, what plans does NFT Worlds have. They want to create a new game and platform based on the core mechanics of Minecraft, according to their announcement. They say that the look and feel of the game will be familiar to Minecraft players, but the mechanics, graphics and performance will be improved. And of course, it will allow blockchain technologies and NFTs. In their mind, it’s a “web2 vs web3 battle” and they are willing to fight it.
The NFT ban announcement also contains some doubts about the future, as Mojang studio might reconsider their position regarding NFTs when blockchain technology evolves and allows for a more secure experience in gaming. Interestingly, in April some of Mojang developers independently launched a petition to ask game creators to pledge not to use NFTs. However, it only got 72 signatures in the first week and 430 signatures to the date.
What contradicts with the new Minecraft guidelines is that Microsoft has actually released official Minecraft-themed NFTs in February, 2021. As the NFT market was heating up, the company partnered with blockchain gaming firm Enjin to provide free NFTs tied to International Day of Women and Girls in Science. It’s currently unclear whether Microsoft will still allow Enjin’s plug-in — which allows servers to enable NFT-based items — to function after the rules change. However, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said earlier this year that he thinks cryptocurrencies and NFTs are “100% based on greater fool theory.”
The recent Minecraft NFT ban seems quite justified with the crypto industry and NFT market in particular facing a crypto winter. However, there might be another point: when a big game developer announces the introduction of NFTs, there is often a backlash from the players. When Ubisoft released Ubisoft Quartz platform for their NFTs called Digits, it was heavily criticised by the public. When the rumour took off that Grand Theft Auto 6 may include a cryptocurrency reward program, the fans weren’t happy at all. So, probably, Mojang and Microsoft are just being cautious about NFTs as they care so much about Minecraft players. Cautious and wary, just like Apple that has recently removed the StepN app on the AppStore. This could all be true. But there is definitely a battle happening between the new generation of Web3 businesses and the old Web2 corporations. Let’s see how the story unravels!