Indignant CEOs and Struggling Developers: Have Game Developers Lost the Plot with NFTs?by@growthpunk
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Indignant CEOs and Struggling Developers: Have Game Developers Lost the Plot with NFTs?

by TibFebruary 18th, 2022
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Every week, another gaming house lands in hot water for introducing NFTs. While NFTs themselves aren't necessarily a bad idea, here's why I think game houses need to go back to basics when it comes to gamers. Really, it's not rocket science.

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I was a huge fan of Worms. You know, that 1990s game where the cutest little worms would unleash all manner of creative hell on each other, killing, maiming, exploding, immolating, drowning, other worms.

A screenshot from the video game series Worms. Source: Wikipedia

To me, it was a brilliant piece of computer gaming that inspired decades of modding and player-hosted LANs to this day. The impressive arsenal of weaponry was one thing: Holy Hand Grenades, Bond-inspired jump packs, Ninja ropes, sub-machine guns, flamethrowers, even a worm poke that cruelly nudged enemies over cliffs to send them to sleep with the fishes. But the use of sound -- hundreds of ridiculously exaggerated accents from upper-lip English to Cossack growls all playfully narrating tactics and battle cries.

So it does feel somewhat sad to read the recent news about Team17 boss (the creator of Worms) who made the wrong decision to release Worms NFTs. She couldn’t have expected a different reaction than the one received by fans and observers alike: a very, very bad reaction. Of course, she’s backtracked already this week, but the damage has been done. And she really ought to have learned from gaming houses who’ve gone down the same wrong NFT path.

A CEO delirious on money, according to AI.

Now, the background to all this also matters. Team17 has long been embroiled in internal issues such as salary gaps, overworked employees, even sexual harassment, while its CEO is a multi-millionaire. The brilliant developers -- and I use Worms as a reference point -- apparently are scrounging about for less than $2,000 a month, working grueling hours in the office, while their boss raked a bounty for their hard work.

Skipping meals, coming in to work in the pandemic, going into overdrafts… these are just some of the stories from the staff at Team17, who’ve been doing well as a company ever since they went public a few years ago.

Fool me once, shame on you

Now this entire episode matters not just because of some nostalgic sentiment I have about an old computer game most kids will never have played before, but also because I consider myself supportive of the video game industry as a whole, including blockchain gaming (which I consider to be immature yet full of promise). I also support NFT technology and projects, but as you can tell by now, I prefer to rebuke the vapourware and hype-driven NFT projects who are soaking up all the attention otherwise deserved by people and companies actually trying to develop the technology to bring true innovation and utility (and I’m afraid the P2E model of simply mining tokens for breeding and commerce isn’t a sustainable use case).

Team17 apparently made the NFT announcement public without informing staff internally -- perhaps aware that had they been engaged, they would have strongly advised against the move. Of course, because these are actual gamers themselves, the artists and developers, not a money-grubbing CEO Debbie Bestwick.

In a typical demonstration of the reality gulf between management and grunts, the CEO displayed shock over the outcry on Facebook, with Eurogamer reporting her retort: “I dare anyone to question my ethics tbh!

Clearly, employees who had long been suffering ignored calls for salary increase and improved working conditions were not about to be lectured on ethics! What’s really sad is that this fiasco involves NFTs, which so many purport is going to help the struggling artist and bring so much more revenue to the creators.

How would Worms NFTs support struggling developers and artists, the true creators in gaming? By helping them line their paymaster’s pockets even more? And that, without actually creating any innovative game.

The gamer mentality is not rocket science

I still find it impossible to believe just how clueless management-level people at gaming houses can still be when it comes to predicting reactions from gamers. You’d think that for an industry absolutely reliant on consumers buying their product, they would be more in touch with their kin. But they’re not.

Team17 is only the latest game developer to step into the NFT muck. We’ve already seen several high-profile cases with the likes of Ubisoft and GSC Game world both embroiled in their very own NFT firestorms for launching NFTs that their users are labeling as mere cash grabs.

Gamers game. It really is as simple as that. Whether you were a boomer spending hours on Tetris, or like me, a Gen X with dozens of memories playing Worms of LAN with classmates, or a Minecraft-addicted millennial showing off your content on Twitch, it’s the same concept.

Gamers love new ideas, new gameplay, creative ways to entertain themselves. And they are more than happy to fork out to pay for that. But what they will not pay for are meaningless expenses that contrive to be vanity showpieces, especially knowing that most NFTs won’t contribute to their gaming experiences.

Come on, game houses. Gamers hate pay-to-win. They hate loot boxes. And they will hate meaningless game NFTs. Get it?

Can we support the struggling artist, developer, and focus on great games, please?

Again, I want to reiterate that I’m not anti-NFT. How can I be, when I’m supporting developers working on new NFT technology, when I own NFTs, and when I enjoy promoting the stories of many whose lives have indelibly changed because of their involvement with this one-of-a-kind token?

But just as crypto proved its use case and emerged as a recognised asset class and useful iteration of blockchain technology by going through huge periods of upheaval and purging of shitcoins, while working on use case and adoption -- the NFT sector will have to work very hard to present itself as viable solutions to a multitude of industries, while allowing the false NFT projects to fall on the sword of speculation to clear the air of white noise.

And if we truly believe that NFTs are about helping creators in art and in gaming, then we need to help that vision stay strong through our actions.

Long live the gamer, and long live their resistance to false NFT prophets.