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The Video Game Industry Was Hot on NFTs. Then Came Hacks and a Market Meltdown

It has all the features of a Pokemon game. You collect cartoon-like creatures and use them to fight other players. Some are rarer than others and inspire the envy of fellow trainers. However, this game does not work on the Nintendo console. It is built on the blockchain.

In Axie Infinity, players play a team of Axies against a team of opponents. Each Axie is represented by a line of code in the game NFT, A non-fungible token that allows players to own digital assets. If you win the battle and continue your adventure, you will get a cryptocurrency called Smooth Love Potion (SLP). It can be sold for real real dollars. Players with two axes can use SLP to further breed and sell to new players.

And this business can be profitable. A Forbes Articles Starting in March, we’re talking about the fast-growing Axie Infinity economy, which has a particularly vibrant outpost in the Philippines, with “life-changing” amounts “rising”. [players] From poverty. ” A 22-year-old says he bought two homes With his prize.

Of course, the world has changed dramatically since the article and YouTube video were published-in both Axie Infinity and, more broadly, the cryptocurrency and NFT markets. A few days after the Forbes article was published, North Korean hacker Stealed about $ 620 million worth of cryptocurrencies From the network used to handle Axie’s in-game transactions, we urged game owner Sky Mavis to take Ronin Network, the main transaction processing sidechain, offline. Last month, the Ronin Network reported that it had resumed and began refunding victims of theft. Blogs posted on that substack..

Sky Mavis did not immediately respond to the request for comment.

However, since the attack, the price of Ethereum, a popular cryptocurrency used to boost Axie’s economy, has plummeted, losing about two-thirds of its value. As a result, hacking victims recover about one-third of their losses. And it emphasizes that its development could be a bigger challenge for Axie Infinity, Sky Mavis, and the wider crossroads of crypto and games-the current “Cryptographic Winter” Bitcoin And ether, thinned out alternative tokens Stablecoin And it has destroyed much of the market’s enthusiasm for NFTs.

Still, integration of NFTs and cryptocurrencies into games Certainly lasts somehow, Despite the current challenges before the industry. Video games (and the crypto infrastructure built around them) are time consuming to develop and are not always canceled immediately.Established players in industries like square Enix When Sega He is interested in using NFTs in future titles and is interested in using them. Ubisoft has already integrated them To Ghost Recon Breakpoint, one of its major games.

With cryptocurrency prices soaring in late 2021 and early 2022, companies in almost every industry sought ways to adapt technology to their businesses. Game studios were no exception. But the question remains. Will blockchain integration games like Axie Infinity mark the beginning of a new gaming era? Or will it be the child of a poster of a bubble inflated with yet another cryptocurrency? The problem is as controversial as the cryptocurrency itself.

Play to earn vs. play for fun

NFT It is polarized.

NFTs became mainstream in culture in 2021 as a new way to determine ownership of digital assets using blockchain technology.Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ether soared to record highs and were newly coined Cryptographic Millionaire I started speculating about NFT digital art.People pay stunning prices to own digital photos-think $ 250,000 for colorful monkey avatars-and the NFT speculative market is now on an enthusiastic pitch Celebrity Named behind the NFT collection, like Snoop Dogg and Ellen DeGeneres.

At that time, critics called NFT Energy intensive Trends-A view that gained momentum as ratings declined. Still, supporters claim that NFTs represent a new cultural shift that overturns digital ownership. Whether NFTs are compelling, ridiculous, or completely incomprehensible, the video gaming industry is embracing NFTs and cryptocurrencies as the next big thing.

The problem game companies are trying to solve is how to get the most out of technology. First, there is software integration. As it is today, players can own digital items such as costumes and weapons as NFTs rather than leasing from merchants like Epic Games. next, play-to-earn, or P2E modelOut-of-game valuable blockchain assets, such as cryptocurrencies, are earned through gameplay.

Axie Infinity exemplifies P2E trends, along with games such as the Guild of Guardians and Galaxy Fight Club. For some time, players have found different ways to make a living from the game. Some farmed SLP tokens bred Axies and sold them to players. With the game’s patronage system, some experienced players have reduced their profits by lending Axies to new players, much like a taxi company renting a car to a driver.The virtual land in the game Thousandsor Millions Cryptocurrency equivalent to dollars.

October, of the game Over 1 million players per day Almost drove $ 29 million a week Revenue of Sky Mavis, which owns and operates Axie Infinity. At that time it was over. The collapse of the NFT market has significantly reduced traffic, reducing the number of daily active users of the game from 2.7 million in November to less than 700,000 in late May. According to Bloomberg..

Whether games like Axie Infinity are economically sustainable is not yet For discussion.. However, with fewer new players participating, fewer Axies customers, and SLP tokens are almost worthless. Even during the boom, new players had a much harder time earning cash than players who joined early. Axie Infinity has stopped generating revenue for players, so there’s less reason to play.

Andrius Miron, who runs Gamestarter, a blockchain-based crowdfunding platform for indie games, said: “This is where I’m not very excited about Axie Infinity because I believe their games are primarily focused on the aspects of the money-making machine, not the gameplay itself.”

Reassessment of ownership in the digital age

Talking to blockchain evangelists, NFT technology is said to be digital ownership, not profit-seeking. This is the same pitch that game giants are increasingly offering to players. In-game items will soon be sold as NFTs. Unlike past microtransactions, it can be exchanged for other digital merchandise or sold to other players for money.

It’s indisputable that people are eager to pay real money for in-game items. Over $ 90 billion spent on microtransactions in 2021 According to a super data surveyMany are from gamers wearing new costumes and weapon skins. Especially enthusiastic players are also willing to pay a high price for rare items.

A few years ago, a popular game, Counter-Strike, introduced an item that changed the appearance of a rifle. Over $ 61,000 At the auction. The lack of items and the popularity of the game meant that someone would be willing to pay more for the privilege of ownership than many Americans make in a year.And in 2012 weapon In the case of the game, Diablo III won € 7,500 (over $ 8,000) at the auction. This is a well-documented phenomenon for the rare items of popular video games to be sold. Super high price.

“The gaming industry has long created digital assets and sold them in-game,” said Michael Pachter, a video game analyst at Wedbush Securities. If such a trading trend is heading towards the blockchain, big companies will go there, Pactor said.

Many of the big game companies talked about integrating NFT into their games, but Ubisoft, the company behind the franchise like Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry, was the first to do that. In December, Ubisoft integrated NFTs into Team Shooter’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint.

Breakpoint allows players to own NFTs called “Digits” regardless of the game. Since Digit is a digital asset created on the blockchain, it is stored in a digital wallet rather than on Ubisoft’s servers. If the numbers increase in value by becoming a cult item, or if only a few are in circulation, you can sell them in a third-party market. As such, game developers around the world want to seduce players who have true ownership of in-game items that are extremely popular and valuable.

But how well NFTs work in games, and whether gamers follow this trend, are still unsuccessful. Ubisoft’s response to NFT experiments is overwhelmingly negative.

YouTube video announcing Ubisoft’s NFT received There are less than 2,000 likes and more than 40,000 “dislikes”, and few players buy NFTs. As of December, Ubisoft was on sale NFT less than 20.. Another game company, Sega, noticed that gamers were against NFTs, Measured approach Sega management says it will not pursue NFTs if this approach is considered a “simple money-making”.

Ubisoft did not immediately respond to the request for comment.

Anyone can still guess which game developers will properly integrate NFTs into video games, create a wave of billions of dollars in business, and interconnect players.

“Amazon is trying to explain it in 1993, before it was created,” Pachter said. The digital world moves fast and the dominant player can easily change. Pachter takes the early days of the Internet as an example. “If I asked me in 1993,’Who will win this internet?’ I would have said AOL, because they were the dominant players.”

The game company is split

Just because an NFT can participate in a video game doesn’t mean it should.this is view Not only the experts involved Gamer themselves.

Also, many industries are embracing NFT integration, but it is not universal. Phil Spencer, Microsoft’s game director said he was wary of NFTs. Steam, one of the largest digital video game stores in the world, Completely banned Blockchain related video games. Explaining the negative backlash Ubisoft received from introducing NFTs to Ghost Recon, the anxiety about blockchain technology makes perfect sense.

According to, more than half of game developers are interested in NFTs and blockchain technology. Survey published in November 2021.. The enthusiasm seems to have been softened now. Considering Axie Infinity’s flameout and Ubisoft backlash as warnings can be short-lived in the era of this game.But whether NFTs will be a permanent trend in the gaming world Depends on the gamer.. As always, the player decides.

This story was originally published in January 2022 and updated in July 2022.

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