look what you made me do: a lot of people have asked me to make NFT games and I won’t because i’m not a fucking dumbass. now let me tell you why only a dumbass would get into NFT games.

THE REALLY SIMPLE VERSION

Long time ago, people came up with an idea for something that already exists: a ledger. Like, I buy from you? It’s recorded. You buy from me? It’s recorded. What happens if the computer burns down? Well, like bittorrent, it’s a peer to peer technology, which means that it’ requires help from every participant’s computer (full disclosure: this is the Explain Like I’m Five version; I am simplifying this). Nothing can happen just because one person says so, because the idea behind cryptocurrency is that it’s about trust, or rather, the lack thereof. It doesn’t have the wikipedia problem of “anyone can edit this.” They call this idea “the blockchain” and they wanted to put a currency on it that’s basically banking-free (because libertarians invented this as a way to get out of being taxed). But still, trust has to come from somewhere.

What’s Scarcity?

You know why the internet is cool? Because it’s kind of a post-scarcity society, like Star Trek. Ever wanted something that was sold out in stores, like a book or a movie? Hey, that’s not a problem on the internet (except in the case of Digital Rights Management software, or DRM, which attempts to add scarcity to certain games, like Fable 3, which you can’t buy because they ran out of keys to redeem it). The internet doesn’t need shelf space, doesn’t have to move inventory, etc etc. There’s a lot of really big advantages that come with stuff on the internet being just data.

Multiplayer Betting

In theory, this idea actually makes sense, which a lot of future examples won’t, since gambling transactions do use a ledger. Is there any real reason to make a ledger that isn’t trusted by a central authority and requires the consensus of all parties involved to track? Especially when people might welch on their bets, there might be bugs, you can’t enforce it, blah blah blah. Even illegal betting has armbreakers willing to come over to your house and snap your arm if you don’t pay your bookie, you know? Money requires enforcement, and the blockchain is unenforceable.

It’s Going To Happen Anyways/It’s The Future

On Saturday it became taxable lmao. Now it’s just a more complicated (read: expensive) way to do something that we can do better with existing technology. The only real draw was that the government wasn’t paying attention to it. Now it is and they want their cut and you can’t pretend it’s worth more than it is anymore.

Do You Know How Expensive Making Assets Is?!

So, a long time ago, Ubisoft had a cool idea, which was to take the achievement system from the Xbox and apply it to a unique, Ubisoft-wide system. The current iteration is called Ubisoft Connect, but it’s gone by other names in the past, like Uplay.

“What If You Were The Only One To Own A Thing…”

So, I’ve heard this from a few NFT types, but I also saw it in Bloomberg, and that’s the example I’m going to use now: “what if you had a game like mario kart but only you owned mario?” Well, imagine how fuckin awful you’d feel if you bought Mario Kart so you could drive Mario and you found out some other guy got Mario before you. Of the 39,000,000 human beings who own Mario Kart, only one guy gets Mario. Sure, he’d feel special, and everyone else would feel like shit.

  1. how do you anticipate the number of unique characters you’ll need to add to your game prior to its launch?
  2. are you placing a cap on your game’s growth by requiring yourself have at least one unique character per player (if the fantasy of your game is “this character is MINE and no one else has it…” how do you this without guaranteeing every player at least one unique character?)
  3. if every single character in the game is unique, and you’re Mario Kart 8, that means you have to come up with 39,000,000 unique characters. Can you actually make a character iconic when they’re one of 39,000,000? Mario’s iconic nature comes from the fact that anyone can play him. If only one player ever could, what’s the likelihood that Mario would ever become famous or iconic — and thus desirable?
  4. how do you balance 39,000,000 unique characters? where would you even start?
  5. if you decide “i’m not going to balance them, the stats are random,” how do you determine how a character rolls? Could players simply create a character over and over again, trying to roll a good one (like people do for good nature shinies in a pokemon game? it’s not fun!)
  6. if you’re not balancing them, has your game become pay to win? Name any game where “pay to win” actually helped the game succeed and players considered it a good thing. I don’t think you can.
  7. how much does it cost to create 39,000,000 cosmetically unique characters?
  8. do you really think players will be satisfied with just one character per game?
  9. part of the reason beanie babies were collectible (that fad died FAST, by the way — just like NFTs will lmao) was because people could collect them all. If you create limited runs of characters, like, say, 100 ultra-rare Olympics 2024 Princess Peaches and 10,000 September 11th Commemorative Never Forget Toads, then you’re creating artificial scarcity that’s more tolerable than “there’s only one” but you’re still gonna have a lot of people disappointed they couldn’t get one.
  10. Why would you want to create negative sentiment around your game?
  1. desire is low
  2. which means the money isn’t there
  3. and you need money to build assets
  4. but you need scarcity in order to create desire
  5. but for there to be scarcity you can’t create 39,000,000 unique models with something like 20 different sound effects each and custom animations and all that shit
  6. so you can’t actually have 39,000,000 people spending $60 each to buy Mario Kart
  7. and you’re gonna turn people away because they want Mario — an existing character who has cultural cache. Nobody knows who these NFT characters are and very few people want them. Some guy doing a twitter thread claiming someone offered him $900,000 for his NFT? Yeah, pretty sure he was offering it to himself to create demand.
  8. a pyramid scheme — which is what NFTs are, as they’re reliant on you converting a ton of people into customers who then convert other people into customers — requires tons of people to function, but a pyramid scheme based on scarcity cannot ever get tons of people involved because scarcity means you can’t build an audience.

“Loot Should Be Your Property”

Some people have suggested all loot should be unique. A friend helped me do the math once for a gun in Destiny and I think we determined that that specific gun could have 900 unique rolls, most of which were absolutely garbage or at least not that distinguishable from each other (like a 1% difference in range vs reload).

medal of honor featuring a browning automatic rifle
a browning automatic rifle from call of duty vanguard. it looks newer.

The Fall of The House of Real Money

But the thing is, once real money gets involved — and as of a couple days ago, the government now considers crypto to be securities, so real money is involved — you now have to report your taxes. How the fuck you gonna do that? Do you know how much paperwork I have to fill out to make sure that contractors are taken care of as a business? If I somehow managed to get the 39,000,000 customers who own Mario Kart 8 on my Mario Kart With NFTs — if I was somehow magically able to build the cultural value that Mario possesses with an NFT currency — I would have to actually get the personal financial information of 39,000,000 customers, most of whom aren’t even Americans, which means I have to make sure that both the IRS and that person’s tax agency has all that financial information.

“Games Should Pay You To Play Them!”

Why? If I spend money on a sandwich so I can eat it, it would be weird for the restaurant to pay me back for me to eat the sandwich, right?

“You should be figuring this out for me.”

I’ve heard this one a few times, including times directed at me. It’s a really shitty kind of attack. Silicon valley types invent a technology without a valid use case. Then they get mad people point out problems, and they try to tell you that, well, you could be helping them figure out a solution to this thing, rather than just sitting there being unhelpful.

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I do some freelance work, game design consulting, and I’ve worked on games Hardspace: Shipbreakers and created games like Adios and Paratopic.

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GB 'Doc' Burford

GB 'Doc' Burford

I do some freelance work, game design consulting, and I’ve worked on games Hardspace: Shipbreakers and created games like Adios and Paratopic.