As recently as October, the future of gaming was supposed to be the Slayer from Doom showing up as a bonus character in Smash Bros, but that future was denied to us. As we try to pick up the pieces, the business leaders of the gaming world have proffered a new vision: NFTs and the blockchain, baby.
Not everyone in the C-suites of our industry is hailing the new flesh quite yet, however. As reported by Axios, Microsoft's head of gaming, Phil Spencer, expressed a degree of caution over their potential to be “exploitive,” stating:
“What I'd say today on NFT, all up, is I think there's a lot of speculation and experimentation that's happening, and that some of the creative that I see today feels more exploitive than about entertainment”
Spencer did, however, go on to clarify this statement and soften the negative tone, indicating an openness to blockchain integration in games:
“I don't think it necessitates that every NFT game is exploitive. I just think we're kind of in that journey of people figuring it out.”
This journey to figure out NFTs may clash with our broader voyage here on Spaceship Earth where someone keeps messing with the thermostat.
The ethical questions of this technology aside, these executive-level statements scan less as concrete plans for our industry, and more as steps in the intricate courtship dance between companies and their investors. Whether they choose to project the idea that they are going all-in on NFT gaming to bank on the excitement of these buzzwords, or opt for a more noncommittal, circumspect attitude like Spencer, no one seems to offer a compelling description on how this technology will make videogames better in any practical way.
There's a lot of buzz about NFT games right now as a “vision of the future,” but they could just as easily go the way of 3D TVs, Steam Machines, or the initial wave of VR in the '90s. All of those visions of the future were ultimately not meant to be.
As for you and me, the winds of history will continue to buffet us without much input on our end. We can express our opinions and vote with our wallets, but these things will just go their natural course. I gotta say though, if you think NFT games are going to redefine our industry within the next decade, I have a $64,000 png of a cartoon chimpanzee to sell you.