NFT stands for nerds in the fuckin trashcan, and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. stands for Get Fucked We Don’t Want Your Shitty NFT Scams In Our Games. Wait, that’s not right… Ahh, close enough. If you’ve no idea what I’m talking about, congratulations on having a life outside your phone, and allow me to catch you up. Stalker (Never doing S.T.A.L.K.E.R. again, that was entirely for the bit) is a series all about how humans bring about the destruction of the world’s natural environment through their own greed and hubris, and its sequel was the first major title to commit to the idea of adding NFTs to the game. After fans said Get Fucked We Don’t Want Your Shitty NFT Scams In Our Games, they’re now going away.
What NFT actually stands for is non-fungible token, which essentially means a digital receipt for something that can’t be copied. The idea of something being non-fungible is quite valuable in real life – I could buy a print of the Mona Lisa (it’s fungible, meaning copyable), but there will only ever be one, non-fungible, original. This concept doesn’t really work in the digital marketplace. I’ve written before about why NFTs in gaming will never work, but now that someone has officially tried it and failed, allow me to point and laugh derisively. Hahahaha.
Related: Why Are Game Studios So Invested In NFTs?This is life outside the basement. This is what happens when online concepts meet cold, hard reality. Have ever tried to explain Bean Dad, or Buttered Jorts, or hell, NFTs to somebody who doesn’t spend 13 hours a day on their phone? I have, and let me tell you – it’s a hard sell. If you’re on Twitter or Reddit a lot, you might believe NFTs are the next big thing. Whether you relish or fear that, you may suspect it’s a very real evolution coming for us all. Let me tell you that it’s not, it’s no more likely than Doge suddenly replacing English as the dominant language of the West.
NFTs are bad for two reasons. Firstly, because of the underlying blockchain technology, they use a lot of energy, and are therefore bad for the environment. Some claim to be more energy efficient, and they may be telling the truth – the amount of energy expended by various cryptocurrency varies wildly. The much bigger problem then is that they are a massive scam.
While Stalker is one of the first games to get into NFTs, many studios have been dipping their toe in the water, while keeping individual IPs relatively safe from any potential blowback. One such example is Ubisoft, which through Ubisoft Quartz allows players to purchase cosmetic skins for their weapons and use them across different games. Let’s set aside a) Ubisoft probably should deal with its current ongoing scandals instead of courting further controversy, b) the idea that EA or Bungie or Naughty Dog will ever allow you to use a Ubisoft asset is ludicrous, and c) the fact Ubisoft could easily make a similar system available via save imports, and let’s instead discuss Quartz somewhat legitimately.
A recent investigation by Axois found that the NFT bubble is entirely fuelled by sellers and speculators, meaning only a very small handful of people at the top of the pyramid are making any money from it. What’s that? Yeah, exactly like a pyramid scam. Funny that. A set of 2,000 gun skins made available by Ubisoft is on various crypto trading platforms priced between $634 to $423,000. The highest offer at the time of Axios’ investigation? $21.
$21 is a reasonable price for 2,000 skins, and if everything around NFTs were more sensible, there wouldn’t be as much of an issue. It would be cool if artists could gain a greater sense of ownership over their work in the digital space, in the way they can in the physical space. And taking a custom gun from one game to another sounds cool, before it gets wrapped up in bitcoin bullshit and taken from a ‘this is a cool personal token of your time in Far Cry 7’ and turned into ‘gotta make dem dolla dolla bills biatches!’
This is the problem at the heart of Stalker, at the heart of all NFT discussion in gaming. It all comes back to either profit, jumping on the bandwagon, or both. I know artists have to eat – I have no issues with promotion or commercial work or the idea that you’re ‘selling out’ by trying to earn a fair dime. But nothing that I’ve seen of NFTs in gaming have felt like they were designed to improve the player experience. They’re designed to get you to spend more money, or to float there meaninglessly while cryptodudes paint their undies as they pre-order your game for the chance to make an NFT metahuman, meaning they like, really, actual for true, own their character in the game – unlike every other video game ever where you just pretend to control your character’s every move, right?
This might fly a little under the radar, because Stalker is more niche than if Ubisoft had gone all in and made Giancarlo Esposito an NFT in Far Cry 6, and because they walked it back immediately. But hopefully this is a lesson to any developers considering wedging in NFT bullshit to appeal to the monkey parade. Get Fucked We Don’t Want Your Shitty NFT Scams In Our Games. Now get in the fuckin trashcan, nerd.
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