Virtual weapons in video games may soon be worth real money

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More and more video game makers are selling virtual weapons, helmets and other equipment in the form of NFTs, a movement that is increasingly pushing digital acts into fashion in the average household.

Players have been paying for virtual goods in games like “Grand Theft Auto Online” and “World of Warcraft” for years, but turning these items into non-fungible tokens would allow players to trade and resell them, turning them into assets. potentially valuable.

The change could also mean that players who buy an in-game NFT could later use it in other games, on social media and in other corners of the internet, an important step in the development of a economy for the so-called metaverse.

Zynga, creator of “FarmVille” Inc.

ZNGA 2.19%

and the creator of “Assassin’s Creed” Ubisoft Entertainment HER

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are among the first major publicly traded game companies to say they are experimenting with strategy. Electronic arts Inc.,

EA 0.84%

Playtika Holding Corp.

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and others are also exploring the potential use of NFTs to engage players.

This month, Ubisoft gave away over 2,000 NFTs for free to players of its “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint” shooter video game, including this headset.

“We’re doing this because it can be part of the future of gaming,” said Matt Wolf, Zynga’s new vice president of blockchain games. “This is about community building. “

Non-fungible tokens are essentially digital deeds that verify the authenticity of the items they represent as unique. They are the latest craze for collectors on the internet, and so far they have come in forms ranging from digital artwork and collectible cards to virtual real estate and sneakers, as well as banknotes. concert and even sports highlights. Tokens are stored on a blockchain, a digital ledger that shows when they were purchased and for how much, and ensures that NFTs cannot be duplicated or changed.

Amidst all this activity, the advent of NFTs in video games takes on special significance as gamers spend so much time in virtual worlds. This makes them potential early adopters in the metaverse – a virtual realm where supporters say people will work, play and shop and where tech experts say the ability to buy and sell NFTs will be. the key.

Most of the video game NFTs in circulation today come from small independent developers. Newly created video game NFTs, as well as some listed in NFT marketplaces such as OpenSea, have sold for between under $ 1 and over $ 2 million, according to DappRadar, a blockchain analytics company. Now some of the big publicly traded companies in the industry are getting started.

Last month, Zynga hired Mr. Wolf as their first executive dedicated to blockchain technology. He said the company plans to sell several thousand NFTs of virtual goods early next year. The company could also give players the opportunity to earn NFTs through gameplay.

Some industry leaders have raised concerns about the safety and value of DFTs, including Microsoft Corp.

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games chief Phil Spencer; and “Fortnite” Epic Games Inc. maker chief Tim Sweeney. There is also a large and noisy tribe of anti-NFT players who fear that tokens are just another ploy to make money out of them.

This month, Ubisoft gave away over 2,000 NFTs for free to players of its “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint” shooter video game. The tokens, the first he ever offered, represent limited edition virtual helmets, weapons and pants available only as NFTs. A video from Ubisoft promoting its NFT initiative sparked a tsunami of negative comments.

Nicolas Pouard, vice president of the company’s Strategic Innovation Lab, a unit that explores emerging technology trends, said critics misunderstand NFTs. Over time, he expects players to get used to using them. “The gaming community has yet to be convinced,” he said.

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Fans of the browser-based collecting pet game “Neopets” launched an online protest in October to urge its developer, JumpStart Games Inc., to abandon a new NFT initiative. The protest urged gamers to cancel paid subscriptions and stop purchasing the game’s plush toys and other officially licensed merchandise.

“It’s just an attempt to make easy money and basically take advantage of users’ interest in the brand without adding value,” said Kenny Shaevel, a 29-year-old data scientist in Chicago who helped to organize the event. NFTs have not “yet found their place as a legitimate technological advance,” he said.

A spokesperson for JumpStart Games said she plans to maintain her NFT strategy and that will not change the experience for players who choose not to participate.

Do terms like “non-fungible token”, “coinage”, “gasoline charge” and more sound like a foreign language to you? To better understand and explain it, Joanna Stern of the WSJ turned her son’s art into an NFT on the Ethereum blockchain. Photographic illustration: Jacob Reynolds

Despite a rough start, many video game makers are poised to take a leading role in the NFT economy because their users are already used to buying virtual hardware, said Andrew Uerkwitz, analyst at Jefferies.

According to Newzoo BV, more than three-quarters of the $ 180 billion in consumer spending on gaming software this year was in-game purchases of regular virtual goods. About three billion people around the world play video games, according to the analytics company.

“NFTs and blockchain legitimize what video games have been doing for years,” Uerkwitz said, adding that the technologies “add a layer of trust around ownership”.

Write to Sarah E. Needleman at [email protected]

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