NFT Games Are Coming And They Suck
Like everyone else, I wake up each morning in a cold sweat, worrying that crypto bros have put me on the blockchain. Nothing is safe from this encroaching wall of nonsense. Every animal has its own NFT, more and more banks are investing in Bitcoin, and even Twitter is building a crypto team.
At this point, we know AAA blockchain games are on the way. EA's CEO said on their most recent earnings call that play-to-earn games are the "future of our industry," shortly after Ubisoft announced on their earnings call that they were going to make blockchain games. No surprise that two of the most profit-hungry studios are chasing the coin wherever they can find it, especially after Animoca Brands' The Sandbox just got millions of dollars of funding to work on blockchain gaming. It's awful to see so many bankers so happy.
But banks love numbers, and when you only look at the numbers, pay-to-earn games seem to be doing pretty well. Splinterlands is one of the largest pay-to-earn games, seeing millions of transactions, millions of games, and thousands of dollars flow through it every day. All of which is almost enough to cover up the fact that it is an absolute garbage game. If it's a game at all. No returns at Gamestop bad. 70% off on Steam the year it was released bad. Cyberpunk 2077 bad. Even the introduction video is mind-numbingly dull:
Splinterlands is the only game I've ever played in which you actually have zero interaction with your opponent. There are no turns, there are no quick scoping or dexterity skills. You can't pick up on their strategy and try to outplay them, hoard your resources for one last burst -nothing. It has about as much strategic depth as the card game War. Except at least with War no one gives you long lectures about the labor theory of value.
The reason it's important for Splinterlands to have no interaction is because of its most popular UI element- a button that lets you completely skip the game and just see who won. If your play affected the game, then you might have to actually play it! This idea is so absurd that to introduce it in any other game would instantly make people ask the obvious question- why are you even playing the game if you just want to skip it? Regular humans would admit they don't want to play it, but crypto play-to-earners would say you get "money" if you win a game ... as long as you're past a certain rank. And how do you get past that rank? You buy cards that have a certain "power" level.
Anyone with a little perspective can see how obvious this grift is. You pay money to have cards that allow you to win a little bit more, which allows you to earn some of that money back ... until you come across people who have bought even better cards. Then maybe you put a little more in. Then a little more. It's everyone's favorite: pay to win. Exactly why I turn to video games, to remind me that wealth is power.
And that's the future of gaming, some CEOs tell me. I don't know. Sure, the idea of being paid money to play video games sounds appealing- that's why so many people want to be popular streamers. But it's easy to lose sight of the fact that when you play, you're doing something for the joy of doing it, and when you work, you're doing something for the results. There's no way to make a pay-to-earn game- all you can make is abysmally low-paid blockchain jobs.
Top Image: Splinterlands