Gaming giant Ubisoft has announced its new system for bringing NFT into its game items, starting this week.
Non-fungible tokens have exploded in popularity and are widely used for digital art collectibles.
Ubisoft’s system – called “Digits” – will be offered as in-game digital items with unique serial numbers, which can be bought and sold.
Critics argue that NFTs are harmful to the environment, while offering few benefits over traditional systems.
Ubisoft, famous for games like the Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry and Rainbow Six series, is the most significant game developer and publisher to ever launch an NFT project.
The company says it has addressed the environmental problems associated with blockchain technology.
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Its in-game NFTs will be stored on the Tezos blockchain, which it claims is much more energy efficient than other options.
But the use of NFTs in games remains controversial, with many players and designers believing that they are only seen as a way to make money, rather than providing players with any advantage.
How does it work?
Ubisoft’s first batch of Digits will launch on Thursday with “limited editions” – of a fixed number of in-game digital items – for the company’s Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint game. They can be paid with cryptocurrency, but only in the launch countries of the USA, Canada, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Australia and Brazil.
Many games, especially free-to-play ones like the popular Fortnite or Warzone titles, earn a big chunk of their money by selling in-game cosmetics or “skins” that change the appearance of characters or items.
Ubisoft is applying NFT technology to this game mechanic and is calling its overall ecosystem “Quartz”.
NFTs are always unique in some ways, but the in-game cosmetics are identical for every player who gets a copy. Ubisoft’s solution is to place a unique serial number on these digital items.
In one example shown by the company, a digital helmet worn by a character appears to have a serial number “stamped” on the metal in its appearance – a number Ubisoft says will be different for each owner.
That serial number will be visible in the game to other players, and each player can only own one of each “Digit” NFT, Ubisoft said.
These figures can then be bought and sold with cryptocurrency like any other token on the blockchain, even for those who don’t own or play Ubisoft’s games. The items will also list previous owners in the game, he said.
“With Digits, items are no longer tied to a player’s game inventory as they can be put up for sale for acquisition by other eligible players on third-party platforms outside the Ubisoft ecosystem,” he said.
But the items are unlikely to ever be used in non-Ubisoft games.
Some NFTs give the original creator a “cut” on the sale every time it changes hands. Ubisoft didn’t say if they set up the system that way.
The company is characterizing the entire release as a “large-scale experiment” and claims to have been exploring blockchain technology for four years.
What’s the problem?
Ubisoft says it is using the Tezos blockchain because it requires “much less power” than other systems used to mine Bitcoin or Ethereum cryptocurrencies.
Traditional cryptographic systems use so-called “proof of work” which requires powerful computers to perform extremely intensive computations to verify transactions. Tezos uses a different system, called “proof of the stakes”.
But the whole idea of including NFT in games is controversial in itself, despite the interest of another big game company, EA.
Steam, the largest PC gaming platform, has has banned NFT and blockchain games from being listed on his store – which led to the removal of some of the earliest NFT-based games.
popular one Twitter thread from a game designer on the subject, claiming that NFTs “are bad for games” and that things aren’t “made easier or better by building them with NFTs and blockchain technology,” has been retweeted thousands of times.
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Trading in real money cosmetics has been shown to work even without blockchain technology – from Steam, which released a system for buying and selling in-game skins in 2012.
But Ubisoft said its NFT system is a first step towards “developing a true metaverse”. The concept of a metaverse sometimes includes the idea of digitally owned objects moving between different digital worlds. Some enthusiasts believe that NFTs offer a clear mechanism for doing this.
“Our long-term efforts have led us to understand how blockchain’s decentralized approach can truly make players interested in our games, in a way that is also sustainable for our industry, putting the value they generate back into their hands. through the time they spend, the items they buy or the content they create online, “said Nicolas Pouard of Ubisoft’s innovation team.
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