Valve, the company behind the video game distribution service Steam, banned all NFT content on their platform last Friday. They cited the ‘real world value’ of NFT items as the impetus for the move. Not meta enough for the metaverse, evidently.
In response, 29 blockchain based game developers penned a strongly worded letter, a tried and true mode of civil disobedience if their ever was one. (Shouts out Tommy Jefferson.) This ban does pose a blow to the burgeoning ‘play-to-earn’ cottage industry, pioneered by games like Axie Industry, in which players can buy and sell in-game NFTs, in some cases earning an out-of-game living doing so. The developers also hosted a Reddit AMA on Tuesday, elaborating on their outrage.
Blockchain games are perhaps the most viable and promising proved out use case for NFTs. Certainly the one I know and care least about. Why this disconnect, I can’t say — I was always more of a watch-my-friends-play-Playstation-type kid than PC gamer. But I can say that, considering the vast majority of AAA game releases in the past few years have pivoted to ‘pay-to-play’ models anyway, I find the Valve ban disappointing at best.
NFT games do have a high entry cost, but game developers treating it as a genuine investment — with the potential to make it all back and then some — sounds way more preferable to me than $60 base games requiring extensive in-game purchases, online passes, and loot crates just to get to a playable stage. (Star Wars Battlefront 2, I’m looking at you.)
Of course, more than likely, Valve, like any good late stage capitalist pillow princess, is objecting to this exact thing. Their bills are primarily payed by bowing to flagship development companies like Rockstar and EA, and it’s no surprise to see the system flattening the scrappy competitors to the status quo.
More legitimately, Valve expressed concerns over tightening national gambling laws. But the USA is likely to be the country least impacted by this change. Last spring, NBC reported that Axie Infinity was a leading source of income in the Philippines. Crypto’s oft-quoted potential for bridging wealth disparities is most evident so far in the case of these blockchain games. I’ve never been less surprised to see a bridge burned.