Speaking on an earnings call (as spotted by IBT), CEO Yves Guillemot said that the games industry “is changing regularly with lots of new revolutions happening,” and that Ubisoft “consider[s] blockchain one of those revolutions.”
Guillemot added that use of blockchain technology “will imply more play-to-earn that will enable more players to actually earn content, own content, and we think it’s going to grow the industry quite a lot.”
Beyond the ecological impact of trading NFTs – the energy costs for blockchain transactions are currently high – there are a host of logistical issues in bringing them to games. Artwork sold or earned as a digital good might be easily transferrable between owners, but in-game usable assets are trickier, as they need to mechanically work in each game they could hypothetically be transferred to.
This affects balance and even simple functionality that developers may not have accounted for. While Ubisoft may be better placed than some smaller studios to create items that work between games – a unique gun that could work in both The Division and Watch Dogs, perhaps – the long-term functioning and therefore value of such items would be much harder to guarantee.
On top of that, there are format and platform conflicts to consider. Valve already banned NFT games from its Steam storefront, while Epic Games Store has said it’s “open” to them. How NFT incompatibility would be handled could be another headache.
When contacted by NME for comment, Ubisoft pointed to the “Key Messages” section of its recent financial results. In a section headed “Exploring innovative technology: Blockchain”, it said:
“Ubisoft recently took part in the latest funding round of Animoca Brands, a leading blockchain gaming company. Ubisoft has been exploring blockchain since the early development of the technology, supporting and learning from the ecosystem through initiatives like its Entrepreneurs Lab start-up program and the Blockchain Game Alliance as a founding member. This long-range exploration ties in with Ubisoft’s constant search for innovation and new ways to empower players as true stakeholders of its worlds. It also gives Ubisoft the perspective to reflect on the best ways to overcome blockchain’s initial limitations for gaming around sustainability and scalability.”
On the earnings call, Guillemot also said Ubisoft was “starting to have a good know-how on how we can impact the industry” and that “we want to be one of the key players there”. Quite what that would look like remains to be seen, but expect to see NFTs and play-to-earn cropping up in games from Ubisoft in the not-too-distant future.
Elsewhere, Sega and Microsoft are teaming up to create new strategy titles, which are said to be “large scale, global games”, while in stranger news, new romance sim Sucker for Love: First Date lets you woo a pink-haired anime girl Cthulhu.