Xbox’s Phil Spencer Is Skeptical Of NFTs In Games

Xbox’s Phil Spencer Is Skeptical Of NFTs In Games

While it seems like a large number of video game publishers are rushing to at least claim they are interested in NFTs as a new revenue source, at least one major executive is a bit skeptical. That would be Xbox’s Phil Spencer, who spoke to Axios about NFTs and the blockchain in regard to video games, and why he’s not having Xbox dive in like Ubisoft or EA, who have expressed interest.

“What I'd say today on NFT, all up, is I think there's a lot of speculation and experimentation that's happening, and that some of the creative that I see today feels more exploitive than about entertainment.”

Spencer goes on to say he doesn’t think all NFT games are exploitative, but he’s cautious about something like that appearing in the Xbox ecosystem, given how nascent this scene is. This is different language than we’ve seen from the likes of other game publishers. EA recently called NFTs and the blockchain “the future of the industry,” where the company already makes billions on Ultimate Team collectibles, so turning them into potentially even more profitable NFTs seems like an obvious potential step for them. Ubisoft has said similar things, a company that has never seen a potential new gaming platform they didn’t like.

The most major player in the gaming space to take a stand against blockchain and NFT games has been Steam, which has banned them from the platform, while rival Epic Games said they are open to the concept in their store.

There seems to be a pretty stark split between proponents of NFT games, sometimes pitched as a way for gamers to sustainably earn money by playing, while critics say they are often exploitative and speculation-fueled, potentially resulting in unsustainability that could cost gamers, or companies, a lot of money if the trend veers the wrong way.

One of the core issues with NFTs in games is presenting the idea as anything meaningfully new for the industry in the first place. Digital item scarcity and real money markets for game items are already a thing, and have been for decades. The idea of “decentralized” ownership is supposed to add some sort of next level of security, but it’s hard to know if the concept can be fully trusted (see many, many NFT scams over the past year) or if the potential environmental impact of involving the blockchain is worth any of this.

NFT games are a burgeoning industry, but still very, very small. Oftentimes proponents compare the scene to the early days of the mobile games industry, which ended up exploding to become the largest chunk of gaming in general. And yet I think mobile saw a clear hole in the market and filled it, while NFTs seem like they’re just adding additional steps and additional risk to concepts that have already existed in gaming for a very long time.

It's too early to tell what becomes of the NFT gaming scene, but I agree with Spencer that it’s wise to be skeptical, and to watch out for how potentially exploitative it can be.

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