Ubisoft embraces blockchain games & NFTs amid harassment scandals

In a move that seems to be popular only with investors, Ubisoft wants to start making play-to-earn video games.

It was only a matter of time until blockchain technology and NFTs began encroaching on video games. While the likes of Valve have thoroughly denounced them, others such as Epic Games have been more welcoming, despite them seeming to be PR poison in the minds of most gamers.

Now Ubisoft wants a piece of the pie, having not only invested in Animoca Brands, a blockchain gaming company, but with newly announced plans to incorporate blockchain technology into future video games.

According to both its recent earnings report, and an earnings call with investors transcribed by IGN, Ubisoft intends to employ them as a new method of monetisation, with chief financial officer Frédérick Duguet referring to it as play-to-earn.

‘[Blockchain] will enable 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. We’ve been working with lots of small companies going on blockchain and we’re starting to have a good know-how on how it can impact the industry, and we want to be one of the key players here.’

The phrase play-to-earn sounds rather bizarre since it would seem to apply to any video games with unlockables. But what it’s really referring to are the aforementioned NFTs and other digital assets.

For example, Animoca Brands has two racing games, Revv Motorsport and Revv Racing, which both use a form of cryptocurreny called REVV, which players can spend on NFT in-game items.

As for why NFTs are so controversial, it’s because, just like cryptocurrencies, their creation contributes to the climate crisis because of the extreme amounts of energy required.

Not to mention, despite NFTs coming with a right of ownership, you arguably still don’t own NFTs as they are digital items. The push to an all-digital future in gaming has people concerned that they won’t be able to actually own their games anymore, since there would be nothing stopping companies from simply taking digital games away or rendering them unplayable.

NFTs are kind of the same thing; just because you’ve spent thousands on a cool picture of a car, or whtever, doesn’t mean it’s actually yours.

Ubisoft does seem fully aware of the controversies, since Duguet acknowledges the importance of the environmental impact. But if Ubisoft has already invested in companies like Animoca Brands, and is already discussing plans with investors (who seem all too happy with the idea), the company is clearly committed.

Aside from this, the earnings call seemed to have Ubisoft on the defensive as it was forced to answer questions about the recent string of game delays and, more importantly, the allegations of harassment within the company.

It’s easy to forget considering Activision’s own harassment scandal has dominated headlines, thanks to the lawsuits filed against it, but Ubisoft was hit with the exact same thing only last year. Since then, the company has been keeping its head down, while claiming that it is trying to address the problem.

Multiple high-ranking employees have since been fired or left the company, but there have been reports that very little has actually changed within Ubisoft. A Bloomberg report in July claimed that several managers accused of toxic behaviour are still employed and other harassment complaints haven’t been addressed.

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