Microsoft’s iconic, powerhouse title, Minecraft, has been a staple of gaming for well over a decade. The development studio of the game, Mojang, has decided to make a move to stamp our community-run servers that utilize NFTs.
Yesterday, on Minecraft’s official website, a news piece was published called “Minecraft and NFTs“, in which Mojan Studios wished to clarify their position on NFTs on Minecraft servers.
As such, to ensure that Minecraft players have a safe and inclusive experience, blockchain technologies are not permitted to be integrated inside our Minecraft client and server applications nor may they be utilized to create NFTs associated with any in-game content, including worlds, skins, persona items, or other mods.
Minecraft has primarily built its reputation and playerbase off the back of community-created content and community-run servers. This freedom can of course be problematic, but has made the game into what it is today. However, with the advent of NFTs and the rise of blockchain gaming, Web3 projects have been created within these community servers.
One project that is currently in its alpha phase is The Uplift World, a Minecraft server in which the developers look to build a metaverse. Uplift has already had several sales, including land, advertises as “Play & Earn” and has a wealth of integrated NFTs. So, what happens now? Many people have invested in the project and their purchases of land, for instance, will now be dead in the water presumably.
Uplift has released no official word, but this is a troubling state of play. The Twitter user @ScamsWax — an account that looks for and exposes scams in the WAX ecosystem — called this out, only to be blocked by members. He did, however, screenshot one of Uplift’s only responses I could find:
The Dangers of Digital Sharecropping
Having read Minecraft’s post carefully, although I don’t like that they have done this, I certainly don’t think it’s some outrageous betrayal of gaming. Take, for example, this paragraph:
We will also be paying close attention to how blockchain technology evolves over time to ensure that the above principles are withheld and determine whether it will allow for more secure experiences or other practical and inclusive applications in gaming.
Minecraft is a game popular with under-18s and often marketed at children and teenagers; NFT and blockchain projects add a layer of complexity when it comes to safeguarding the players, and so I can appreciate their hesitation. That said, there is plenty of RMT (Real Money Trading) happening within the game, so the problem isn’t necessarily new.
What this does highlight, however, is the dangers of digital sharecropping. (Sharecropping has a horrendous history to the word, but the term “digital sharecropping” is fitting.) This is where people and companies build businesses on other people’s platforms, like farming on another person’s land. Digital sharecropping has been raised several times with regards to influencers building businesses on top of YouTube or Facebook and then having their account banned; it does not represent stable ground.
We are seeing a spate of Minecraft servers looking to integrate NFTs, as well as private servers for other games such as Grand Theft Auto V. This strikes me as unstable foundations, particularly when you are selling NFTs for your game, and Minecraft has just demonstrated how disastrous it can be. It also raises a number of questions as to whether, if the developers decide the project is untenable, the players who purchased NFTs for the game are due a refund. It seems desperately unlikely that would happen, but it would be far from an unreasonable request.