If you grew up in the 90s or early 00s, you would have likely played a tactical game called Worms. It was a bonafide classic of early console gaming and still has a fanbase today, with the most recent title released in 2020. The creators, Team17, deserve real credit for developing something that established itself in gaming history, and it seemed that they were still interested in pioneering nearly 30 years later.
We have seen many veteran developers, some of whom defined the gaming industry, adopting blockchain technology and identifying its value going forward. For instance, Peter Molyneux and Tim Sweeney have both moved swiftly to support blockchain development within gaming.
Team17 was set to venture into these new waters in partnership with Reality Gaming Group, creating MetaWorms, based on the Worms franchise. MetaWorms was said to be a generative NFT collection and any underlining game, if planned, was not expressly laid out. So, why would Token Gamer care?
The Trend of the Meek
There is a lot to unpack here. I want to start off by pointing out that I do not want everything that has ever existed to create an NFT collection. In fact, I care very little about MetaWorms if it was indeed just another generative art collection. What has become a grating trend, however, is companies and IPs who announce they are entering the space — or sometimes simply that they are looking into it — and then pulling a frightened U-turn at the first sign of (inevitable) resistance.
You do not build a successful company or IP without leadership and a degree of pioneering. Many of the biggest companies to move into blockchain gaming climbed to great heights through innovation and showing us the way. If industry leaders scrapped every plan that wasn’t met with undiluted adulation, they would likely perish with a handful of products suffering from the ill-effects of “a camel is a horse designed by committee”.
I am not blind to the polarity of crypto and NFTs, and as mentioned, I’m not wild about a generative Worms-themed art project with no utility. What does bother me is the sudden lack of belief some of these successful companies have in themselves. When any involvement in crypto is announced, every celebrity, brand, and developer will experience a torrent of Tweets to the effect of “NFTs are a scam”. This has occurred in one form or another during many technological revolutions, including the internet.
I fully understand the hesitance some major companies have about entering the space; it is new, volatile, and has above average levels of risk in many areas. While I believe it to be a mistake that, Steam, for instance, removed all blockchain games from its platform, I do appreciate the difficulties of crypto and the lack of infrastructure in place makes it complicated to house in web2 structures. The onboarding alone can be a minefield. But in that case, don’t announce a project and wait until the groundwork has been laid already.
I want to see successful publishers and developers either waiting until the pioneers have built a path that can be easily followed, or stepping up and helping to build it. What the industry doesn’t want is successful, legacy gaming organizations with direction so malleable that a loud portion of their social media following can cause a U-turn in a matter of hours.
It strikes me that companies that do this, like Team 17, suffered one of two mistakes: Either they did not do their due diligence and were looking to make a quick buck with their IP, only to experience unexpected backlash. Or, they saw the value of blockchain and formed a plan to integrate it into their future, only to flee back to safety when people they don’t know said “I don’t like NFTs.”
I suspect that the cancelation of the Worms generative art NFTs is no great loss, particularly if there was no view to implementing utility. What is infuriating, however, is reputable developers and gaming organizations that are so meek and pliable when it comes to their own direction. Developers should absolutely listen to their fans and playerbases and factor in feedback. But, in an area as divisive as blockchain, that few people understand to any real degree, the disgruntled shouts of pseudonymous followers ought not to change the course of the ship, much less cause it to about-turn.