Two weeks ago, an innocuous question about blockchain games became a mind-worm for me. I couldn’t easily unpack all the implications and it led to me getting my thoughts down in the article, Can Developers Shutdown or Cease Support for a Blockchain Game? This sparked a discussion that spilled onto Twitter and then a few days later, became Mint One podcast episode 17, The Problem for Blockchain Games No One Is Talking About.
The rough synopsis of the issue is this: how can a game that people invest in and that can make money for its players ever shut its doors or cease support? The developers ought not to be tethered to their creation indefinitely, but abandonment could impact people’s lives. Well, we didn’t have to wait long for an example.
Animoca Brands’ F1 Delta Time Closes Down
F1 Delta Time proved to be a popular project and in 2019, had the most expensive NFT of the year, a 1-1-1 Apex Race Car (in the video above) which sold for 415.9 ETH (around $113,000 at the time.) What legitimized the game and brought it into the limelight was undoubtedly the official F1 licensing, which must have been difficult to acquire. Well, the very thing to raise the game up has also torn it down, it seems.
The announcement blindsided its players. While the Ethereum-based game didn’t have the sort of player numbers that would put it in the DappRadar top 25 by users, it was no slouch either. In fact, in the 3 months leading up to the game closing down, F1 Delta Time had a trading volume of over $100,000, according to DappRadar. This is a prime example of the problem I laid out in the article a few weeks back.
Now, in Animoca’s defense, they could well have been blindsided too with the F1 license issue. With no license, what are they to do with the game? They could pivot it to unlicensed, but it would be enormous amounts of effort and money in all probability. Furthermore, they have more titles in the REVV Motorsport ecosystem, including licensed games like MotoGP™, which would be better investments.
To add to my sympathy for Animoca, I believe they did what they could to compensate the players of F1 Delta Time, though the aggrieved players may wish to educate me on how wrong I am. Transferring some of the NFTs or replacing them in other games of theirs does also raise questions of how that impacts the game the newly homeless players are moving to. Will it not affect that game’s prices too? Animoca’s Medium post outlines the measures they have taken:
The issue is, it’s impossible to offer a like-for-like replacement for the investments made in F1 Delta Time, not least because many supporters of the project would have bought in because it was officially licensed. But again, what could Animoca do? As I said in my article on this issue, there is no such thing as a clean dismount for developers of blockchain games, particularly if they’re Play-to-Earn.
This debacle has been far from as messy as it might have been, but it’s a warning shot for the future. What would indie developers, without Animoca’s reach and wealth, do in the same situation if they didn’t have similar games or an ecosystem they could compensate in?