Previous generations worried that humanity would be hurried towards its demise by nuclear war. My fear is that our destruction will be brought about by FIFA players opening Ultimate Team packs to "earn" NFTs.
Yes, EA CEO Andrew Wilson followed in Ubisoft's footsteps by saying that he thought NFTs and play-to-earn would be "an important part of the future of our industry."
In fairness, he also used the phrase "on a go-forward basis" four times during the call, and who's to say which is worse.
Wilson initially mentioned NFTs unbidden, as one of many things players supposedly want from FIFA. "They want more modalities at play inside the game, which go beyond just straight 11 on 11 football. They want more digital experiences outside the game - esports, NFTs, broader sports consumption - and they want us to move really, really quickly."
Move fast and break things, as they say, and what is the planet if not the biggest thing?
Later in the call, Wilson is asked directly what he thinks about "play to earn opportunities" within videogames.
"I think the play to earn or the NFT conversation is still really, really early, and there's a lot of conversation. And there's at some level, a lot of hype about it," said Wilson. "I do think it will be an important part of the future of our industry on a go-forward basis. But it's still early to kind of figure out how that's going to work. I feel good about our position with respect to that. As a company, we have been leaders in the creation of digital content that has real collectible value in the embedding of that content as part of live services."
It's not difficult to draw a line from the collectible cards in FIFA Ultimate Team, which players gamble to attain, to NFTs. Imagine opening a loot box and having a percentage chance to win an NFT Messi card, backed by a BALLS cryptocurrency or similar. It would be like using one of those claw-grabber machines at a fairground to try to pick up one of the smaller claw-grabber machines inside.
EA already make billions from such loot boxes, but that revenue is increasingly under threat from regulation. FIFA21 now includes the ability to peek inside card packs, and makes public the odds of receiving certain kinds of card inside. NFTs presumably seems like a possible new source for profit. Perhaps FIFA22 could reveal the odds that any of our children will inherit a habitable planet.
While EA haven't yet released any NFTs, unlike Ubisoft, recent job postings for roles at EA do mention them, noting for example that the "Strategic Growth Brand team" "set the course for EA's investment in subscriptions, PC marketplace, competitive gaming, and new business opportunities like fantasy sports, blockchain and NFTs, and more."
NFTs are terrible for the environment, facillitate scams and money laundering, are a dumb and tacky Ponzi scheme, and will skew game design towards being less fun. Games which feature them have already been banned from Steam. Investors are excited about NFTs, however, because investors think they can invent diamonds, own the only diamond mine, and then get players to work in the mines for just long enough that the investors get rich before everyone realises that they're actually just holding fucking glass.