Indie Game Publisher Loses That NFT Feeling

Indie-game publisher Team17 had big plans for its MetaWorms NFT project. However, the UK-based company didn't anticipate the gamer and developer backlash waiting for it on the other side of its metaverse announcement. Now, Team17 has made a 180-degree turn, canceling its NFT aspirations and seemingly vowing to steer clear of the blockchain.

Team17 is the brand behind gaming titles like Worms, The Escapists, Overcooked, and Gord, to name a few. The publisher decided to kick off its NFT agenda with Worms title, which had over two decades behind it and sold 75 million-plus games.  It makes sense that Team17 would pick one of its most successful titles that had its start as a PC game in the mid-nineties to capture the worm party in perpetuity.

MetaWorms was designed to be “a generative NFT art project” that would thrust these rare worms straight into the metaverse, where they would exist on the blockchain forever. Buyers would become the owners of unique digital collectibles that could not be replicated and whose value could very well increase thanks to the scarcity feature, as many NFTs before them have done. Unfortunately, those plans hit a snag when it became clear that gamers and developers lost that NFT feeling if they ever had it in the first place.


Trouble in Paradise

The NFT plans were doomed from the start. The gaming community was triggered soon after the Team17 venture unveiled its NFT strategy on Jan. 31. Much of the pushback was documented on social media, where developers like Ghost Town Games, which is behind the Overcooked title, made it clear in no uncertain terms that they “will never engage with NFTs.” The game developers decided that NFTs were an environmental and social hazard.

NFTs are minted on blockchains like Ethereum, which consumes lots of electricity to validate transactions and create more Ether, the native cryptocurrency of the network. Ethereum is the most popular blockchain for NFTs and is in the process of transitioning to a more eco-friendly model, though the changeover is not happening overnight.

Ghost Town Games is a partner of Team17. About a year ago, the two groups announced that Overcooked would make its way to more platforms across digital and physical releases, including Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Steam, and Xbox 1. Ghost Town's feelings about NFTs sent a message loud and clear to their peers over at Team17.

The writing was literally on the wall and within hours, Team17 backpedaled on its NFT promise.

Chinks in the Armor

NFTs are one of the hottest things going in crypto. Billionaire Mike Novogratz, who is at the helm of digital asset investment firm Galaxy Digital, predicts that NFTs will be at the front of the crypto conga line in 2022.

As NFTs become a greater part of the mainstream, however, some if the chinks in the armor are beginning to show. A new Chainalysis report reveals that at least $44.2 billion in crypto was spent on Ethereum-based NFTs last year, up from just over $100 million in 2020.

Source: Chainalysis

With the rise has come increased scrutiny, including what Chainalysis researchers describe as “two forms of illicit activity,” including:

  • Wash trading: This is when an individual or entity takes both sides of a transaction, in this case controlling the buyer and seller digital wallets. This behavior is designed to inflate the apparent value of an NFT, and it skews the data. Chainalysis describes these shady wallets as “self-financed” and states that hundreds of wash trades have occurred.
  • Money laundering: Like the traditional art world, bad actors have also infiltrated art on the blockchain for their nefarious activities. In its findings, Chainalysis mentions a “significant jump” in the “value sent to NFT marketplaces by illicit [wallet] addresses” in Q3 2021 to over $1 million in digital assets, with the trend persisting into Q4 2021. They identify themes like cybercrime, stolen funds, and sanctions-risk-associated wallet addresses.
chainalysis nft money laundering
Source: Chainalysis


NFT Impact

Team17's decision to remain on the sideline of NFTs was in response to peer pressure. The number of projects, companies, and influencers embracing this blockchain-fueled phenomenon, including the gaming sector, is increasing. Once Ethereum becomes more eco-friendly, there should be fewer complaints about the environmental impact of NFTs. However, the social impact has yet to be understood fully.

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