Ubisoft doubles down on its NFT pursuit

Blockchain technology and NFTs have been a focus for Ubisoft in its games. Ubisoft is committed to the cause despite the adverse reaction to Ubisoft's blockchain platform Quartz and its NFTs, called Digits.

In an interview with Australian financial comparison site Finder, Ubisoft’s Strategic Innovations Lab VP Nicolas Pouard defended the publisher’s plans to add NFTs to its games, despite the considerable player backlash.

“Well, it was a reaction we were expecting,” Pouard said of the largely negative response to its Quartz NFT system. “We know it’s not an easy concept to grasp.

Nonetheless, Ubisoft intends to integrate NFTs into its esports catalog, such as Rainbow Six Siege, Brawlhalla, For Honor, and Trackmania. Additionally, According to Kotaku, during a workshop designed to address the fears of skeptical employees, the publisher “ gave out an NFT cap to some members of the Ghost Recon team to “celebrate” the series’ 20th anniversary.”

NFTs in a nutshell

Let's, in short, explain what NFTs stand for to understand better how they may affect gamers' experiences in the “metaverse”:

  • A Non-Fungible Token or NFT is a unit of data that is stored on a digital ledger (blockchain) and can be sold and/or traded.
  • NFT data units may be associated with digital files such as photos, videos, and audio, e.g., digital art.
  • Each NFT may represent a different underlying asset and can have a different value
  • NFT ledgers claim to provide a public certificate of authenticity or proof of ownership.

Why do Gamers hate NFTs

The Verge made a great comparison between NFTs in the gaming and the music industry. A good summary of it, along with the concerns of gamers, could be attributed to introducing NFTs as a vertical in the gaming industry instead of something horizontal.

For example, consider Fortnite‘s cosmetics in contrast to every single mobile gacha game. While you could find some gray areas in Fortnite's cosmetics (who are they are marketed to, for instance), they by no means affect the gaming experience. You can experience Fortnite at 100% value without cosmetics.

On the contrary, gacha games rely on varying levels of impact in the gaming experience itself, but not in a way that makes the game better. With more and more games shifting their focus to microtransactions, imagine if every game brings a trading ecosystem based on supply and demand.

The essence of such moves indicates a direction of establishing a “metaversical” economy rather than pure gaming value. Gaming publishers become increasingly invested in increasing a game's after-market value by introducing avenues other than the gaming element itself.

Ubisoft NFT Quartznbsp fae3d5698ec948bf366f691c33824f847acf3ea0

Betting on the odds to acquire a character is one thing, but imagine trading the character with crypto involved. Assuming the developers impose a fee on every NFT transaction, they instantly obtain a new revenue stream.

Will this steam be limited to digital art, or would it disrupt the balance between F2P and P2W players even more?

If there is no aim to disrupt the balance of power in the gaming world, why do we need NFTs instead of the OG in-game cosmetics? Suppose the metaverse is to transform into a digital marketplace and economy. In that case, there is a massive unfairness to only one party spending real money and only the other party making real money.

This is where game publishers take a shortcut concerning NFTs. If we are to completely change the fundamental approach of buying a game with a one-time fee and establish a digital marketplace, why don't we turn it into a digital workplace all the way? Gamers as a collective bring value to games (essentially the only real value, as a game without a player-base is not a digital asset), then why doesn't the community profit proportionally from a game's growth?

Why should any gamer invest time into something that only makes other people money at their wallet's expense?

Ubisoft's latest Announcement

Ubisoft announced to the media on February 2, 2022, that it has created a new Esports and Competitive Gaming division within the company. It will unify the various esports teams within Ubisoft into one global, unified team.

According to Ubisoft, the Esports and Competitive Gaming division will “work towards one common objective, shaping the future of esports and competitive gaming at Ubisoft.”

The Esports and Competitive Gaming division are dedicated to:

  • Building thriving and inclusive competitive ecosystems for Ubisoft’s portfolio of competitive games, for fans to engage and take part in, and for organizations and sponsors to grow in. Whether looking at our most mature esports scenes such as Rainbow Six Siege’s, Brawlhalla’s and Trackmania’s, or other existing and future competitive games, we are dedicated to grow each competitive ecosystem into reaching its full potential.
  • Creating a multi-year plan with competitive activities, tournaments and leagues adapted to all, and a clear path from amateur to professional play, that inspires and engages players across the world.  
  • Providing superior entertainment value and service to Ubisoft’s audience, through a diverse esports product offer, premium broadcast and event production, entertaining content, and a strong local presence allowing local communities to enjoy activities and content tailored for them.
  • Leveraging new opportunities by accompanying early on Ubisoft’s development and editorial teams across Ubisoft’s worldwide network of development studios, to collaborate on competitive games’ vision, scope and features, as well as revenue-sharing in-game items strategies. 
  • Implementing, in collaboration with partners and organizations, healthy and sustainable esports business models and revenue streams, that contribute to create a mature and virtuous environment for all. 

Moreover, Ubisoft states that its new division will “build upon their success and experience with the R6 SHARE program on Rainbow Six Siege to create revenue sharing strategies for other projects.”

Due to Ubisoft's use of blockchain technology to handle royalty distribution and transactions since 2018 likely, R6 Share does as well. The blockchain is the most efficient and cost-effective method of handling such finances with revenue sharing.

In addition to the existing competitive activities on the company’s esports titles, the Esports and Competitive Gaming division is also looking to broaden the portfolio of games offering competitive experience to fans. Already in discussion with the development teams of some of Ubisoft’s upcoming games, the team is looking to build competitive ecosystems across a diverse range of game genres, and to build upon their success and experience with the R6 SHARE program on Rainbow Six Siege to create revenue sharing strategies for other projects.

Ubisoft

However, it becomes intriguing when R6 Share is combined with revenue-sharing in-game items. Because of the reaction to Quartz and Digits, Ubisoft has been careful in how it worded this press release. It does not refer to NFTs, Quartz, or Digits in any way. Still, it makes perfect sense for Ubisoft to utilize its blockchain technology and push into NFTs to complement each other. Both will be expected to deliver on the strategies and focus points outlined above.

Ubisoft esports NFTs

The company's new Esports and Competitive Gaming division will be working on “revenue-sharing in-game item strategies” as part of the overall strategy.

NFTs would very much fit into this wording for those seeking to understand NFTs in games. While in-game items are not required to be NFTs, they are typically lodged on a blockchain if they're intimately tied to revenue-sharing.

As a result, even if it isn't explicitly called an NFT, it is nonetheless an NFT, especially in the case of Ubisoft, which has used the blockchain to handle revenue sharing for years, which indicates the development of a revenue-sharing in-game item strategy.

Esports players and spectators who own an NFT get a share of the revenue generated by Ubisoft through advertisements, ticket sales, and streaming rights. However, it remains to be seen how all this will affect the average gamer, not just the developers and professional esports players.