UPDATED! EDITORIAL: Minecraft Bans NFT Servers and In-Game Items, Catching NFT Worlds Off Guard

In the wake of the ongoing cryptocrash, and the falling dominoes of crypto firms, I have been spending a bit of time lately learning more about the blockchain space, hanging out in various Reddit communities where such matters are discussed. As I commented on one post:

Crypto culture is kinda fascinating in a train wreck kind of way.

Yesterday, Mojang Studios (the makers of the phenomenally successful voxel-based building game/metaverse Minecraft, which is owned by Microsoft), posted the following announcement on their official blog:

Hello everyone! Recently, we’ve received some feedback from members of the community asking for clarification and transparency regarding Mojang Studios and Minecraft’s position on NFTs (non-fungible tokens) and blockchain. 

While we are in the process of updating our Minecraft Usage Guidelines to offer more precise guidance on new technologies, we wanted to take the opportunity to share our view that integrations of NFTs with Minecraft are generally not something we will support or allow.

This news appears to have come as a most unwelcome surprise to the blockchain gaming company NFT Worlds, which posted the following message to their Discord announcements channel* and to Twitter:

First and foremost – this out-of-nowhere announcement by Microsoft/Minecraft to outright ban all possible uses of NFTs & blockchain tech within Minecraft feels like a step backwards in innovation, and may even have painful downstream effects for them in the long run—we’ll see how that plays out.

Regardless, we’re working through this internally and have all hands on deck brainstorming solutions around the Minecraft EULA changes, as well as outright pivots for the NFT Worlds ecosystem and team if necessary.

Our order of operations in figuring this out is as follows.

We’re working to get in contact with the right decision makers within the Minecraft policy enforcement team as well as the general Minecraft studio to understand the details of this policy change, what the true internal motivators may have been, and how if at all we can find an alternative outcome that’s beneficial to the Minecraft player base as well as Microsoft’s vested interest in Blockchain / NFT technology and GameFi.

In the event after the above conversations we come to the conclusion we can continue to operate, the show goes on as it’s been.

However, if we’re truly banned because of the risk of C&D/DMCA/Lawsuit by Minecraft/Microsoft from innovating on top of the Minecraft ecosystem, we move forward, we pivot.

The first option from here is we transition into our own Minecraft-like game engine & games platform. There’s been dozens of minecraft-like game engines developed over the last decade by various 3rd party teams – These were people wanting to innovate beyond the idea of Minecraft and add their own spin on it. This option means acquiring one of these engines & development teams to join us, and developing on top of it to bring the same vision for NFT Worlds to fruition but with Minecraft & Microsoft entirely out of the picture with no ability to stop us.

The second option is a pivot to a GameFi platform as a service for any game developer or games studio to effortlessly implement the same proven, patent pending, friction removing tech for GameFi we’ve developed over the last year and have intentionally generalized the last 9 months in the event we decided to or needed to branch out into a GameFi platform. All the systems that we’ve already built would be extremely quick and easy for us to pivot to an implementation for anyone to use. The other interesting piece here is as soon as the Minecraft news was announced, we’ve had multiple other metaverse / gamefi projects immediately reaching out to us wanting to use this tech we’ve already proven, strongly kickstarting possible adoption of such a platform. If we go this route, existing NFT Worlds, $WRLD and Genesis Avatar holders would have an equivalent stake via token and/or NFT(s) related to this platform based on their NFT Worlds related holdings once launched.

Like always, we’d love to hear our community’s opinion on everything presented above.

Bottom line, we’re not leaving. We have the community, we have the war chest, and we know we can build.

Here’s more details on that “war chest” they’re talking about (this article is dated February 24th, 2022, well before the crypto crash):

Clearly, people are into it — NFT Worlds has already generated $90 million in trading [on Opensea], even though it gave the 10,000 worlds away for free and only makes money from “royalties and secondary sales.” Worlds are currently going for a minimum of $45,000.

Yes, that’s right—NFT Worlds created 10,000 “fully decentralized, fully customizable, community-driven, play-to-earn” Minecraft worlds, which people have been buying and selling on the NFT marketplace Opensea. Gee, I wonder what those US$45,000-apiece worlds are worth right now, because without Minecraft’s cooperation, they’re pretty much worthless.

Needless to say, over on the blockchain/crypto/NFT snark subReddit community called r/Buttcoin†, people are having an absolute field day discussing this! Honestly, you need to go over there and read through the discussion, it’s quite entertaining. One commenter, after reading NFT Worlds’ announcement above, summarized it hilariously:

TL;DR: We want Microsoft to know they are wrong, and we are innovators. If they don’t allow the project, we will make our own, better Minecraft with blackjack and hookers.

Another Redditor responded:

Wow, imagine running a business totally dependent on someone else, yet being caught unaware on major business decision of this entity on whom you completely dependent upon.

Sounds like just the way people in crypto do business…with zero awareness of whats going on around them.

Seriously…how on earth do you build a company whose business model goes out the window with a single decision by the corporation who RUNS THE PLATFORM THEY’RE DEPENDENT UPON?!?? This is a prime example of a harebrained, half-baked cryptoscheme that somebody hatched up and was able to earn a tidy profit from, selling highly volatile, speculative blockchain-based assets to ignorant customers, who perhaps thought that they would be able to sell them for a profit to the next fool who comes along. It’s maddening.

Minecraft goes on to explain its decision:

In our Minecraft Usage Guidelines, we outline how a server owner can charge for access, and that all players should have access to the same functionality. We have these rules to ensure that Minecraft remains a community where everyone has access to the same content. NFTs, however, can create models of scarcity and exclusion that conflict with our Guidelines and the spirit of Minecraft.

To ensure that Minecraft players have a safe and inclusive experience, blockchain technologies are not permitted to be integrated inside our client and server applications, nor may Minecraft in-game content such as worlds, skins, persona items, or other mods, be utilized by blockchain technology to create a scarce digital asset. Our reasons follow.

Some companies have recently launched NFT implementations that are associated with Minecraft world files and skin packs. Other examples of how NFTs and blockchain could be utilized with Minecraft include creating Minecraft collectible NFTs, allowing players to earn NFTs through activities performed on a server, or earning Minecraft NFT rewards for activities outside the game. 

Each of these uses of NFTs and other blockchain technologies creates digital ownership based on scarcity and exclusion, which does not align with Minecraft values of creative inclusion and playing together. NFTs are not inclusive of all our community and create a scenario of the haves and the have-nots. The speculative pricing and investment mentality around NFTs takes the focus away from playing the game and encourages profiteering, which we think is inconsistent with the long-term joy and success of our players.

Amen. 100%! CRYPTO ADDS NOTHING TO MINECRAFT! (I can’t believe I am cheering for Microsoft here…)

It is honestly refreshing to see yet another major corporation draw a line in the sand, and explain so clearly why they are drawing that line! Minecraft is a game, and games are supposed to be fun, people. (By the way, it would appear that Axie Infinity and all the other “play-to-earn” NFT games are bleeding users during this cryptocrash, as they can no longer earn enough to make it profitable. And it’s not just play-to-earm, it’s all the X-to-earn NFT schemes, like the NFT-based running app StepN, whose payouts to users have cratered in just two months.)

As I have editorialized before, a harsh, long, bitter crypto winter is going to shake out a lot of sketchy companies with poorly-thought-out plans, like NFT Worlds.

I suspect that NFT Worlds is going to go through a rough patch…

*To see this message, you will have to join the NFT Worlds Discord, which requires you to jump through a few hoops to verify that you’re a human being. I joined just to get a copy of the announcement, but I might stick around as a lurker, just to see how the company and its users attempt to spin this disaster 😉

†Seriously, if you haven’t checked out r/Buttcoin yet, please do so, along with Molly White excellent website, Web3 Is Going Just Great (the title is meant to be sarcastic), which outlines the latest crises, hoaxes, scams, and fiascoes in the blockchain space, keeping a running total of money lost to date in a ticker in the bottom right-hand corner.

UPDATE July 27th, 2022: Ars Technica has an update on the saga here. Apparently, the NFT Worlds token’s value has plummeted over 60 percent in a week following Mojang’s announcement.

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