Are Blockchain Games Grifting Players?

NFTs (non-fungible tokens) have made it into gaming as an incentive to play and as a method of transferring in-game wealth to the outside, into trading platforms where it can be exchanged for other tokens or for real money. There has been contention over whether this development is beneficial or counter to the spirit of gaming. Regardless, digital assets being exchangeable out of the game for real money is no new concept and we saw it in the pre-blockchain marketplace in games like EVE Online.

Modern games like the Ghibli-esque Ni No Kuni allow a digital currency (territe) earned within the game to be exchanged out into the NKT/NKA token on the Marblex wallet app and there converted into the MARBLEX (MBX) token. The MBX token is tradeable on on-chain instant swap protocols like Klayswap, for Klaytn (KLAY), or other tokens that can be withdrawn into a wallet and moved into other de-centralized or centralized exchanges. The process can also be done in reverse, allowing players to buy a rare in-game currency, which allows them to buy new equipment for their characters and progress further in the game.

 This pay-to-win aspect of the game has drawn a great deal of criticism from players and commentators, who feel that the gacha (vending machine) model is becoming increasingly predatory and that this is just the latest way to “scam” players with the exciting sparkle of crypto-currency and the promise of the play-to-earn model.

On global servers, the ingame equivalents – Territe and Asterite, replaced more traditional cash to in-game currency named ‘diamonds’, which were available as rewards in-game. Territe and Asterite became rarer rewards and this encouraged “thousands of crypto bots in mid-June, which overwhelmed servers and caused frustration as human players waited hours in a log-in queue”, according to Fanbyte.

Netmarble has taken action to reduce the number of bots over the months since the game’s launch and their latest attempt seems to be to separate territe earned in events and territe that is bought via cash or crypto. However, Doctor Diggs, a Ni No Kuni YouTube Streamer, stated, “I was under the impression that they weren’t supposed to co-ordinate… Netmarble wasn’t meant to have anything to do with Marblex in this way, where Netmarble is making changes to preserve the value of NKT”.

He questions whether these changes are made with the consumer at heart, or if this is essentially another way for the company to increase its profit margin. From a business perspective that may be no bad thing, but it is the players who ultimately provide the value and use case for the cryptocurrency and if they feel exploited there are a growing number of other games that will tempt them away.

The triple-A games industry may also begin to reshape its relationship with current markets by making cryptocurrencies a part of future game experiences. The CEO of Electronic Arts said in 2021 that cryptocurrencies and “play to earn” models were the “future of our industry”, though he has more recently said that these are aspects his company is not currently “driving on”


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