Blockchain evangelists have long envisioned a time where NFT technology is used to let you really own the weapons, armor and skins in the video games you play. This isn't just an abstract matter of principle, but would allow you to sell your items to anyone willing to buy, or even trade them for weapons or skins from another game. It's no longer a distant hypothetical. Ubisoft is making that a reality on Thursday with the introduction of NFTs into Ghost Recon Breakpoint.
In the biggest experiment any major gaming company has made with blockchain technology, Ubisoft will bring three items into 2019 squad shooter Ghost Recon Breakpoint designed to function as NFTs, or nonfungible tokens, which the company is calling "Digits". Each will be released in limited numbers and will be built on the Tezos blockchain, which requires a tiny fraction of the energy used to operate the more popular Ethereum blockchain.
There'll be one gun, one helmet and one pair of leg armor to start off with. More NFT gear will be to Ghost Recon Breakpoint in 2022, the company said.
Many gaming giants have expressed interest in integrating cryptocurrencies or NFTs into their titles. EA's CEO called blockchain games "the future of our industry." Square Enix experimented with NFTs by selling a set associated with its Million Arthur online card game and plans to integrate the tech into more of its games. The CEO of Take-Two Interactive, which publishes Grand Theft Auto, said he's a "big believer" in the digital ownership that NFTs afford. But with the integration of Digits into Ghost Recon Breakpoint, a AAA game that's part of a prominent franchise, Ubisoft is diving deeper into blockchain technology than any major gaming company before.
To aid its NFT ambitions, Ubisoft has set up a platform called Quartz. This is where players will be able to mint their NFTs -- for which you'll need a digital wallet, like MetaMask. Digits will be free to mint (for now), but you'll need to reach certain criteria to earn the right. To gain access to any of the Digits unveiled by Ubisoft on Tuesday, you'll need to be at least level 5 in Ghost Recon Breakpoint. Once all the available Digits have been claimed, the only way to score them will be to buy them off another player.
Once you own the NFT, you'll be able to use it in-game like any other item. Should you want to sell or swap it, you can do so via a secondary marketplace -- just like buying a tool in real life and selling it on eBay. OpenSea, currently the biggest NFT marketplace, won't be eligible to host Ubisoft's Digits, since OpenSea currently doesn't support NFTs on the Tezos blockchain. Ubisoft chose Tezos over Ethereum, the blockchain on which most NFTs are created, because Tezos is significantly more energy efficient.
"One transaction on their network [Tezos] uses the same amount of energy as streaming 30 seconds of video, while the previous generation of blockchain networks can consume the same energy required for one year of non-stop streaming," said Ubisoft's Blockchain Technical Director Didier Genevois. "This low carbon footprint means that both our developers and our players can prioritize innovation without compromising sustainability."
Ubisoft is implementing some restrictions on its Digits. Each wallet will be restricted to holding only one of each Digit, a measure which will stop wealthy players from buying the entire supply of a rare Digit. Only players over 18 using Ubisoft's Connect PC client will be able be eligible to mint off Quartz.
Digital ownership is one of two ways blockchain enthusiasts have predicted gaming will be changed by blockchain technology. The other is the advent of "play to earn" (P2E) games, where playing and completing tasks earns you a cryptocurrency that can be used to make purchases within that game's ecosystem -- or traded for mainstream cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ether. The most prominent example is Axie Infinity, a Pokemon-esque game with over 2 million daily active users.