Minecraft Says ‘No’ to NFTs

The Microsoft-owned Mojang Studios said NFTs create 'scarcity and exclusion' — not to mention predatory monetization.

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A row of gamers wearing ear phones and holding Xbox controllers sit in front of screens showing minecraft gameplay.
Photo: MARK RALSTON/AFP (Getty Images)

Mojang Studios, the makers of the ever-popular Minecraft, is taking a page from the old U.S. anti-drugs playbook, though it seems “Just Say No” works much better for blockchain-based money making schemes than it ever did for narcotics.

The Microsoft-owned studio wrote on its blog Wednesday that NFTs in Minecraft “are generally not something we will support or allow.” The company said that it was changing its Minecraft Usage Guidelines to specify that blockchain tech will not be permitted to integrate in the Minecraft game client and cannot be utilized to craft NFTs based on any in-game content, whether that’s skins, items, or even mods.

The devs wrote that blockchain technology’s sense of digital ownership is based on “scarcity and exclusion” which “does not align with Minecraft values of creative inclusion and playing together.” They added that third party NFTs may end up costing players who buy them, since they depend on people creating blockchain technology “who might disappear without notice.”

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This actually did happen. A NFT project called Blockverse, which was supposedly built for the Minecraft universe, scammed an estimated $1.2 million from those early investors who bought Blockverse characters in NFT form on sites like OpenSeas. The project also included a cryptocurrency called $Diamond. In January, the project creators suddenly took all the money invested and deleted the project website, Discord, and Twitter account. If you don’t know, this is colloquially known as a “rug pull,” and it’s much too common in the crypto space.

The Minecraft devs did leave it open to potentially including blockchain tech in the future, but added “we have no plans of implementing blockchain technology into Minecraft right now.”

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You can expect that those projects that were already trying to integrate Minecraft into the blockchain were not wholly enthused by the news. NFT Worlds, a blockchain-based company where users can purchase NFTs of digital environments—mostly those found in Minecraft—were stung hard. The company posted a Discord message to its Twitter account saying they were working on solutions “around the Minecraft EULA changes,” adding they were even considering pivoting to creating their Minecraft-like game platform.

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Despite the game being almost 13 years old, 141 million active players still come back to Minecraft every month, as of August 2021 numbers from Statista. Helen Chiang, the Minecraft studio head, told Edge Magazine in a 2019 interview that the average age for Minecraft players was 24. However, the game is specifically designed to be kid-friendly, Chiang said. The ERSB rating for Minecraft players is 10-years-old and up. Having a money-making investment scheme built into the client does raise a lot of red flags and potential for abuse, especially when you make children susceptible. Chiang reportedly told Edge that “We need to be really clear and simple around how we plan to monetize in the game.”

Meanwhile, other games geared toward kids like Roblox have leaned all-in on monetization and in-game promotions geared toward kids. Users are incentivized to spend Roblux on in-game items while visiting worlds specifically made to promote products from brands like Vans, Nike, and Ralph Lauren. Still, the company behind the game updated its community standards last year to take a vague aim at potential use of NFTs in-game. Users, they said, are not permitted to use Roblox to offer payment for acting as a model for assets.

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Devs also wrote: “You also may not use third-party services or products to sell, either directly or as a bundle: in-experience items, exclusive features, or other in-experience enhancements.”