NFT Worlds

Can NFT Game Developers Ever Hope to Take on Minecraft?

BY Jex Exmundo

August 08, 2022

Are you excited about NFTs? Is one of your favorite games Minecraft? Well, we have some bad news for you. It doesn’t seem that Minecraft will be integrating NFTs into its ecosystem. Ever.

Minecraft banned NFTs in July of 2022. The team rationalized the ban in an official announcement published at the time. In it, they claimed that NFTs create models of scarcity and exclusion that conflict with their desire for all players to have access to the same content.

The effects of this sweeping ban were swift and massive. Case in point: NFT Worlds, a beleaguered metaverse gaming project that once enabled users to mint, buy, and trade various Minecraft-compatible 3D worlds. With Minecraft’s ban in place, NFT Worlds’ proprietary $WRLD token quickly tanked in value. Unfortunately, this event only exacerbated the effects of a months-long industry-wide downturn — the 2022 Crypto Winter.

Many feared that it was the end of NFT Worlds.

NFT worlds coin losing value
Source: CoinMarketCap

However, NFT Worlds wasn’t discouraged. Rather, the team saw this potentially-catastrophic news as a rallying call. Like many others in the bear market, the company says that felt it had no other choice but to keep building.

In a lengthy public statement, the NFT Worlds team announced they would create their own take on Minecraft, complete with “the modernization and active development Minecraft has been missing for years.” This raises a notable question. Can NFT developers take on a project as vast in scope as Minecraft? Will we ever see an NFT version of Minecraft?

NFT-based Minecraft: Can game developers do it?

According to the NFT Worlds team, they’ve already started to bring together “the top visionary developers within the Minecraft development ecosystem” to work on the project. In addition, the team cites support from a thriving community and “a warchest of funds to sustain us through the process.”

Turning from NFT Worlds to the NFT gaming space in general, you don’t have to look far to see massive amounts of funding or innovative NFT-based projects. What’s more, these projects are being launched by an array of experienced and proven teams.

In light of all these resources and track records, it seems that a slight adjustment to the question is needed. In other words, we shouldn’t ask if NFT developers can create a viable Minecraft competitor to host user-built metaverse experiences. Clearly, the talent and resources already exist in the NFT gaming community. As such, it would be better to ask when we will see such a game.

Unfortunately, it seems that we will be waiting quite some time.

Despite its trappings as a simple, kid-friendly survival game, the infrastructure that’s enabled Minecraft to balloon into its current state obviously won’t happen in a few months. Indeed, even an experienced team of developers might need years to create and roll out such a complex architecture. True, the core game has been remade with an estimated 500 lines of code in Python. However, other features that are key to the Minecraft experience will present any would-be developer with a unique set of challenges — for example, procedurally generated assets, infinitely recurring worlds, and a flexible set of tools for creators.

In the end, no matter who is doing the development, making a Web3-enabled game similar in spirit to Minecraft is going to be a herculean effort. Then, of course, there is all the marketing and user acquisition that’s needed. This also takes time and months of strategy development.

So, exactly how long will it take?

Estimating a timeframe

Given the complexity of the infrastructure and the volatile nature of crypto markets, it’s difficult to say. But for context, The Sandbox — also a voxel-based game centered around player creativity — spent four years in development before the launch of its alpha version.

Generally speaking, rushing the development process of any kind of game, Web3 or otherwise, does not bode well for the quality of the end product. Just look at the mainstream gaming industry for some notable examples of games released in unfinished, unpolished states to hordes of angry players. There are an array of examples to choose from: Battlefield 2042, Cyberpunk 2077, Fallout 76 — the list goes on and on.

So it’s safe to say that the project will take years, at minimum.

Who will be the first to market?

The NFT-based worlds that players have created will live on in Minecraft. They are still allowed to operate and can be played, including those created via NFT Worlds. But these worlds will no longer integrate blockchain-based functionality. Additionally, while the coming game platform for NFT Worlds is under development, the launcher and play pages for NFT Worlds will continue to stay up and be developed to introduce new non-crypto player-attracting features.

This makes NFT Worlds seem like a ripe candidate.

“Make no mistake, this is a web2 vs web3 battle,” NFT Worlds’ press release said. “It is a battle between two different visions of the future of the web: one that prioritizes shareholder value and profit margins above all else and one that prioritizes the spirit of innovation through independent creators. It is both a philosophical conflict over what the Internet represents, and a technological struggle over who will have ownership of digital assets.”

Although a touching mission statement, there’s room to wonder just how much NFT Worlds’ initial model actually did embody “the spirit of innovation.” There’s no doubt that NFT Worlds’ reported 100,000 users employed a fair share of creativity in building out new game modes and worlds using Minecraft as their canvas, but we can’t fully say the same for the project heads that precariously rested all their hopes on what is, at the end of the day, someone else’s game.

But to be fair, in NFT Worlds’ official documentation, this concern was addressed head-on.

Why Minecraft? Touting over a decade of experience modding and building on Minecraft as an open-source platform, the NFT Worlds team stated, “When we started NFT Worlds, we knew that in order to compete in the rapidly expanding NFT metaverse gaming category we’d need to bootstrap our vision using an existing open-source gaming ecosystem to create the thriving community driven world development, community spaces, community created games and interconnected worlds that we envisioned.”

This reasoning makes sense, as the team didn’t want to have to “reinvent the wheel” by making their own (unproven) game from scratch. Game development does take years, after all. Having to innovate on the NFT integration and blockchain front would simply make things too complex.

And at this point, NFT Worlds already has their foot in the door, so they stand a compelling chance.

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