War is declared: After Minecraft’s crackdown on NFTs, interloper NFT Worlds pledges to go it alone.
Minecraft is an industry titan. Developed by Mojang Studios in 2009 and acquired by Microsoft in 2014, Minecraft is the best-selling game in the world, and it continues to get stronger. Estimates put the total population of active Minecraft players at 141 million, and according to playercounter.com, 3.3 million players are online as of this writing. So when they made the decision to not support NFTs and the blockchain, Minecraft made tidal waves in the industry.
For the uninitiated, a massive part of the Minecraft experience involves playing with mods made by the player community that are available to everyone. These mods vary from changing how the player character looks to re-creating games, like Grand Theft Auto and Runescape, into the title. Minecraft maintains firm control over how its game is monetized. Server hosts can charge an entrance fee, but once somebody is in, all players should have access to the same things. This was true in 2014, and it is true now.
This sounds antithetical to NFTs, right? NFTs, by definition, are verifiable ownership of a unique part of the blockchain. However, some out there operate on the premise that rules were meant to be broken.
NFT Worlds use Minecraft for their business
In September 2021, work began on NFT Worlds, an organization developing a platform for Web3 games. Each NFT World, or metaverse—there are lots of them, about 10,000—has its own look and style. The owner of an NFT World has free reign to do as he or she pleases with the virtual real estate, but players can cross the virtual borders into other NFT Worlds through a portal. The worlds have unique tokens that players earn by playing.
One month after the initial work began, NFT Worlds launched. How did that happen so quickly? The foundation for NFT Worlds is not their own; instead, NFT Worlds uses Minecraft’s open-source tools and existing foundation for their game, or more specifically, their NFT platform.
Documentation for the beginner of NFT Worlds is still up on their site. “We didn’t want to have to reinvent the wheel by creating our own unproven game from scratch, while also having to innovate on the NFT integration and decentralized metaverse side of the platform we envisioned. Having nearly a decade of experience working within the Minecraft open-source ecosystem and seeing everything it’s capable of and the vastness of open-source tools, mods, and more, we knew it would be a perfect fit to power the decentralized gaming metaverse of NFT Worlds,” the company states.
In a nutshell, NFT Worlds’ model is to charge and make money on Minecraft mods through the creation of servers where players can play-to-earn (P2E) NFTs or cryptocurrencies. One wonders how they did not see any possible conflict with Minecraft’s original owner, Mojanga, and its current owner (since 2014), Microsoft, in their business plan. Afterall, the rules had been firmly established when NFT Worlds began to build their vision.
The virtual worlds comprising NFT Worlds reside on the Ethereum blockchain. NFT Worlds created their own cryptocurrency called WLRD, and players earn WRLD coins by playing. After players make enough coins through gameplay, they are able to trade them in to buy access to more content. “WRLD is the main medium of exchange within the NFT World’s ecosystem. In many NFT Worlds, it will be necessary for players to give world owners WRLD tokens in order to access the content, perks, competitions, and more that world owners have created in their [respective] worlds,” NFT Worlds says.
On July 20, 2022, Minecraft announced that they were banning NFTs and blockchain integration—news that shook the gaming industry. It also shook NFT Worlds. Over 50 different game servers were available on NFT Worlds before Minecraft’s announcement—about 20 of them went offline after. Also, on July 18, the WLRD coin floated around $.036, and after the announcement, it dipped to $.012. In just an hour, the coin had dropped to a third of its price.
NFT Worlds has stabilized around $.015 in the weeks after the announcement. Their organization released a statement saying they would be creating their own version of Minecraft for Web3 creators relying on Minecraft. Their objective is to make it free to play. When they release this technology, NFT Worlds will become a hub for NFT gamers looking for a play-to-earn (P2E) game like Minecraft.
Companies buying in on NFT Worlds
One world that has already been built on the NFT Worlds platform is White Sands, which debuted in January 2022. White Sands already sold NFTs called Parcel Passes. “Each Parcel Pass holder will receive ownership of an Islet within White Sands. Each comes with its own modern home, which can be customized or destroyed to create whatever you can imagine and construct with Minecraft Creative mode,” their site says. Players also accumulate WRLD tokens while playing, among other perks coming soon.
White Sands is a metaverse ecosystem with pets, furniture, vehicles, and tons of other ways their players can customize their homes with NFTs and money. In light of recent news, they will root themselves in NFT Worlds instead of Minecraft when the company finally releases their own game. Right now, the two companies hold Minecraft servers with no NFT integration, waiting for the new NFT Worlds game to be developed.
Wasn’t this impossible from the start?
Minecraft’s EULA, or end-user license agreement, states, “You can do whatever you want with [your mods] as long as you don’t sell them for money or try to make money from them.” NFT Worlds’ documentation, meanwhile, says, “It will be necessary for players to give world owners WRLD tokens in order to access the content, perks, competitions, and more.”
I am not a lawyer. Nor am I an entrepreneur. But it seems painfully clear that NFT Worlds could not succeed from the start. They wanted to use Minecraft to make money, and they must have agreed to the EULA, which said they cannot do that, in order to play in the first place. Players can effectively buy WRLD tokens because they are trading on crypto exchanges like MXC. WRLD is money; it would be impossible to defend the transactions claiming they aren’t making money from their mods to Microsoft’s Minecraft platform.
What do we think?
Nobody should have been surprised Minecraft didn’t want to work with NFTs. Other companies using their engine for free to make money? Why would any company allow that to happen? Players accept the EULA when they play the game, which clearly states they cannot make money using Minecraft.
NFT Worlds stated that they are going to create their own version of Minecraft, wherein access to the game will be completely free for creators to make and sell their content. They will continue to allow creators to build in Minecraft while they make their new game. NFT Worlds claims this action is a battle between two visions of the Internet—Web2 pitted against Web3.
It is not. NFT Worlds will need to make money, and they plan to achieve this with their cryptocurrency. They wanted to use Minecraft and their tools as a basis for their own company, blatantly against the EULA.
Meanwhile, Microsoft has stated they might change their stance on NFTs and crypto integration as technology continues, because this isn’t a hard-line issue. And that’s their decision to make—they own Minecraft.
NFT Worlds should have made their own game to begin with. “Microsoft has made it clear they will always act in the interest of their shareholders and balance sheet, to the detriment of innovation, player experience, and creators,” NFT Worlds has stated. NFT Worlds is not a team of saints sent to rescue the Internet; they are making money on their system all the same. There is clearly a demand for a blockchain version in the style of Minecraft based on interest generated by NFT Worlds, so make it—just not with someone else’s tech.