Don't expect to buy a creeper skin as an NFT (non-fungible token) and plug it into your Minecraft server in the near future. Mojang has taken a firm stance against the massively popular game's involvement with NFTs and blockchain tech. "[To] ensure that Minecraft players have a safe and inclusive experience, blockchain technologies are not permitted to be integrated inside our Minecraft client and server applications, nor may they be utilized to create NFTs associated with any in-game content, including worlds, skins, persona items or other mods," the developer said in a statement. It will soon update the game's guidelines accordingly.
Minecraft has a marketplace where people can sell their creations for others to use. Mojang notes that some companies recently started offering NFTs that are connected to the game. There are some NFTs associated with Minecraft skin packs and world files that people can buy. The studio said it might have been possible for players to earn Minecraft NFTs for activities completed inside the game or elsewhere. Mojang is not on board with any of that.
“Each of these uses of NFTs and other blockchain technologies creates digital ownership based on scarcity and exclusion, which does not align with Minecraft values of creative inclusion and playing together,” it said. "NFTs are not inclusive of all our community and create a scenario of the haves and the have-nots.”
While Minecraft server owners are allowed to charge for access, Mojang rules state that everyone should have access to the same functionality and content. "NFTs, however, can create models of scarcity and exclusion that conflict with our guidelines and the spirit of Minecraft," the studio said.
Mojang also expressed concern about the speculative nature of NFTs and noted that some have been sold at "artificially or fraudulently inflated prices." Given that Minecraft has millions of young players, it probably wouldn't be a great look for the game to support NFTs. “The speculative pricing and investment mentality around NFTs takes the focus away from playing the game and encourages profiteering, which we think is inconsistent with the long-term joy and success of our players,” Mojang said.
The studio and its parent company Microsoft have good reason to be wary of NFTs and blockchain tech. For one thing, there has been an overwhelming backlash from the broader gaming community against those technologies. For another, cryptocurrency prices have plummeted and the NFT market has dried up. Even the erstwhile leader in the blockchain gaming space, Axie Infinity, was the target of a major hack (with victims losing out as a result) and its daily player numbers have plummeted by over two thirds in the last few months.
Some other major players in the gaming industry have already shied away from NFTs and the blockchain. Last October, Steam banned games that enable cryptocurrency and NFT trading. Sony recently announced a PlayStation rewards program that includes digital collectibles. However, it emphasized that these could not be traded and the program does not involve NFTs or the blockchain.
However, Mojang isn't completely rejecting the blockchain. The studio said it will monitor the evolution of the technology to "determine whether it will allow for more secure experiences or other practical and inclusive applications in gaming."