Only Blocks, no Blockchain – Does the Minecraft NFT Ban Make Sense?
Is Mojang saving the gaming industry from just another fresh attempt at squeezing the last dime out of the pockets of its player base, or is Minecraft leaving itself on the sidelines of a revolution by banning NFTs? Opinions, as they do, tend to differ, but here, each one has its merits.
Minecraft is arguably the biggest playground in the world, although a bit pixelated. It’s home to all sorts of homesteads, castles, pieces of armor, swords, clothes, and ultimately players, but not NFTs, no sir, not welcome no way. Since July 20, 2022, Mojang, the developer behind this giga phenomenon has banned NFTs in any way, shape or form from its online spectacle. All this begs one question – why?
The NFT Fuss in Minecraft
In a surprising turn of events the developer behind the worldwide phenomenon you might have heard of, a small video game titled Minecraft, has decided to, effective immediately, ban all non-fungible tokens, otherwise known as NFTs, from its video game. At first, it’s hard to believe why this gaming staple would pull such a move seeing how it could become the perfect example of a video game implementing NFT and blockchain technology in the way it’s always been meant to function. Just blocks then, hold back the blockchain please.
As per the developers’ own words communicated via Kotaku, they’re preemptively acting to put a stop to all efforts to introduce crypto scarcity into their pixelated online world designed on the principles of fun, safety, and equality. “To ensure all Minecraft players have a safe and inclusive experience, blockchain technologies are not permitted to be integrated inside our client and server applications, nor may Minecraft in-game content such as worlds, skins, personal items, or other mods, be utilized by blockchain technology to create a scarce digital asset.”, the officials behind the company stated.
Effectively, this prevents even player-run servers from implementing any form of NFTs into their operations, since every single private server has to abide by the same usage guidelines that overarch the entire online experience that represents the world of unlimited potential that is Minecraft. Unlimited, that is, unless you even think about using blockchain and NFT technology even on your own private server. It’s goodbye moon and stars then. Therefore, it would seem that Mojang really doesn’t want anything to do with unique items players obviously wanted to own, thus putting a stop to the will of the people inside their own game. After all, it’s the playground they created, isn’t it?
The Poorly Constructed Ban Affecting NFT Project Developers
No it’s not if you ask Yat Siu of the Animoca Brands, a crypto/NFT venture fund giant at the forefront of the entire developing industry. Per reports from Cointelegraph, Siu states that the NFT ban in Minecraft is extremely “hypocritical” and that despite the developer’s claims to the contrary, non-fungible tokens in video games can be quite inclusive, making the NFT ban by Mojang even less understandable.
Siu even went so far as to express his direct frustration with the actions of Mojang, especially given the exact context of NFG integration present within Minecraft before the instatement of the ban. Projects similar to NFT Worlds utilized the open-source server infrastructure of this pixelated wonder for hosting a pure metaverse platform capable of providing NFT and blockchain services through a meticulously crafted ecosystem built around a healthy and sound in-game economy devoid of predatory practices.
What’s more, Decrypt reports that these projects generated a substantial amount of player interes with more than $80 million of non-fungible token trading volume between as many as one hundred thousand players. This, then, can be construed as a form of voluntary exclusion of a hefty portion of their player base without a solid leg to stand on in the form of actual evidence that in-game NFT interactions and transactions have caused any harm whatsoever to any of the parties involved.
Finally, Siu does emphasize that there’s an overall fear present within the traditional gaming community of over monetization through implementation of advanced digital economies. However, there is one basic principle that NFT Worlds and similar ventures did allow, which Minecraft creators did not, and that’s freedom of choice. Players chose to become part of the NFT landscape in Minecraft the same way they decided to play Minecraft in the first place. Ultimately, this is what casts the biggest shadow over Mojang’s decision.
The Real Question is “Why”
All this brings us back to the sole beginning of this issue and to the single most important question behind this entire Minecraft conundrum, and that’s why would a giant such as Mojang choose to all of a sudden ban all NFT transactions and projects within its online worlds. On the one hand, you’re alienating a portion of your community and refusing them any say in the way they choose to enjoy your game. On the other hand, you’re preventing entrepreneurs from investing into their own projects. You’re also stifling the growth of your game from the influx of new monetary incentives and players eager to pursue a dynamic experience with blockchain and NFT transactions. So far, we’ve counted one, two, three, and four losses.
And all this is without mentioning freedom, player rights, and other constitutional considerations that would make it too complicated to find even a single justification for Mojang. However, there is one, and it’s a substantial one – the company’s ability and right to retain utmost control over its intellectual property. You can’t blame the creators of Minecraft for not wanting, in their eyes, rouge NFT integration into the video game they built from the ground up.
That’s exactly why they state 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. NFTs are not inclusive of all our communities and create a scenario of the haves and the have-nots. 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.”
According to CoinDesk, the official press release also continues to emphasize the creators’ concerns over the reliability of NFT transactions on private servers and how they see the potential of such economic relations ending up costing the very players looking to enjoy Minecraft in their own way and under their own servers’ rules. In their mind, NFTs are bad, and that’s it, they have every right to think so, even if they’re wrong, which is not up to anybody else to decide other than the players themselves, who’ve seemed to embrace the possibilities that the non-fungible tokens introduced. Ultimately, it boils down to morality, as it has many times before and as it will many times since.
Mojang Leaves the Door for NFTs Slightly Open
At the end, it’s important to emphasize one final piece of the puzzle that could be indicative of the real reason behind Mojang’s current ban on NFTs and their intention for the future. Of course, it’s open to interpretation, but the final sentence of the official statements explains “However, we have no plans of implementing blockchain technology into Minecraft right now.” In the past, this has often been emblematic of companies looking to implement certain technology on their own, and it might be the case with Mojang too.
If this turns out to be the case and Minecraft does end up with a version of NFT integration its creators would appreciate, it would not be a time to play the morality card and condone their previous hypocritical behavior. No, it would be one of the clearest possible signs that there’s something about NFTs that you shouldn’t fear, but rather allow the others to embrace.