The First Crypto Game Coming to the Epic Store Had a Disastrous Unveiling

One of the first NFTs for the game was found to have been a horse model priced for $30 on Epic's own asset store.

One of the first major crypto video games trying to appeal to mainstream gaming audiences, involving a Western-themed battle royale, happened this week—and went extremely poorly.  

In February, crypto-focused Gala Games acquired GRIT, which previously had no crypto elements. On Monday, it showed off GRIT at its crypto gaming convention, Galaverse. Besides announcing GRIT would be coming to the Epic Game Store, Gala Games revealed NFT integration for GRIT, including a limited edition “epic” horse mount NFT that people quickly realized was merely the same horse anyone can buy for $30 off Epic’s own asset store.

On the left, the 'GRIT' NFT. On the right, the Unreal Engine asset that costs $30.

“The GRIT horse NFT pictured in the tweets was a placeholder asset,” said Gala Games in a statement to Waypoint. “The NFT, which was given away for free and exclusive to Galaverse attendees, will be replaced with the correct image when finalized. In our rush to get things ready for Galaverse we didn’t replace the GRIT placeholder image. It has been taken down.”

The company still plans to sell a horse NFT, however.

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The apparently rushed nature of GRIT’s NFT-ifcation is evidenced elsewhere: the Twitter account for GRIT, for example, links to an old website, referencing the non-NFT version of the game. The new website is here.

The game looks uninspiring but ultimately inoffensive, based on early gameplay footage from the convention, and old technical tests of the game played by outlets like PC Gamer resulted in impressions like “none of us were blown away it did show a bit of promise.” But nothing shown backs up the revolutionary banter you see from crypto evangelists. It looks like yet another battle royale game in an increasingly crowded and boring field of them.

Unlike Steam, which actively banned NFT games, Epic Game Store has shown an interest in providing a platform for this new and unproven approach to game monetization. Part of Steam’s approach may be self preservation, because Steam makes a lot of money by people buying and selling exclusive cosmetic items for various games, but it’s also the result of a hostility towards crypto writ large by traditional gaming audiences, developers included

An error occurred while retrieving the Tweet. It might have been deleted.

It was no surprise, then, to see a lot of pushback when GRIT’s Epic partnership was announced, followed by extreme schadenfreude when the horse asset was discovered.

“We believe pushback comes from the lack of understanding of what Web3 means and the possibilities it brings to gaming,” said president of Gala Games John Osvald in an interview with Waypoint. “While some pushback might happen, we think that users will embrace our games once they see the ‘fun’ and understand the value of true digital ownership. This is going to be an iterative learning experience for not only the players, but also the developers, publishers and platforms.”

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Osvald’s comments echo similar statements by executives in charge of Ubisoft’s criticized (and now finished) experiment with crypto and video games in Ghost Recon Breakpoint.

“I think gamers don’t get what a digital secondary market can bring to them,” said Ubisoft Strategic Innovations Lab VP Nicolas Pouard, talking to the website Finder back in January.. “[...] So, it’s really, for them. It’s really beneficial. But they don’t get it for now.”

Ubisoft has not announced any other NFT projects, and upon winding down its first attempt, some of the game’s developers immediately started flipping their developer-exclusive NFTs. The company did, however, invest millions into a blockchain card game this past March, and was a major investor in NFT gaming company Animoca Brands.

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The central critiques of crypto games have been three-fold. One, they’ve so far not been fun to play, and the vast majority cynically pitch the crypto part first. Two, the environmental impact of many popular crypto initiatives remains a concern. Three, it’s a solution in search of a problem, because games already solved trading items, and the idea that you’ll be able to take these items across games is something video games already could do if they wanted, but it’s technically infeasible and financially suspect.

“Web3 games haven’t actually been fun to play for the broader gaming audience and subsequently have failed to draw in players in mass,” said Osvald. “ [...] Once players see the fun, and see the opportunities created via digital ownership, we believe broader gamer adoption of these titles will happen.”

It’s also the case that crypto itself has been in the throes of a crisis, with various cryptocurrencies wiping out hundreds of billions in value in the past few months, giving more evidence to critics that argue crypto is filled with too many ponzi-like schemes and other shady activity. Just recently, Waypoint reported on a crypto company that was downloading old video game demos and turning them into NFTs without permission.

“While crypto currencies are facing some challenges at the moment,” said Osvald, “we wholeheartedly believe that blockchain technologies will yield benefits that will convince gamers to play GRIT and other Gala games. There are always ups and downs in these markets, but we firmly believe in the long term potential of Web3 technologies.”

GRIT has not launched in the Epic Games Store yet, though Oswvald noted the Fortnite developer, who's also a big metaverse proponent, “supported us every step of the way.”

Follow Patrick on Twitter. His email is patrick.klepek@vice.com, and available privately on Signal (224-707-1561).

Tagged:

crypto, NFT, Gala Games

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