EA CEO Softens Company’s Stance on NFTs in Earnings Call
NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are the latest hot button issue in the gaming world. Game publishers have begun singing their praises and calling them the future of gaming. In response the gaming community (including game developers) have openly expressed their dissatisfaction with the concept. Since NFTs are officially in the gaming Zeitgeist, it was an expected topic in Electronic Arts’ (EA) earnings call on Tuesday, and surprisingly the company’s CEO says they’re not that into them, for now at least.
In the call, which was transcribed by SeekingAlpha, CEO Andew Wilson was asked, “We’ve seen a lot of venture capital funding into blockchain and NFT gaming, wondering how you’re thinking about those channels eventually and it’s easier to build from within?” Though Wilson waxed corporate for quite some time, he eventually discussed the notion of games having unique, collectible items, and said, “I believe that collectability will continue to be an important part of our industry and the games and experiences that we offer our players. Whether that’s part of the NFT and the blockchain? Well, that remains to be seen.” Expanding on his thoughts, he concluded, “…we want to deliver the best possible player experience we can. And so we’re going to — we will evaluate that over time. But right now, it’s not something that we’re driving on.”
As Wccftech noted, this is an abrupt reversal from the position EA held just a few months ago. When asked about NFTs on the previous earnings call in November, Wilson had this to say, “I do think it will be an important part of the future of our industry. But it’s still early to figure out how that’s going to work. I feel good about our position with respect to that.” He put an even finer point on it by saying, “Is there an opportunity, as we think about NFTs and other digital ecosystems, to expand that value over time?’ I think the short answer to that is yes.”
Though it’s not clear what precisely lead to Wilson’s declaration that the company isn’t “driving on” NFTs right now, it’s possible EA is simply aware of the immediate backlash that other companies have felt upon announcing their expansion into NFTs, as it has been swift and harsh. For example, on Monday Team 17 announced it would be adding NFTs to an upcoming Worms game, only to backtrack 24 hours later and rescind the offering due to the firestorm of controversy, according to Polygon. The same thing happened in December 2021 with GSC Game World, which is creating S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chernobyl. Despite promising to “Do NFT right,” the game developer decided to reverse course on adding NFT faces to its upcoming FPS game after, you guessed it, an intense backlash.
As you may recall, this whole brouhaha started in December when Ubisoft announced its new Quartz NFT platform, which came out of the gate with rare gear for Ghost Recon Breakpoint players. Despite the expected revolt from its customers Ubisoft went ahead with the program, and the results were incredibly weak uptake. As we noted at the time, it’s hard to pinpoint the reason for Ubisoft’s lackluster success with its first batch of NFTs, as the game they were offered in is from 2019 and doesn’t have a large player base to start with. Therefore, it’s not clear if people hate NFTs, the game, or both.
It’s not just gamers who are loathe to hear the phrase non-fungible token, but game developers as well. In a recent survey by the organizers of the annual Game Developers Conference (GDC) on the topic of “using cryptocurrency as a payment tool,” 72 percent of respondents listed their studio as “not interested.” In the same survey question, only six percent of developers said they were “very interested.” One of the survey respondents even left a comment, stating, “How this hasn’t been identified as a pyramid scheme is beyond me.”