Stalker 2 jumps on the NFT bandwagon, will make 3 players 'metahuman' NPCs, whatever that is

Stalker 2
(Image credit: GSC Game World)

Stalker is a game about desperately scrounging through the shattered remains of a ruined world in search of elusive, ethereal artifacts that can be sold to sketchy traders for a quick buck. In that context, I guess it makes sense that Stalker 2, coming in April next year, will incorporate NFTs that enable players to "own" unique items in the game, or even become an NPC.

Starting later this month, players will be able to register for "item drops" that will begin in January 2022—not a drop in the usual videogame sense but an online auction. Among the NFT items up for grabs will be what GSC Game World describes as "the first-ever metahuman," which sounds cool but is in fact just an NPC with the owner's face scanned onto it. Echoes of Tyler Wilde as the world's worst basketball player, I suppose, except you won't actually be able to play the game as this character: Instead, it will appear as "a bartender, a comrade, or an enemy... there for everyone to see."

"Considering the global trends in gaming, we can do more than just offer an immersive game experience," GSC Game World CEO Evgeniy Grygorovych said. "Our players can get a deeper presence in the game, and we will give them this opportunity by presenting the first AAA game with a unique meta experience."

The second round of drops will take place in February and feature "highly secretive genesis packs." Details on that will be announced via Twitter and Discord, but whatever they are, GSC Game World said they and other such drops won't influence gameplay or provide any kind of advantage over other players. 

They will, however, be tradeable on DMarket, an NFT trading platform and marketplace for CS:GO, Dota 2, and Team Fortress 2 skins and cosmetics. There's currently no pricing information on DMarket's Stalker 2 page, but it does promise to "initiate our Metaversial bridge, offering three lucky fans an ability to connect with 10+ (or even 100+) millions of gamers worldwide as a non-fungible token," which certainly sounds like something.

I've been looking forward to Stalker 2 for a very long time now—since well before it even existed—and to be blunt, this really puts me off the whole thing. I don't care if other players want to be the guy standing in a dark corner offering to sell me cheap vodka and wet ammo, but as many others have pointed out before me, NFT technology is entirely unnecessary for any of what's being offered here except as a way for the developers and traders to make money off of people whose sense of ownership has been irretrievably warped by over-immersion in digital ephemera. I'm honestly not sure I can get behind a game that aims to take advantage of that.

Based on the reaction to GSC Game World's tweet above, I'm not alone. Replies are almost universally negative, ranging from expression of disappointment to threats to skip the game entirely. "NFTs may be optional but I think that most players do not want them," GlobalAssembly2 tweeted. "I really hope that you guys and gals change your mind because I want to see this game succeed and i think NFTs hurt that."

OUTCAST_exe was slightly more to the point: "Stalker is so realistic it's simulating Environmental Damage and Toxicity in real life too."

Maybe we're all wrong—maybe this really will be the next big revolution in gaming. But I don't think so. Stalker 2 is set to launch on April 18.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.