Ubisoft drinks the crypto Kool-Aid, announces plans to develop blockchain games

Ubisoft
(Image credit: CLEMENT SABOURIN (Getty Images))
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Ubisoft has formally announced its intention to develop "play-to-earn" NFT and blockchain games, the publisher revealed during last week's Q2 earnings call.

Executives raised the subject of blockchain games several times in both its earnings report and during the call itself (thanks, IGN). The French publisher is one of the major investors behind crypto gaming firm Animoca Brands' recent $65 million windfall (opens in new tab). But Ubisoft has been poking around with blockchain tech through its Strategic Innovation Lab since 2018, and is a founding member of the Blockchain Gaming Alliance.

"This industry is changing regularly with lots of new revolutions happening," said CEO Yves Guillemot during the call (via IBTimes (opens in new tab)). "We consider blockchain one of those revolutions. It will imply more play-to-earn that will enable more players to actually earn content, own content, and we think it's going to grow the industry quite a lot."

Crypto gaming has been a contentious issue lately. Steam flatly banned all games featuring NFTs or cryptocurrency (opens in new tab) from its platform last month. And while Epic boss Tim Sweeney had earlier expressed similar thinking, he chose to counter Steam's announcement by saying that NFTs were allowed on the Epic Games Store, actually (opens in new tab). It's still too early to assume what Ubisoft's contributions to crypto games will be—whether it's rolling NFTs into the rewards structure of its open-world behemoths, or creating entirely new blockchain games.

When pressed on crypto's well-documented environmental impacts, Ubisoft CFO Frédérick Duguet is reported as saying the publisher is still in the early stages of exploring the technology, and that this of course includes "the impact on environments". But it's also worth a reminder that NFTs aren't just environmentally devastating—they're terrible at what they set out to fix, creating a glorified Steam marketplace that doesn't provide safety or security for digital artists (opens in new tab).

The announcement comes amidst internal tensions at Ubisoft, as workers this weekend demanded swifter concessions from leadership (opens in new tab) after Activision appeared to finally give ground (opens in new tab) towards its own workers. 16 months after allegations of abuse and misconduct began, some Ubisoft employees feel the publisher has made little to no effort to remedy company culture.

Natalie Clayton
Features Producer

20 years ago, Nat played Jet Set Radio Future for the first time, and she's not stopped thinking about games since. Joining PC Gamer in 2020, she comes from three years of freelance reporting at Rock Paper Shotgun, Waypoint, VG247 and more. Embedded in the European indie scene and a part-time game developer herself, Nat is always looking for a new curiosity to scream about—whether it's the next best indie darling, or simply someone modding a Scotmid into Black Mesa. She also unofficially appears in Apex Legends under the pseudonym Horizon.