The blockchain tech sector is notable for the absurd amount of scams, fraudsters, liars, con artists, and other such deceptive bad actors it attracts. And as we talked about in this space back in March, people building their businesses in that sector have realized it has is a reputational problem about honesty.
Unfortunately, a common workaround for that honesty problem has been for companies to deceive people about their involvement in blockchain.
For example, there was this week's Gamescom Opening Night Live unveiling of Everywhere, the first game from Build a Rocket Boy, the new studio from long-time Grand Theft Auto producer Leslie Benzies.
QUOTE | "We want the community to build this. We want it to be their world. We want them to tell their stories in their game. I think it's human nature to navigate uncharted territory, to find a place where we're free to explore, to be creative, and to share amazing experiences." – Benzies, introducing a segment full of developers promising "an experience unlike any other," "an open world that can be built out in any direction," and an experience that is "more than just a video game."
That sizzle reel of employee hype was followed by a trailer showing off a mix of things that kind of scream "just a video game," including shooting, driving, platforming, and people standing around talking to each other.
QUOTE | "We want to build a whole new world for gamers, and not just a place to play, but watch, share, create, hang out with your friends, and so much more." - Assistant game director Adam Whiting, on stage after the trailer reveal.
That sounds a lot like a metaverse pitch to me, and both the metaverse concept as well as gameplay mechanics about self-expression, creating, and sharing have been close cousins with blockchain gaming pitches.
So it was dismaying but not entirely surprising when Everywhere's Gamescom Opening Night Live debut was quickly followed by some people passing around Build a Rocket Boy job posting for a number of blockchain positions, while others pointed out that the studio took funding from Galaxy Interactive, a VC firm that has backed dozens of blockchain start-ups (in addition to non-blockchain studios like Moss developer Polyarc and Splitgate studio 1047 Games).
When asked if Everywhere would be incorporating blockchain tech, Build a Rocket Boy representatives pointed to a statement posted on the game's Reddit.
QUOTE | "We're seeing some conversation on NFTs/Cryptos that are prompted by some of our open positions on our website. These are research positions, as we do not like dismissing new technologies only because others haven’t found a solution for them yet. We are building Everywhere on Unreal Engine 5, not the blockchain. We are creating a new world for players, where we come together to play, watch, create, share, and so much more! We hope this helps clarify some of the speculations around this topic."
I take exception to company lines pretty frequently, but I'm having a hard time recalling one that I have had as visceral a negative reaction to as this one. Let's take the entire thing bit by bit:
QUOTE | "We're seeing some conversation on NFTs/Cryptos that are prompted by some of our open positions on our website."
"Conversation" is a fun way to say "a lot of people really hate this stuff and are pillorying us because they thought it was in our game and we didn't tell them."
QUOTE | "These are research positions, as we do not like dismissing new technologies only because others haven't found a solution for them yet."
This is where it starts to get insulting. I don't know who builds out a full blockchain team in their start-up if they don't already intend to use blockchain. And if it's just research, why is the smart contract developer you're hiring supposed to "take ownership of integrating various systems with the blockchain" and "deploy and manage a multitude of fungible, semi-fungible, and non-fungible tokens"? [Emphasis added.] Why is the test engineer job "a critical position with ownership of the overall quality and robustness of the blockchain systems the team develops"?
And since when is it "dismissing new technologies" to do anything short of hiring a team of people to work on them? It's actually free to keep an open mind about blockchain! It's much more expensive to commit to hiring a bunch of people to do work when you don't even know if you want that work done.
I get your Googles or your Amazons hiring a few experts for every tech that comes down the pipe just to see how it might apply to their businesses, but it seems like a really odd gamble for a game development start-up that isn't even sure it wants to pursue this thing yet.
QUOTE | "We are building Everywhere on Unreal Engine 5, not the blockchain."
This is where it goes beyond insulting. Unreal Engine 5 is a game engine. Blockchain is not a game engine. One does not preclude the other, and a game can use both! Or neither! I can think of no other reason for this statement to appear here and phrased in this way other than to cynically mislead the technically illiterate because Build a Rocket Boy has no respect for its audience or their intelligence.
QUOTE | "We are creating a new world for players, where we come together to play, watch, create, share, and so much more!"
That's a complete non-sequitur, but I guess you can't have a communication around the game without at least one attempt to build hype.
QUOTE | "We hope this helps clarify some of the speculations around this topic."
This evasive non-statement absolutely does not clarify anything beyond a sense that the speculation and skepticism about the company was well-justified, thanks.
What I need blockchain developers to understand is that this isn't something you can just make part of your standard marketing plan of reveals later on.
You know this is a sticking point for a lot of people, even if you think they're foolish luddites. So if you hide that blockchain aspect of your business and are not upfront with people and press about your use of blockchain from the earliest possible moment, they will resent it. They will feel lied to. They will feel like you wasted their time, that you sold them on a promise of one thing when you were actually delivering something else.
They will understand you are not someone they can trust, that you do not respect what is important to them. And no amount of dancing around the subject beforehand will change that.
The rest of the week in review
STAT | €50, £30, ¥5,000, $20 – The price hike on PlayStation 5 hardware in Europe, the UK, Japan, and Canada, respectively. The price is going up in dozens of markets around the world, with the US being one notable exception. Sony is blaming the hike on "high global inflation rates, as well as adverse currency trends."
QUOTE | "There's no single factor to blame for the cost rises now being passed on to consumers, and almost all of it has to do with the macro economy, far above the heads of decision makers in gaming hardware and software companies. Inflationary pressures are high in all manner of areas both directly and tangentially related to the games business, and those pressures show little sign of ebbing in the coming months." – In his weekly editorial, Rob Fahey warns that the price hikes on PS5 and Meta's Quest 2 likely won't be the last to hit the industry.
QUOTE | "You know, this spread of acquisition that we're seeing is affecting some of the smaller publishers in their capacity to access the best studios in the world. But we at Bandai Namco have the financial means to secure these partnerships." - Bandai Namco Europe COO Arnaud Muller says the consolidation trend is having ripple effects throughout the industry.
STAT | $3 million – The amount TinyBuild is paying Bossa Studios to acquire the Surgeon Simulator, I am Fish, and I am Bread franchises.
STAT | $21,000 – The time-based equity grant GameStop will be giving out to each of its store managers in a new incentive plan. It is also increasing the pay of assistant managers and some other store staff, in the first sign of the company's bizarre meme stock good fortune trickling down to benefit the frontline workers.
QUOTE | "People have really gotten used to streaming their movies and TV through the Netflix app or Disney+ app. We want to make it as easy for people to stream a game as it is to stream a movie from Netflix. It should be that same simplicity – that's what it's going to take to get this into the mainstream." - Xbox principal product manager Harrison Hoffman talks about the Xbox TV app for Samsung TVs. Microsoft's been talking about expanding the Xbox ecosystem beyond consoles for so long I'm getting awfully curious about when it might see the console no longer being the tip of the spear for its gaming strategy.
QUOTE | "Pulling a game guy out of the primary responsibility for managing the game effort, and putting a non-game guy, which is Pincus, in charge, I think that's idiotic." – 10 Years Ago This Month, Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter mocks Zynga's decision to demote industry veteran John Schappert after the company posted disappointing financial results, saw its share price crumble, and was the subject of an insider trading lawsuit. Schappert resigned days later, beginning an executive exodus that underscored just how unpopular Zynga was with just about everyone at the time.
QUOTE | "I think the levels are silly, and they ask you to look around your own space and wonder if there is anything else going on with those clothespins and pen caps. I imagine being a kid again and creating games with things that are not toys, reimagining their function and discovering a hidden life. There is a creativity that emerges through the mundane, and hopefully that resonates with the audience as something familiar." – Max Inferno co-founder Anne Macmillan talks about the design intent behind the clutter organizing game A Little to the Left.
QUOTE | "By preventing piracy on Switch while blocking unauthorized emulations on PC, studios are able to increase their revenue during the game launch window, which is the most important period in regard to monetization." – Denuvo trumpets its new Switch anti-emulation technology to keep the game from being played on emulators.
QUOTE | "As you know, dumping your bought game for backup purposes is a long-standing argument from pirates that is simply used to justify piracy." – A Denuvo representative admits to Kotaku that the company is just fine hurting legitimate customers acting within their rights if it will also hurt pirates. This is entirely consistent with the company's existing DRM technology, which has prevented legitimate customers from playing games offline and spawned multiple reports that Denuvo technology can hurt performance.
STAT | 125 million – The number of people in Europe who have played a game in the past year, according to a new report from The Interactive Software Federation of Europe and the European Games Developer Federation. For comparison, the Entertainment Software Association's similar report on the US market this year said there 215 million people in America who played at least an hour of games a week.
QUOTE | "Rather than paying the grant money to us, PQube Games hid the facts about the grant's award and added it as a recoupable minimum guarantee and then used it to negotiate the increase of their revenue share." – In delaying A Space for the Unbound this week, Toge Productions and Mojiken Studio this week accused their publishing partner PQube Games of getting a diversity grant due to the two companies' Indonesian heritage, and then adding that sum to the amount the game would have to make before the developers would start to see a share of revenues.
QUOTE | "The experience of the anonymous people who reported in the Kotaku article, I cannot confirm or deny," Gardiner says. "All I can do is talk about my experience at Bethesda, where I was not subject to that kind of crunch, nor was I personally perpetuating that on others." – In talking about his new studio Something Wicked Games, Fallout 76 project lead Jeff Gardiner responds to a recent report of crunch and mismanagement on that game's development, particularly on the QA team.
QUOTE | "There is some – that's part of game development. Towards the end, there is some but for the most part there isn't any. We don't do sympathy crunch, where if one person has to work, everybody works. We don't do that, we leave it up to the teams… We rely a lot on the team to say 'Hey, if you want that, it's either going to mean we cut this or we're going to have to work overtime' and we always try to find a way to not have overtime." – ZeniMax Online Studios creative director Rich Lambert responds to a question about whether the Fallout 76 crunch was replicated on Elder Scrolls Online.
QUOTE | "It's sad to say but something like this can always happen. It's important that you have the structures and processes where you can immediately take action, and that you're sending strong signals about what the event stands for." – Felix Falk, co-organiser of Devcom and Gamescom, and managing director of German trade body Game, explains succinctly why the events banned someone for sexually harassing a participant and then sent out an announcement to let others know action had been taken.
QUOTE | "There’s definitely no shortage of shallow shoot 'em up thrills to be had here, but it's a very familiar and uninspired brand of sandbox fun that's unlikely to wow anybody who's played a Saints Row game before, much less a GTA." – IGN's Tristan Ogilvie was one of numerous reviewers with a less-then-enthusiastic endorsement of the new Saints Row, as seen in our Critical Consensus round-up.
QUOTE | "I wouldn't say that the future for us is only Saints Row. And that's not to say that that's revealing anything. It's just that's not the way we look at it. And when we look at it, there's a wealth of experience at the studio that has solved all kinds of interesting gameplay problems in a variety of different genres, and to real success. And so I think if we look to the future, we'll be interested in leveraging that." – Saints Row principal producer Rob Loftus explains that the studio is keeping an open mind about future projects.
STAT | 20 – The number of big names in the industry we got to share some general wisdom with us as part of our celebration of GamesIndustry.biz's 20th anniversary.