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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

PUBG studio to use NFTs in ‘UGC-driven open metaverse,’ whatever that means

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Apparently unphased by the backlash to recent NFT project announcements, Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds studio Krafton has announced that it is getting into the NFT game. The company has signed a deal with Naver Z, the operator of the metaverse platform Zepeto, “to develop a new Web 3.0 and non-fungible token (NFT) project aimed at building an NFT metaverse platform.”

There’s no indication that Krafton’s NFT project will be tied to PUBG directly—instead, the company will use the experience it’s earned developing and running PUBG to create a “user-generation content (UGC) creation tool,” as well as a virtual world built in the Unreal Engine. Naver Z will “manage the metaverse service,” according to the statement, and handle community and social services.

“This partnership between Krafton and Naver Z is bolstered by each company’s unique expertise and shared global focus as they look toward a future driven by NFTs and metaverses,” Krafton Web 3.0 team lead HyungChul Park said. “By combining Krafton’s existing technologies and research on how to build scalable Web 3.0 creator-driven ecosystems with Naver Z and Zepeto’s experience and capabilities, we’re confident we can build a high-quality UGC-driven open metaverse that stands apart from other services and vitalizes the global creator economy through NFT technologies.”

It’s an upbeat but almost entirely baffling statement that doesn’t actually say anything about what Krafton has in mind—functionally, it’s not much more than doing jazz hands and shouting “Metaverse!” repeatedly. That may be fine at this early juncture, since nobody’s entirely clear on what the metaverse is anyway (except, you know, bullshit), but the risk for Krafton is that it overlooks the growing backlash against game-adjacent NFTs.

A plan to incorporate NFTs directly into Stalker 2 was abandoned in the wake of extremely negative feedback, and more recently indie publisher Team17 scuttled its own NFT strategy in the face of pushback from both gamers and its own studios. An even more telling signal came from Electronic Arts last week: After declaring in 2021 that NFTs are “the future of our industry,” CEO Anrdrew Wilson said during the company’s Q3 earnings call that the role of NFTs and blockchain technology “remains to be seen,” and that EA is currently not “driving hard” on them.

It’s possible that Krafton will dodge that bullet. Gamers may not care so much about the company’s NFT ambitions if the project remains completely separate and distinct from PUBG. But the possibility of negative repercussions is an ever-present risk: The NFT space is still rife with malfeasance, and as voice actor Troy Baker recently learned, there is no patience for even the appearance of bad behavior right now.

Krafton said that further details about its NFT partnership with Naver Z will be shared “in the future.”

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