If gamers are already purchasing digital assets in-game, then why is there backlash on in-game NFTs?
First, an NFT marketplace should be done tactfully. NBA 2K has been the opposite of tactful when it comes to in-game monetization. I understand the concern that NBA 2K’s track record is not strong.
Further, the industry-standard has demonstrated a complete disregard for tact. For an example, look no further than the loot shooter, Destiny. It is an entire game built on gambling principles, where randomized items drop with every kill-shot. These models are psychologically unhealthy as they addict gamers to seek loot drops instead of well, just enjoying the game. And they encourage spending real money to land exclusive items, oftentimes to obtain social status within the game’s online community.
The digital assets gamers currently purchase are a pure sunk cost.
Countering, a tactful NFT system may allow gamers to play to earn assets and unlockables, and to then sell digital artifacts to others gamers within that ecosystem. For NBA 2K, all of the items available for purchase today could instead potentially be re-coded as tradable NFTs.
This brings us to the play-to-earn model.
Gamers are familiar with seasons and battle passes. We spend to have access to new rewards on an exclusive progression track. Play-to-earn models in blockchain gaming can be very comparable. An NBA2K metaverse season pass may require an initial fee upfront to enter the metaverse, boosting and stabilizing the in-game coin and economy – i.e., purchase a pass. As players progress, rewards and rare achievements can be earned, which can then be sold within the metaverse marketplace. Gamers can quite literally make money playing NBA2K with this proposed model. Blockchain games that implement this model in varying fashions already exist.
An NBA 2K move from the gamification, in-game monetization model to a more evenly distributed economic system will require a gradual transition. The revenue from in-game purchases currently drives revenues to unprecedented levels. FIFA Ultimate Teams makes billions.
Continuing, the evidence is clear (
Take-Two Interactive earnings reports). NBA 2K practically gives away its game for free after January 1st. Just three months after launch it will be on sale everywhere. The value driver for NBA 2K are the pay-to-play, in-game impulse buys that account for 67 percent of net revenue. It is a proven business model. And it is why industry giant Bungie, without shame, has built an actual “loot shooter.” It is unprecedented how much wallet-spend such game design elements capture.
NBA 2K will not give up that model overnight. Especially when gamers are rejecting NFTs at the moment, largely due to a misunderstanding of what NFTs can embody.
The hate on NFTs is misplaced. A shift to a blockchain metaverse can end the pay-to-win system. This will be a welcome benefit of moving to an NFT ecosystem. And while it is true that digital scarcity is what drives costs on items, an NBA2K NFT marketplace can be designed to mitigate such exploits and “price-fixing.”
While I understand the lack of trust, we can remain cautiously optimistic. These companies must adapt or die, and if the broader consumer sentiment slows its spending or moves to more democratic game design models, NBA 2K will adapt.
NBA 2K PFP Player Builds
If NBA 2K does eventually move to a more democratic meta-ecosystem in The City, new design elements and tools can take root. PFPs could be one such asset to buy and trade within the NBA2K digital landscape.
PFPs can be described as generative, on-chain assets created autonomously by code. In the context of NBA 2K, PFPs can be likened to in-game character builds, but not created by a gamer, but instead, created with NBA 2K’s underlying code or automation parameters.
They are familiar. Sports gamers know them all too well. We’ve seen them in franchise modes. The games add fictional players to the game each season to fill up the annual franchise draft. They were, in essence, the core to the NCAA Football dynasties for many years. NCAA gamers used to scour the country for game-generated 5-star athletes to recruit. We interacted with NCAA PFPs, made our pitches, and hoped they would sign with our schools.
A generative, PFP model on-chain would be one way NBA 2K can enrich its metaverse ecosystem, opening the PFP player builds available to purchase. Doing so stimulates the meta-economy and encourages participation. For example, gamers who enter the metaverse could even be required a one-time player-build purchase, to inject liquidity into the market, stabilizing the coin, pegging it to real-world money. This also would be a financial benefit to NBA2K.
Mint Player Builds
The most critical element to an NBA 2K metaverse is, in fact, user-generated player-builds. Gamers already buy and sell player builds on the web via NBA 2K accounts to gain access to highly-skilled, seasoned player builds. Once the creative flows begin, players could potentially mix PFP builds with their own, producing truly unique outcomes.
CryptoKitty does this with its PFP blockchain game.
In theory, for a fee, a gamer could take a couple of builds, put their attributes in the blender, in hopes to create the rarest player build on-chain to either game with or sell in the marketplace. Skill-sets, animations, and attributes can be a driving factor creating unique digital assets in an NBA2K metaverse.
More intriguing is the possibility of players minting NFTs that may be a bit more unrelated to NBA basketball and more akin to world-building. Clothing. Tattoos. Hair designs. Move sets. Animations. Music. Albums. Beats. The metaverse market can and will open up. All of it has the potential to be user-generated, minted by the community, and traded within the metaverse.
It is a lot to think about. I do not wish to see NBA 2K continue to become a loot-drop universe, commoditizing every attribute, every jump shot animation, and more. It already does, and it is one of the reasons I don’t play the game. It is a one-way relationship and a blockchain metaverse can be built in a more democratic fashion.
If NBA 2K can execute the commoditization of avatar creation tactfully, with balanced design elements and key benefits, the NBA 2K metaverse could take 2K Basketball to unprecedented heights.