Epic Games presents: Grift

Casimir Stone
June 7, 2022

Epic Games’ — your profanity-spewing and possibly-radicalized thirteen year old brother’s favorite video game publisher — debuted their long-awaited foray onto the blockchain yesterday. Grit is a ‘play to earn battle royale’ developed by Gala Games or Team Grit or some kid in his mom’s basement who got a hold of the PUBG code. (Unclear.) But, either way, it’s real, it’s an historic first of a supposed many NFT-based games headed for the Epic Games store, and, in the typically unbiased words of Kotaku, it ‘looks like shit’.

Indeed, Grit‘s graphics would’ve struck me as bad even if I were playing it on my SEGA Dreamcast back in 2001. (The YouTube promotional trailer can’t generate a thumbnail wider than 480 px.) Makes sense, considering they were acquired royalty free and practically free. Turns out, the 3D character models marketed as limited edition NFTs appear to be asset flips available for $30 on Unreal Engine. The airdrop, for reference, was given as a reward to attendees of Galaverse, a conference so ‘much much larger than any one event’ it cost $8000 to attend. This Caroline Calloway caliber price gouging is likely indicative of what’s to come, with reports suggesting it may cost a cool $600 to even play the game in the first place. 

As a standalone example, I’d be content to hate watch one of the hilariously sincere streams of the Grit beta footage and get back to my Red Dead Redemption replay. But Epic Games’ marquee product Fortnite still boasts over 20M daily users, and even if it only nets a fraction of that, there’s a decent chance Grit will drag pay-to-earn blockchain games into the mainstream. Which is as good a place as any to dust off the old soapbox and remind whoever’s in reading range that theoretically monetizable games are only actually monetizable when they’re enjoyable to play.

Even huge P2E games like Axie Infinity — at one point a major player in multiple sovereign states’ economies — need more than the promise of profit to attract a player base. This thread breaks down the economics behind keeping play-to-earn games afloat really well, but the gist is, P2E usership is primarily based on speculation. Users pump time and money into growing accounts in the hopes they can be sold for exponentially more in the long run. Ignoring the fact that they might jump ship if such a secondary market fails to materialize, speculative players will only hang around to max out the stats on their account, at which point, they will have maxed out their potential profits, too, and it’s time to liquidate. For a P2E game to have legs, it needs players to buy what the speculators are selling — people who are there to play, not just to earn. 

We saw this in the case of Axie Infinity, which was already hemorrhaging users before a $600M hack cut its legs off. And we’ll see it again in Grit, if it even gets that far. But if it were my money, I’d avoid these CGA cowboys entirely and cop the Elegant Suit for $70 fake video game dollars instead. Much more bang for your buck.

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