It took just 24 hours for Team17 to cancel its Worms NFT project. The UK games publisher suffered backlash from fans and its partner studios after announcing the MetaWorms NFT series designed to celebrate the Worms' 26-year history.
An NFT project can enable the purchase of one-of-a-kind items, allow voting rights for gamers, fund game development, or enable items to be used across the metaverse. We explain more in our deep-dive into NFT gaming.
Team17, a veteran UK publisher, has sold over 75 million games, but even its indie credentials couldn't convince mainstream gamers the Worms NFT collectibles were a good idea. The idea was to offer NFTs of Worms rare art from the past 26 years, as well as new art based in the series. Yet it seems it was the reaction of its indie developer partners that caused the U-turn.
Aggro Crab, a developer that partnered with Team17 for the release of its game Moving Out, stated it would not work with the publisher again. The statement against MetaWorms read: “We believe NFTs cannot be environmentally friendly, or useful, and really are just an overall fucking grift. Needless to say, we will not be working with them on further titles, and encourage other indie developers to do the same unless this decision is reversed.”
Other Team17 developer partners, including PlayTonic and SMG, joined in the discord, demanding the Worms NFTs be cancelled. Fans threw their support behind the Twitter fight, and Team17's worms were crushed.
Worms NFT: want went wrong?
Despite NFT gaming being on the rise and titles developed with NFTs in mind, such as Axie Infinity, making billions of dollars, mainstream game publishers have found the new technology a hard sell to their fans.
To date mainstream gamers and communities have pushed back against the use of NFTs. Concerns over the environmental impact of blockchains are cited, and while Ethereum and Bitcoin have a poor track record, new platforms such as Solana, Wax and Tezos are low or zero-carbon networks.
NFTs and gaming opposition needs to be placed in context: gamers have suffered from publishers' money-grabs in the past, particularly with loot boxes. The idea of NFTs being a 'grift' is something we see in Aggro Crab's reaction.
Following the Worms NFT backlash EA has cooled on NFTs, at least in public. EA CEO Andrew Wilson called NFTs the "future" last year, but in a earnings call transcribed by PC Gamer Wilson said: “I believe that collectability will continue to be an important part of our industry in the games and experiences that we offer our players. Whether that’s as part of NFTs and the blockchain, that remains to be seen.
Adding: “And I think, the way we think about it is, we want to deliver the best possible player experience we can, and so we’ll evaluate that over time. But right now it’s not something that we’re driving hard on.”