I continue to be somewhat perplexed by the new upcoming game from Dr. Disrespect and his studio Midnight Society. He’s working on an upcoming shooter with some truly talented folks, but so far, the main focus of promotion for the game has been its integration with NFTs and the blockchain. Even as the rest of the core gaming industry has shied away from web3 tech after player backlash, Midnight Society is going full steam ahead, for better or worse.
Today, Midnight Society has announced it is working with Polygon Studios “to construct a game publishing platform on the Polygon blockchain where players can trade their in-game items freely without incurring high transaction fees or negatively impacting the environment.”
They also cite a survey they ran of applicants to be in Early Access for Project Moon that says 97.5% “of gamers” want to own in-game items outright, and be able to collect, trade and sell them. Given that this is a group of people who signed up for an early access game in order to claim an NFT in the first place, I feel like those numbers are going to be pretty skewed, but it’s what they’re using to show gamer “demand” for this kind of thing. Back in January in the height of NFT mania, a survey from Interpret showed 56% of respondents said they were interested in NFTs in gaming, but those players were taken from a panel on NFT/crypto games. And since then, the headline that was attached to that survey “Gamers are embracing NFTs,” has not come to pass in the mainstream space.
Dr. Disrespect previously downplayed the focus on NFTs after backlash to the Founder’s Pass, saying it would be an “option” and it wasn’t a “cash grab.”
“You don’t have to have NFTs to play,” Dr. Disrespect explained. “And it doesn’t change your experience of the game once it releases. The game will continue to be free to play….You can’t buy your way to winning [with the NFTs]. It won’t be pay-to-win. However, for those of you who do want to get more involved, there are ways to do so via these NFTs.”
The game will have an off-chain version that has none of the NFT stuff attached to it, though obviously it is a big part of its core identity and central pitch, as per this new release.
As you may know, I am a pretty massive web3/NFT skeptic, so I threw some questions at Midnight Society about all this. Ex-Call of Duty leader Robert “fourzerotwo” Bowling, now studio head at Midnight Society, answered my questions:
Tassi: Do you believe you will convert core gamers who have roundly rejected NFTs in games with your vision of the concept?
Bowling: Yes, but our goal isn’t conversion. It’s creating the ideal integration of the technology that doesn’t choose a side for the player. Our focus is on making great games at Midnight Society and that starts with Project Moon. We believe that this game represents an inflection point in the games industry that shifts digital ownership towards players and our studio will partner with our community to define the future of our game. Our core AAA first-person gameplay experience is free for everyone to play and doesn’t require purchasing anything.
Dr. Disrespect has said this isn’t a cash-in, and he believes you’re building the future of games, but why is “true ownership” necessary for gaming of the future?
True ownership was the past of games, we lost it when everything went digital. In the past, you bought a game, you owned it, you shared it and sold it, or traded it as you saw fit. When things when digital-first or digital-only we as players lost the freedom we had over the things we purchased. Everything became a license. Blockchain gives us the ability to revert that change because we feel like that was one of the few downsides of going digital-only with games. We wouldn’t say that having true ownership over digital items is necessary for the future of gaming, as it’s purely an optional feature. We believe the “aha moment” will occur when our community realizes they own and can trade things that they unlock in Project Moon.
How can players trust what “true ownership” means with so many scams in both crypto and within NFT communities?
Trust is earned through transparency. That is why we’re building our game in the open, providing access to builds at the earliest stages, starting in July. Even though Founders will be the ones who can play it, they’re free to stream, discuss, and create content publicly about all the contents of the game builds and the Variant Guide that releases with each build. In addition, the contracts which govern “True ownership” are public and clear, not convoluted ToS or licensing agreements that players agree to today and no one reads. This inspires p2p activity just like other first-party marketplaces but makes it permissionless and trustless of any corporate entity.
Why is the blockchain necessary for something that closely resembles functionality for Auction Houses, which games have had for years?
Blockchain integration is necessary to make it a permissionless and trustless system, not controlled by the fiduciary duty of the corporate entity that owns the “Auction House.” We create a free and fun experience for all players to enjoy, which creates the foundation of WHY the player cares and is a part of the universe we’re creating. However, the creations that come from that and the items owned by the players are their property to do as they see fit without needing our involvement or input. We focus on creating a secure, safe, and transparent foundation for that community to exist.
What will be the core differences between players who opt-in for the NFT system and those who do not participate?
The core gameplay experience will be the same for all players. Digital ownership and blockchain integration are just a pathway toward a tradeable marketplace and exchanges between players.
So much of the focus of the promotion for this game seems to be on the blockchain and early adopter NFTs and such, but when will there be more concrete information on the game itself. Will it be more similar to traditional shooters or current web3 titles?
We will be sharing our entire development publicly, including playable game builds in July. The game is definitely within the wheelhouse of our experience, a AAA competitive PVPvE first-person shooter set within a unique universe we’re creating together with our players. The way things like Access Pass augment that is by creating a mechanism for fans interested in being involved in the development, can. For the player who is just interested in playing and not involving themselves deeper than that, they can do so as they’ve always done.
So, am I convinced? No, I’m not. I will never be sold on a web3-integrated, NFT-using game until I can fully see it in action and witness a functioning economy paired with a fun game. There is simply nothing of substance to see from Project Moon yet and I think going this hard with the web3 angle up from is coming off like more of a turn-off than something that sounds like the “future of gaming.”
Sure, I can’t rule out the possibility that I’m wrong, and yes, I can see a broad case for better digital ownership in the future. But I have yet to be convinced the blockchain and NFTs are that answer, based on existing games in that space and implementation of that tech. Can Midnight Society be the first mainstream convincing use case? I suppose we’ll find out.
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