… And so it starts. Ubisoft has announced a new program called Quartz which will see it release limited edition in-game items as NFTs called Digits, beginning with Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Breakpoint. As the trailer explains, this “is just the beginning” – and make no mistake, other publishers will be keeping a very close eye on how this all plays out. EA boss Andrew Wilson has already expressed interest in the controversial business model as well.
So, what does it all mean for you? Well, NFTs – also known as non-fungible tokens – have exploded in popularity this year, as you’ve no doubt already heard. They effectively enable you to “purchase” digital content, like a photograph, GIF, social media post, or video. Ownership is stored on a kind of digital ledger powered by blockchain technology, which means you can then “sell” items to others and transfer the ownership, like you would real-world goods.
The emergence of NFTs has raised all kinds of concerns, spanning environmental issues through to fraud. However, it was only a matter of time before publishers started adding the controversial items to their games, and this is the first example. Ubisoft’s new Digits are unique in-game items which you can obtain and use; the examples shown for Ghost Recon: Breakpoint include helmets, armour, and weapon skins. Every item has a serial code, making it exclusively unique to you, while your Ubisoft Connect username will be stored in the item’s metadata.
Unlike traditional microtransactions, this is a one-of-a-kind piece of equipment, meaning no one else can have the exact same cosmetic as you have. This means you’ll be able to re-sell these items and transfer ownership to other players if you so choose. This creates an entirely new economy that publishers will no doubt be looking to exploit, and you should expect to see more of it moving forwards.
We should stress that this first batch of items will be exclusively earnable in-game, and there are some pretty high requirements attached. For example, you’ll need to have played at least 600 hours to get the helmet. Presumably this is because the program is in beta right now, with the objective to flog these items in the future.
Still, it’s interesting that Ubisoft is the first major publisher to implement the controversial technology. It’s worth reiterating that Digits are currently in beta, and aren’t currently available in countries like the UK. Ubisoft claims that it’s adopting energy-efficient technology for this program, with the power draw “one million times less” than a Bitcoin transaction. Nevertheless, it’s probably a good thing it’s announcing this after YouTube removed its dislike bar – we can’t imagine that would look pretty.