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Alongside fully Web3-native games built around NFTs, we’ve also seen fan-driven attempts to add NFTs and crypto tokens to popular online games like Minecraft and Grand Theft Auto V. But Microsoft moved to ban Web3 elements from Minecraft this summer, and now Rockstar Games has done the same with its popular action franchise.
Last week, Rockstar Games updated its website to stipulate that fan-operated servers for Grand Theft Auto V can no longer utilize cryptocurrencies or crypto assets, specifically NFTs.
Fans have been operating so-called “role-playing servers” for Grand Theft Auto V for years, and they’re popular on streaming platforms such as Twitch. In role-playing servers, which require a fan-made modification of the PC game, players take the role of typically non-playable characters (NPCs) in the world and interact together online.
Some of those servers have implemented NFTs and crypto tokens as a way to give players ownership of unique assets in a persistent game world, or to provide certain exclusive benefits for regular players. In some examples, Grand Theft Auto V servers have offered special cars and weapons represented as NFT assets.
Popular rapper Durk “Lil Durk” Banks recently launched his own GTA role-playing server with NFT assets, called Trenches. On Saturday, Lil Durk’s Only the Family Gaming organization tweeted that it would take down the server following contact from legal counsel of Rockstar’s parent company, Take-Two Interactive.
Effective Immediately: pic.twitter.com/CxPIHLaytt
— OTF Gaming (@OTFgaming) November 20, 2022
“We have no choice but to comply with their demands, as we intend to do right by Take-Two and Rockstar,” the statement reads. “We will be working with them to find an amicable solution to this matter.”
Other popular modded servers may cross the same line. In September, Decrypt wrote about Brazilian gaming organization Loud and its Web3-centric parent company, Spacecaps. The firm’s Snackclub division operates a GTA server called Cidade Alta, which uses NFTs for exclusive items.
Loud co-founder Matthew Ho told Decrypt today that it will make the required changes to its server within 14 days, after receiving notice from Rockstar Games about a terms of service violation.
"Modded experiences in our server were created for experimental/proof of concept and were in no way core to the original experience," Ho told Decrypt. "We've validated an interesting model and look forward to applying these learnings to new platforms."
Another company, MyMetaverse, runs a GTA server with NFTs powered by Enjin’s Enjinverse platform on Polkadot. Decrypt reached out to Enjin and Rockstar Games representatives, but did not immediately receive comment back from either of them.
An NFT is a blockchain token that can be used to represent ownership in a unique item, such as playable video game assets, artwork, and collectibles. The technology can power games in which users own and can trade or sell their own assets, such as Axie Infinity, which generated over $4 billion in NFT trading volume—but has struggled since its explosive success last year.
In July, Microsoft and developer Mojang announced plans to ban NFTs and crypto tokens from fan-operated Minecraft servers, as well as prohibit unofficial Web3 derivative projects that use Minecraft assets. In a post, the companies said that NFT scarcity models that limit access or capabilities to asset owners go against the “spirit of Minecraft.”
The actual ban has yet to be enacted. The move impacted the development of NFT Worlds, an unofficial derivative game that was being built on Ethereum scaling network, Polygon. The game will instead be developed on its own platform instead of being built on top of Minecraft.
Minecraft and Grand Theft Auto V are both enormous hits. They’re two of the best-selling games of all time, with Minecraft selling 238 million copies (as of April 2021) and Grand Theft Auto V following with 170 million copies sold (as of this month).
Interestingly, Rockstar parent company Take-Two Interactive is actually keen on NFTs and crypto technology. The firm acquired mobile/casual game studio Zynga earlier this year with plans to collectively explore “Web3 opportunities," as Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick claimed in January. Additionally, Take-Two recently invested in NFT game studio Horizon.
Popular PC gaming marketplace and platform Steam has also banned NFTs and crypto elements from being included in games. However, rival platform Epic Games Store has embraced Web3 games that comply with its regulations and laws, with titles such as Blankos Block Party and Star Atlas launching on the storefront.
Editor's note: This article was updated after publication to add comment from Loud.