Fortnite “on the blockchain?” It’s not happening. At least, not any time soon—and maybe not ever. And Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney kindly asks that we all just give it a rest already.
A few weeks ago, Sweeney took to Twitter to explain that “Fortnite’s brief foray into crypto” was one big whoops—Monero had only “accidentally” been added to the list of acceptable payments for the Fortnite merch store. But Sweeney then took it one step further. After a bit of “Googling” unearthed an assortment of crypto rumors regarding his company, Sweeney attempted to set us all straight: Epic Games had no “cryptocurrency partners” of any kind, said the newly-minted billionaire.
But, being the hardheaded reporters that we are, we took this opportunity to send Sweeney a few questions, ranging from his thoughts on blockchain generally, it’s applicability in the gaming industry, and—of course—the crypto rumor mill. Specifically, what about that Singapore-based, blockchain company, MagnaChain, which for months (and as recently as just two weeks ago) has promoted the fact that it forged a “partnership” with Epic Games last fall?
In an email to Decrypt, Sweeney initially flatly denied the existence of any such partnership. “There’s no partnership with any cryptocurrency company or service,” he reiterated. Not with Epic Games, and not with Unreal Engine—the game engine that powers Fortnite. “Of course, independent devs using Unreal are free to do whatever they want,” Sweeney explained.
Dreams of Fortnite on the blockchain, blasted into oblivion, once and for all. Maybe.
Faced with the news of Sweeney’s rebuke, MagnaChain responded to Decrypt in a statement:
“We have double checked our files and confirmed that MagnaChain (previously branded as ‘CellLink’) did sign an agreement with Epic Games International acting through it’s Swiss branch, regarding Unreal Engine licensing and other co-op activities. The agreement was with our former brand CellLink before we switched to MagnaChain brand last summer. Due to the confidentiality issues, we cannot disclose any terms to [the] public.”
The MagnaChain team added that it has engaged with Epic Games China on “co-marketing events” with Unreal Engine 4, including an invitation for MagnaChain CTO Jinsong Zhang to speak at the Unreal Developer Day event hosted by Epic Games in China.
Sweeney’s response? Yeah, that one “might be true,” he said. But that doesn’t mean Fortnite is headed to a blockchain any time soon.
“The Unreal Engine is available to all companies who want to license it to build any stuff they want. Including building crypto stuff,” he said. “We coordinate with lots of companies on joint marketing of the Unreal powered products,” Sweeney added.
In other words, just about any company can sign a licensing deal to use the Unreal Engine, and Epic Games will might even help promote whatever results from the deal. But that seems to be a far cry from the epic partnership that MagnaChain originally claimed to have consummated. While not entirely baseless, this seems more than a little disingenuous:
It’s no wonder Tim Sweeney has had enough of all this blockchain stuff. A year ago, the creator of the most successful free-to-play game ever was singing the praises of distributed ledger technology. “Incredibly powerful ideas,” he said. Ethereum is even “more interesting” than Bitcoin, he said. But now, he’d rather we just stop asking.
“We’ve been looking at the kinds of publicity pickup that have occurred from our past (non) announcements on cryptocurrency and decided it would be best to not do further interviews." It's not about the questions, necessarily, said Sweeney, "but about the follow-on and collateral damage as a zillion-dollar industry rife with speculation and hucksterism reacts to frank answers.”
Ouch. But as much as that might sting, fellow crypto fiends, can you really blame him?