In today's installment of "Web3 is going great: gaming edition", consider the case of Untamed Isles. The Kickstarted Pokemon-style creature-catching crypto MMO has paused development indefinitely owing to a shortfall in funds, partly caused by the crypto crash (but there's other stuff going on there as well).
Why has Untamed Isles paused development?
Over on the official Untamed Isles Kickstarter page, the creature-collecting crypto MMO revealed that it was going into indefinite hiatus last week. While developer Joshua Grant says the team ran out of funds due to the cryptocurrency crash, it's perhaps more accurate to say that investors in the game, who chiefly came from the blockchain space, were spooked by the volatility of the market and pulled their investment. Grant makes it sound like the team simply gambled all of the Kickstarter money in the "crypto roulette", which is also what some backers are accusing him of on the Kickstarter announcement, but that's not really the case.
It's worth saying here that according to an Untamed staffer on Discord, "the majority" of funds used to create Untamed were acquired through "traditional investment". The team also shored up some cash through the sale of its Guppy Gang NFT project, which is named after its fanbase of people interested in cryptocurrency. The staffer says that "new investors" have been pulling out due to concerns over the stability of both the traditional market and the cryptocurrency market, but they don't state whether existing investors have pulled out as well.
There might be a bit more going on here than the crypto crash, though. Lusewing, a moderator on the official Untamed Isles Discord channel also blamed YouTube content creators (yes, really) for their "complete unwillingness" to engage with developers and for their assumption that Untamed Isles is a blockchain game. Apparently, this isn't the case; it has "an optional [crypto] marketplace" and a "minor connection to crypto", but it isn't actually a crypto game. Right. The justification here is that the game will be integrated with the DireWolf play-to-earn marketplace; monsters and items can be "sold, bought, and traded" on DireWolf. That sounds a lot like a crypto game to me, but hey, what do I know?
Supposedly, this YouTuber reticence "caused other planned influencers as well as review outlets not to want to touch the game". That then apparently led to a domino effect whereby planned investors in the game (mainly blockchain companies) began to pull out as well, leaving the team without any funding for development. Untamed Isles was targeting between 2,000 and 3,000 presales, but in the end, the team managed just 50, and it's those presales that are being refunded right now. Kickstarter backers appear to be out of luck, much to their chagrin. Supposedly, these backers aren't being refunded because the project isn't actually being canceled, but many of them are asking for refunds anyway.
What does the future hold for Untamed Isles?
Right now, the future of Untamed Isles is uncertain. According to a development update posted last week (which is very long, but you can hear the part I'm referencing about 21 minutes in), the project is currently on hold "until the market conditions improve". The studio says it may consider launching Untamed Isles without crypto at first in order to "get into the good books with Steam" and work with affiliates and influencers. A complete decoupling from cryptocurrency is unlikely, though, as Grant says "crypto has got us to where we are" and he "truly [believes] the market will flip back around". It's a little bold to admit you're going to launch without crypto at first to essentially dupe people into believing Untamed Isles isn't a crypto game, especially given Steam's ban on cryptocurrency projects (which is admittedly rather porous), but that appears to be what Grant is saying here.
Joshua Grant seems adamant that Untamed Isles will eventually see the light of day; he's just waiting for a market turnaround, either in traditional markets or the cryptocurrency world, in order to potentially attract more investors to the project. Right now, though, it looks like we won't be hearing much more about Untamed Isles for the near future. To clarify, Grant and the team say they do have enough funds to launch the game initially, but they're projecting some problems with post-launch funding and support, which is why they're deciding to shelve the project indefinitely rather than to launch it and then halt support whenever money runs out. Extra costs also included stripping the team back to a skeleton crew while it's on hiatus (which, given that this isn't the US, actually costs money to do), as well as keeping the rights to the intellectual property alive.
This is just one of many games to try and take advantage of Web3 and the blockchain in recent years. Industry legend Richard Garriott recently resurfaced with a new NFT MMO, for example, and Dead or Alive producer Tomonobu Itagaki is also throwing his lot in with the crypto bros in his new game Warrior. We'll have to wait and see whether Untamed Isles does manage to resume development at any point, but right now, it's gone to sleep until the markets improve. Watch this space.