Minecraft may have made its stance on NFTs pretty clear, but that isn't stopping the release of a new Minecraft NFT game. Minecraft OP Prison is a collaboration between official partner Meraki and blockchain studio Good Gaming, and it'll feature integration with NFT platform MicroBuddies.
Back in July, Mojang and Microsoft announced that NFT and blockchain games were not welcome in Minecraft worlds or servers. Despite this, official Minecraft partner and content creation studio Meraki has announced a new version of Minecraft OP Prison, a popular prison roleplay-style server created by Good Gaming, and it'll feature NFT integration.
According to a press release, the new version of Minecraft OP Prison will feature "cross-functionality between Minecraft and the MicroBuddies ecosystems". This will be facilitated through "an all-new GOO trading system", with GOO here referring to the cryptocurrency used to buy and sell MicroBuddies NFTs.
Mojang's guidelines regarding NFTs in Minecraft are pretty unequivocal. The studio says NFT integration in Minecraft is "generally not something we will support or allow". It goes on to say that blockchain tech is "not permitted to be integrated" into the Minecraft client or server apps, nor can it be used to "create NFTs associated with any in-game content".
Since Meraki and Good Gaming are tight-lipped about exactly how NFT integration in Minecraft OP Prison will work, it's entirely possible that they've found a way to circumvent these guidelines. After all, if you're not making Minecraft NFTs and are instead allowing players to earn currency that will let them buy NFTs elsewhere, that's different, I suppose.
When we asked Meraki about Minecraft OP Prison, managing director Dion Wichgers told us that to his knowledge, the game will feature "no direct blockchain integration", so it wouldn't constitute a violation of Mojang's guidelines. However, Wichgers also told us that this was Good Gaming's project, so we should get in touch with them (which we did, and we haven't heard back).
We asked for clarification regarding exactly what Meraki is contributing to this project, to which Wichgers told us the studio is "providing builds" (i.e. maps) for Minecraft OP Prison. Wichgers didn't seem worried about this, saying that there "isn't much [Meraki] can do" if its builds or services get used in projects that contravene Minecraft's NFT guidelines.
We also asked Mojang for comment on this story. They told us that they were unable to "share anything definitive at this time" as they were in the process of updating Minecraft's guidelines with reference to NFTs, and that examining the situation with Meraki and Minecraft OP Prison would require "deeper analysis".
However, it is worth saying that Mojang frowns on NFTs in general; the company says NFTs "are not inclusive" of the whole Minecraft community and that they "create a scenario of the haves and the have-nots", which they say runs contrary to the atmosphere they want Minecraft to create. As such, even if Minecraft OP Prison doesn't technically contravene Minecraft's guidelines, it arguably does breach them in spirit.
Meraki and Minecraft NFTs: a brief history
As a studio, Meraki has historically been involved with Minecraft NFT games and developers. The studio has worked on projects like Seabums' Conservation Coast, the Turkeys Megaverse, and the NFT Worlds project, all of which either directly or indirectly featured NFT integration. Since Mojang made its NFT stance clear, Meraki has stayed away from the subject, although it now seems the studio is still determined to find a way for the worlds of Minecraft and NFTs to meet.
The NFT Worlds project itself is currently working on a new game to rival Minecraft, bringing together "the top visionary developers" from the Minecraft content creation community to facilitate that project. It's not clear whether those developers include Meraki or Good Gaming, but NFT Worlds' new project will have similar core mechanics to Minecraft while also offering what the devs call "the modernization and active development Minecraft has been missing for years". Presumably, by that, they mean cryptocurrency integration.
This is yet another battle line being drawn in the fight between NFT games and those who are skeptical of them. Notably, Valve has banned cryptocurrency and NFT games from Steam (although companies are finding ways to circumvent that), and digital platform Itch.io has described NFTs as a "scam", although that hasn't stopped prominent industry veterans and studios from embracing the blockchain. It also hasn't stopped other storefronts from accepting NFT games; recently, the Epic Games Store listed its very first Web3 game in Blankos Block Party.