How would you like to play a Richard Garriott NFT MMO? No? Well, we probably should have told him that before he launched the new website for Iron and Magic, a blockchain game in which he apparently intends to start selling land soon.
What is this Richard Garriott NFT game all about?
Do you remember Shroud of the Avatar? Richard Garriott's ill-fated MMORPG was Kickstarted back in 2013 and launched in 2016, undergoing a series of prominent layoffs and delays before it was handed over to an unknown indie studio in 2019. Garriott's failure with Shroud of the Avatar doesn't seem to have dissuaded him from the gaming industry, though, as he's now back with a new project in the form of Iron and Magic. Surprise surprise, it's a Web3 endeavor, seemingly making Garriott the latest in a depressingly long line of industry legends to succumb to blockchain madness.
So, what exactly is Iron and Magic? Uh...it's not clear from the website, really. In what is becoming a predictable trend among Web3 games, the Iron and Magic website shows you some of the NFTs and metaverse land you can buy in the game, but it doesn't actually tell you anything about what the game is. There's a rather enigmatic description that heralds Iron and Magic as "a new Web3 open-world sandbox MMORPG from the creators of Ultima", but that's all you're getting. The brief video previews of buildings on the site seem to show a sort of chunky Warcraft-style fantasy aesthetic, but other than that, it's very light on detail.
Things get a little more informative over on the game's Twitter page, where the developers are sharing some tidbits regarding features that will be present in the game. These apparently include upgradeable buildings, different biomes like tundras and deserts, and tiny sneak peeks into the development process. However, the devs are noticeably reticent about sharing info regarding the actual core gameplay loop of Iron and Magic, which, given that it's a Web3 gri-uh, game apparently designed to sell NFTs, probably shouldn't come as a surprise. We've come a long way from the Richard Garriott who once agonized over how players would bring their real-world morality to bear in open-world RPGs; now, it seems he's just as susceptible to greed as the players he admonished for killing in-game vendors just to satiate their lust for gold.
NFTs in gaming: everyone wants to make money, nobody wants to play them
NFTs and the wider blockchain world are a pretty hot-button issue in gaming right now. Major gaming companies like Square Enix and Krafton have signed up to the NFT sca-uh, model full time, and aforementioned industry legends like Mega Man's Keiji Inafune are creating NFT art collections for sale as well. Despite this, the gaming public don't seem to be buying the idea of blockchain gaming en masse, with companies like Team17 having to own up and back off from NFT plans subsequent to receiving huge backlashes for announcing plans in that area. It's also fair to say that no company is really offering any tangible benefits for gamers when it comes to NFT gaming; it's all about corporate profits rather than increased fun.
There's a vocal pushback against NFTs from certain figures within the industry as well. Recently, Chroma Squad developer Mark Venturelli let loose against NFTs at a talk sponsored by Web3 companies. Digital distribution platform Itch.io has also declared its opposition to the world of blockchain gaming, describing NFTs as "a scam", while Steam disallows cryptocurrency on the platform (aside from when developers circumvent it). It's pretty hard to imagine how Richard Garriott's newest venture could possibly attract a player base in a world of vicious MMORPG competition and widespread player antipathy towards blockchain gaming, but we'll just have to wait and see. Maybe he can avoid another Shroud of the Avatar-style disaster.