The derided and hated practice of NFTs may not be completely leaving the tabletop gaming community. But rather than the marketing gimmick of Exploding Kitten's printable NFTs to promote one of their own games, this latest buying into this elaborate digital scam may be the studio behind genre staples like Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons, Wizards of the Coast.
First, it must be made clear that the practice of selling and minting NFTs are not just damaging to the environment, but the decentralized nature of their creation and sale makes it a space rampant for fraud, theft, and grifts. For an accessible, but by no means comprehensive, understanding of NFTs, the cryptocurrency sphere, and the dangers they present across multiple key fields, take two hours aside and watch this YouTube video by Dan Olson.
The news begins with a post by the acidic anti-crypto blog "web3isgoinggreat." The post linked to a Twitter thread by the group known as mtgDAO, attempting to "deliver a crypto NFT card economy" by minting said NFTs for Magic: The Gathering cards.
A DAO or "Decentralized Autonomous Organization" is a group of people in ownership of certain privileges on the blockchain that allows them to oversee and execute functions within that particular sphere. In theory, it is a group meant to impose some authority or managerial oversight on the blockchain, but in practice it's mostly a facade of stability to sucker in more people.
Since this use of Wizards of the Coast's intellectual property was unauthorized and unwarranted, e-mails were sent out to mtgDAO politely telling them to not launch this NFT crypto card service. The aforementioned Twitter thread chose to highlight the correspondence with screenshots, including the legally binding nature of Copyright Law as it stands, then spent the rest of the thread hailing the virtues of NFTs and the blockchain, invoking the usual scam artist tactics of FOMO and the illusion of forward progress.
Not once, however, does the thread acknowledge that mtgDAO was explicitly told by the rights-holders of the intellectual property they are attempting to produce and profit off of to stop. Instead, the thread deflected, reframing the situation as WOTC missing an opportunity, stating that they would NGMI (Not Gonna Make It) in the new crypto future.
However, one particular screenshot in mtgDAO's Twitter thread might have hinted at WOTC's plans for NFTs in the future:
"While Wizards is currently evaluating its future plans regarding NFTs and Magic The Gathering cards, no decision has been made at this time. Use of NFTs in connection with Wizards' intellectual property is therefore strictly prohibited."
While this can be interpreted a number of ways, in the current landscape, the idea that WOTC is internally considering the viability of NFTs in their products is most concerning. Not only have other TTRPG developers received harsh criticism for considering NFTs, Call of Cthulhu developer Chaosium got backlash last summer for minting them and yet somehow is trying again with "more environmentally sustainable" versions in the future. Even Wizards of the Coast's parent company Hasbro has demonstrated their willingness to opt in to the practice with limited-run Power Rangers Megazord NFTs.
However, while WOTC have openly discussed the possibility of integrating NFTs with Magic: The Gathering before, said discussion happened back in April under then CEO Brian Goldner. Goldner passed away in October with his replacement, Chris Cocks, set to take the seat in February.
In addition, Magic: The Gathering's Senior Design Director, Aaron Forsythe, made his feelings known in the response to mtgDAO's Twitter thread. After notable Magic YouTuber PleasantKenobi QT'd the thread condemning NFTs for the scam that they are, someone responded with "Can wait for Forsythe to explain why NFT are actually very MtG adjacent and that it’s an essential and critical way of growing the magic brand/community." Within moments, Forsythe's official account responded with a simple but illustrative Jonah Hill "cut it out" GIF.
While Wizards of the Coast is still a massive company with many hands in it, the stigma around NFTs and the increasing awareness of them being scams has led to pressure across the broader community. As for what their official stance will be in the future is anyone's guess, but considering the reaction given to their peers, let's hope for cooler heads to prevail.