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Update: Ubisoft has no plans to bring NFTs to esports
The new Esports and Competitive Gaming division at Ubisoft will not be integrating NFTs in games like Rainbow Six Siege after all.
Ubisoft has been bullish about its intent to leverage blockchain technology and NFTs in its games. I recently published an interview with Nicolas Pouard, the VP of Ubisoft's Strategic Innovations Lab, in which he made that clear. That interview gained the ire of many "traditional" gamers.
Despite the negative reaction to Ubisoft's blockchain platform Quartz and its NFTs, called Digits, Pouard is committed to the cause. He has vowed to continue to experiment. Will these experiments be coming next to Ubisoft's esports experiences – namely to the likes of Rainbow Six Siege, Brawlhalla, For Honor and Trackmania?
Update from Ubisoft
Following the publication of this article, Ubisoft reached out to clarify elements of my speculation and correct some of the errors that have been reported online in the past. Here is an overview on its position. Note: These are not quotes from Ubisoft.
- Ubisoft has confirmed to Finder that NFTs will not be coming to the esports games Rainbow Six Siege, Brawlhalla, For Honor and Trackmania. And that there are no plans in the works for them to come to other esports games at all.
- The developer confirmed that while there was some experimentation with using blockchain technology to handle royalties in 2018, it was a Microsoft-led initiative, and it was never implemented in the end at Ubisoft.
- As such, my hypothesis that R6 Share likely uses this blockchain technology cannot be correct.
- The phrase "revenue-sharing in-game items" in the press release did not refer to NFTs.
I've asked for an example of what a revenue-sharing in-game item will look like in the context of what the Esports and Competitive Gaming division is doing and will hopefully get a response on that shortly.
For transparency, I've left the original story below as it was. For gamers who aren't excited about NFTs, the above will no doubt be read with a sigh of relief. Will we see NFTs in esports from Ubisoft in the future? Perhaps, but as of February 2022, it's not on the radar.
What has Ubisoft announced
On 2 February 2022, Ubisoft sent a press release out to the media revealing that a new Esports and Competitive Gaming division had been formed within the company. It unifies the various internal teams working on esports throughout Ubisoft into one global, unified team.
It sounds like a no-brainer.
The Esports and Competitive Gaming division's remit is to "work towards one common objective, shaping the future of esports and competitive gaming at Ubisoft." Ubisoft also flagged 5 pillars the new division will be dedicated to. Here's the TLDR version of the pillars for all but the last point. The last point is the one this article focuses on, so I've published it in full.
- Building thriving and inclusive competitive ecosystems for Ubisoft's portfolio of competitive games.
- Creating a multi-year plan with competitive activities, tournaments and leagues adapted to all and a clear path from amateur to professional play.
- Providing superior entertainment value and service to Ubisoft's audience.
- Implementing, in collaboration with partners and organisations, healthy and sustainable esports business models and revenue streams.
- Leveraging new opportunities by accompanying early on Ubisoft's development and editorial teams across Ubisoft's worldwide network of development studios to collaborate on competitive games' vision, scope and features as well as revenue-sharing in-game items strategies.
The press release name drops Rainbow Six Siege, Brawlhalla, For Honor and Trackmania numerous times. However, it's important in the context of the rest of this article that you know that these games aren't explicitly linked to NFTs in the press release. The press release seemingly confirms a plan to utilise NFTs without going as far as to confirm what specific games they'll link to.
Ubisoft esports NFTs
Let's join the dots. What we know is that Ubisoft is committed to experimentation with NFTs and play-to-earn gaming. Nicolas Pouard said as much in his interview. He also confirmed that Quartz will continue and that more Digits will arrive through 2022 and beyond.
With that in mind, when the press release says the new Esports and Competitive Gaming division will be dedicated to developing "revenue-sharing in-game items strategies", it's not hard to put 2 and 2 together. I'm not suggesting this is the new division's primary focus, only that it's part of the overall strategy.
For those still seeking to understand NFTs in games, NFTs would very much fit into this wording. While an in-game item can exist without being an NFT, if it's intimately linked to revenue-sharing, then it'll be an item lodged on a blockchain. This, in the simplest of terms, makes it an NFT even if it's not explicitly called such.
Especially when you're talking about Ubisoft, which has been using the blockchain to handle revenue sharing (read: royalties) since 2018.
A realistic example of a revenue-sharing in-game item strategy would be as follows. Owning an NFT as an esports player or spectator grants the holder a cut of the revenue made by Ubisoft through advertisements, ticket purchases or streaming rights.
Revenue sharing set to grow
Elsewhere in the press release, another line caught the eye that ties into this strategy. Ubisoft states that its new division will "build upon their success and experience with the R6 SHARE program on Rainbow Six Siege to create revenue sharing strategies for other projects."
If Ubisoft has been using blockchain technology to handle royalty distribution and transactions since 2018, it's highly likely R6 Share uses the tech already. The blockchain is the most efficient and cost-effective means of handling such finances, in particular with revenue sharing.
However, pairing the concept of R6 Share with revenue-sharing in-game items is where it gets intriguing.
Perhaps in the wake of the reaction to Quartz and Digits, Ubisoft has been careful in its wording in this press release. It does not reference NFTs, Quartz or Digits at all. It's between the lines that we may be able to see how the company's use of blockchain and its push into NFTs come together. They'll both be required to deliver on the mentioned strategies and focus points.
What will be telling is how the relationship between gamers and Ubisoft evolves through these testing times. There's plenty to gain for both parties if NFTs are handled ethically, but plenty to lose if they are not.
Ubisoft is leading the charge from AAA game publishers into the NFT space, like it or hate it. It's important to keep on top of what they are doing and why. For context, make sure you check out our exclusive interview with Ubisoft on its future for NFTs.
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