In video games, non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, are no longer relegated to the realm of underperforming Ubisoft games and Peter Molyneux’s fever dreams. One of the spring’s ballyhooed Xbox shooters, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chernobyl, will feature NFTs, developer GSC Game World announced in a press release today. Big sigh…
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2, the next entry in a long-derelict series of horror shooters and a true pain in the ass for anyone writing about the game, has been around the block. Initially announced in 2010, it’s been cancelled and un-cancelled and cancelled again, before coming back for real in 2018. GSC has teased it in the years since, and showed off a lengthy chunk of the game in a meaty trailer at this year’s E3 Xbox presser.
Come January, GSC will auction off the chance for one player to have their face photogrammetrically scanned onto a non-player character (NPC), in what the studio calls the “the first-ever metahuman.” It’s unclear the extent to which you’ll be able to interact with this NPC, whether or not they’ll be a significant character in the narrative or just a one-off bit part who shows up for two seconds to say “Hi” before immediately getting eaten by whatever this is:
Beyond the scant option to put your face onto a computer character’s face, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 will feature more NFTs in what GSC calls “highly secretive genesis packs,” to be announced in February via Twitter and Discord. The developer did not detail what these NFTs would entail but noted that none of them will “influence the gameplay itself or give in-game advantages over other players” in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2.
“Considering the global trends in gaming, we can do more than just offer an immersive game experience,” Evgeniy Grygorovych, the CEO of GSC, said in today’s press release. “Our players can get a deeper presence in the game, and we will give them this opportunity by presenting the first AAA game with a unique meta experience.”
If at any point it seemed like the NFT bubble was well and truly busted, that moment seems to have passed, as video game makers push further into implementing blockchain tech into their games.
Ubisoft’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint recently added an NFT helmet that is only available if you played the middling game for 600 hours, in an effort to artificially increase the product’s scarcity. That’s the first instance of the company’s broader NFT initiative, an in-beta program called Quartz, which was widely criticized by the public. (Internally, according to Kotaku’s reporting, rank-and-file Ubisoft developers are dubious of the strategy, to say the least.) Over the weekend, Peter Molyneux, the dude famous for getting millions of people to tap a cube, announced his next project: a “blockchain business sim.” Of course, if any of these bigwigs are aware of the immutable fact that the entire NFT field is one massive fucking scam, they haven’t let it on.
You also can’t turn a blind eye to the dark truth here: blockchain tech might slowly kill us all. (S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2’s NFTs will run on the DMarket digital marketplace.) Observers have rightfully noted the environmental impact of most blockchain technology. As the European Environment Agency points out, cryptocurrencies utilize “massive” amounts of energy, typically drawn from our dwindling and earth-ruining well of fossil fuels. One study, published in March, figures that bitcoin mining could use energy equal to all the world’s data centers—combined.
It’s unclear if GSC has any plans in place to mitigate the potential environmental footprint of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2’s push into the blockchain. When reached for comment, studio representatives did not immediately have anything to add.