Epic Games will begin distributing its first blockchain game later this year thanks to a partnership with Web3 startup and game publisher Gala Games. The title, a Western-themed battle royale called Grit launching sometime in 2022, will be the first of such games to be featured on the Epic Game Store. The Fortnite and Unreal Engine developer said last year it would welcome crypto games if they followed some ground rules around legality and financial transparency.
“Epic is a pioneer and visionary in the video game industry. Gala Games’ titles being available on the Epic Game Store brings legitimacy to this new genre of gaming,” Gala Games President John Osvald said in a statement. “Easy access to Web3 games is a turning point for those players who have not yet seen how digital ownership can enrich the gaming experience.” The company, which developers its own games and also hosts and distributes blockchain titles from third parties, says it plans to publish more of its catalog on the Epic Game Store in the future.
The Web3 movement has become a lightning rod for controversy in the game industry, with scores of developers and players alike decrying NFTs and other crypto products as overhyped nonsense that risks exploiting players and in some cases giving cover to outright fraud. Following severe instability in cryptocurrency markets that resulted in an unprecedented crash last month crash last month, the prospects of the so-called play-to-earn movement — a variety of blockchain game designed to enrich players in exchange for their time, effort and participation — have not looked promising.
Still, many blockchain gaming companies are persisting with the hope that the right combination of genuine fun factor and novel crypto tech might create a hit that can break into the mainstream. Doing so, however, requires access to mainstream customers, and so far many digital game stores like Valve's Steam and Apple's App Store have not yet opened their doors to Web3. That makes Epic the first major storefront to do so.
Epic CEO Tim Sweeney has been outspoken about Web3, in particular NFTs and what role these technologies might play in the eventual metaverse. Yet while he has criticized the space for its abundance of fraud and the get-rich-quick schemes, Sweeney has also expressed optimism for the broader idea of a digital goods economy and how video games will play a pivotal role in establishing new paradigms within the metaverse.
"I firmly believe there’s going to be a multi-trillion dollar economy around digital goods in the future, Sweeney told Fast Company back in April. "But I think so much of the crypto currency effort, especially touching the gaming space, doesn’t address that problem of utility. They’re showing you digital goods you can’t do anything with except to say that you own it. You can cryptographically prove that you own it, but who cares?"
Sweeney said as much back in October 2021, when replying to someone on Twitter asking whether Fortnite would introduce NFTs. "We aren’t touching NFTs as the whole field is currently tangled up with an intractable mix of scams, interesting decentralized tech foundations, and scams," he said.
A month later, however, Epic said it would accept blockchain games on its PC game store following a blanket ban from its competitor Valve, which operates the Steam store, "provided [the games] follow the relevant laws, disclose their terms, and are age-rated by an appropriate group," Sweeney said at the time.