From Square Enix to Ubisoft: The Biggest Publishers Building NFT Games
by James · May 29, 2023
Many traditional or “Web2” video game studios around the world are developing new games that leverage blockchain networks, cryptocurrency and NFTs. Some of the gaming industry’s biggest studios globally are exploring Web3, with appetite across genres and platforms – from PC shooters to mobile games and multiplayer metaverse worlds.
And a majority of the game publishers on this list are headquartered in Asia, with just one based in the US and one in Europe – a dominance that reflects DappRadar’s prediction that Asia could rule the Web3 gaming space.
Japanese video game studio Square Enix – maker of the Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts titles – has been exploring NFT video games since 2019. In 2021, the company released a sold-out collection of Ethereum-based NFT collector card. About six months later, Square Enix sold by Tomb Raider IP as well as three studios it owned to help fund the movements of blockchain and AI research and development.
Earlier this year, the studio announced that it is planning to drop an NFT game, Symbiogenesis, on the Ethereum sidechain network Polygon. Square Enix calls the upcoming game a “collectible art project” with a narrative component and a mystery that players must solve during the game. The publisher has also previously invested in the metaverse game The Sandbox and announced plans to bring the Dungeon Siege IP to the gaming world.
South Korea-based video game publisher Nexon is making a new MapleStory game called The MapleStory universe which will leverage polygon NFTs. Nexon has shared that they will have their own private network or Polygon “Supernet” for the game.
The original MapleStory games have grossed over $4 billion for the publisher, and seen over 260 million players to date. MapleStory Universe group leader Hwang Sun-Young said the studio will work closely with Polygon Labs throughout the development and marketing process.
Krafton, the South Korea-based publisher of PUBG: Battlegrounds and PUBG Mobile, plans to launch an NFT-enabled metaverse game under the working name Migaloo. Players will be able to create their own digital assets under what Krafton calls a “locker to earn” system.
The studio has established a majority stake in a new joint venture company with technology company Naver Z. Together, Krafton and Naver Z will develop Migaloo and plan to release it sometime this year. In 2022, Krafton also said they will develop games on Solana in collaboration with Solana Labs.
Zynga is an American game company known for casual smash hits such as Farmville, CityVille and Words With Friends. Last year, Zynga announced that it was developing games that use NFTs in an effort to “future proof” his business.
While little has been announced since, Zynga appears to be moving forward with its Web3 gaming division. The website currently shows one job advertisement for a software engineer for the department, with the goal of creating “enduring Web3 games” for the studio.
Zynga’s parent company Take-Two Interactive is one of the largest game publishers in the world, with franchises such as Grand Theft Auto, NBA 2K and Red Dead Redemption in its portfolio. Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick has talked about opportunities in the Web3 world, and the firm invested in Web3 game developer Horizon in 2022.
French game publisher Ubisoft is one of the few Western video game studios that openly explores NFTs in their games. Back in 2021, it launched free Tezos NFTs for Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint. While these NFTs were aesthetically simple and launched in a game with few active players left, it still sparked massive backlash online from angry players who dislike the idea of NFTs in games.
In response, Ubisoft said that NFTs in games are a “big change that will take time” and has continued to develop blockchain integrations for upcoming games. In 2022, Ubisoft said they were still investigating how NFTs can be implemented into the titles.
This year, Ubisoft released NFTs based on theirs Rabbids game IP in the metaverse game The Sandbox and launched “Smart Collectibles” from Assassin’s Creed– a move that mixes physical collectibles with digital NFT components. Previously, Ubisoft created One Shot League, a spinoff game from NFT-based fantasy football game Sorare, and rolled out a Rabbids NFT experiment in 2020 to benefit charity.
Korean game publisher NCSoft is the producer of titles such as Guild Wars, Blade & Soul and the Lineage series. It invested in blockchain firm Mysten Labs’ $300 million Series B funding round last year, and has shared plans to develop NFT games on the recently launched Sui blockchain.
Mysten Labs builds infrastructure for Sui network and believes that Sui is well optimized for video games that use crypto transactions and NFTs. Numerous games are launching on Sui in the near future, although NCSoft has yet to reveal its specific plans.
Com2us is the South Korean game developer and publisher behind Summoners War. But the studio has expressed strong interest in blockchain gaming and is developing games that offer NFTs and crypto integrations via the XPLA blockchain.
The company’s American president Kyu Lee said so Decrypt in a statement that the studio plans to release about 10 to 15 blockchain games per year, and that most of them will be on mobile.
Korean game publisher Wemade has just released World Fishing Championship, a play-and-earn fishing game for Android mobile phones. It also plans to release two more blockchain games this year: R1B and Night Crows. R1B is a baseball game and Night Crows is a high concept fantasy MMORPG being adapted into a Web3 game for a global audience.
Wemade also promoted its crypto gaming platform Wemix Play at the Game Developers Conference in March 2023. A Wemade representative told Decrypt via email that Wemix Play is meant to be like a Steam store for crypto games.
Wemix Play currently offers an NFT marketplace and has over 50 games from third-party indie developers planned for the platform, many of which offer players the opportunity to “play and earn” various crypto-tokens. At the time of writing, Wemix has 28 different playing pieces listed on its platform as well fan tokens. The majority of Wemix most popular live games are RPGs, but a few puzzle and strategy games also cracked the top 20 list.