It seems like only yesterday we were reporting on Ubisoft’s plans to capitalise on the NFT trend by, erm, selling helmets with little numbers on them. Oh wait, it pretty much was. And it looks like folks are just as impressed as you’d expect—using a Chrome extension to restore YouTube dislikes, we can see the video attracted an extraordinary 31,000 dislikes to just over 1,000 likes.
Ubisoft’s response has been to de-list the video, which seems like something of a halfway house (thanks, VGC). The Ubisoft Quartz announcement can thus still be viewed, so presumably Quartz integration is still happening with Tom Clancy’s Breakpoint, and the website remains live albeit bereft of any content (as was the case when the video launched).
Ubisoft only announced this was coming in November, and it’s part of a wider trend among big tech companies toying with the idea of NFTs, not all of whom are sold. EA called NFTs ‘the future of our industry’, but Xbox boss Phil Spencer’s worried they might be ‘exploitative’, Discord teased their integration then swiftly u-turned after major backlash, while Steam’s just decided to ban them altogether.
The thing with the Ubisoft Quartz pitch is, as many have pointed out, these items don’t actually seem to be doing anything that games haven’t already incorporated for a long time. The ‘unique’ element of them, a numbering system, is hard to get excited about. And fundamentally Ubisoft couldn’t have picked a worse game to showcase cosmetics with: Breakpoint is by its grim mercenary nature a game with a rather drab aesthetic. It’s bonkers to have gone for this over, say, the more recent Rider’s Republic. Although perhaps the whole point is that, if it’s all a disaster, at least it’s with an older game and can all be swept under the rug more easily.
And it’s unclear what is happening. A major publisher announcing a new foray into a tech trend is big news, whatever one thinks of NFTs, and it’s pretty remarkable to see that announcement be de-listed scant days later. Ubisoft is clearly already some way up the path on this technology and so a u-turn may be out of the question: But if the reaction has been as overwhelmingly negative as it seems, then it may feel the push isn’t worth making. Yet.
I’ve contacted Ubisoft to ask what’s going on, and will update with any response.