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How NFTs are creating a generational divide between platforms



How NFTs are creating a generational divide between platforms

Today, let’s talk about a fault line that’s beginning to open up in the gaming world, one I suspect will soon be coming to most platforms and app stores. It’s a divide that begins with a simple question: will your platform allow NFTs? Crypto payments? You know … blockchain stuff?

Like it or not, the rise of non-fungible tokens as an engine for fun and profit has been one of the tech world’s big stories in 2021. Using the blockchain to create unique digital objects with verifiable, transferrable ownership has opened up new possibilities in art, digital trading cards, and gaming. At least for the moment, it seems likely that other forms of media will follow.

Recently I’ve written about ways in which NFTs are challenging the current generation’s assumptions about gaming: building a game from the bottom up rather than the top down, as the Loot project is doing; or enabling players to make money directly from their gameplay, as Axie Infinity is. Aleksander Larsen, chief operating officer of Axie’s parent company, told me that he hopes the game will come to mobile app stores, including Apple’s, within the next few months.

But on Friday, it became clear that such games won’t be welcome everywhere. Here’s Mitchell Clark here at The Verge:

Games that use blockchain technology or let users exchange NFTs or cryptocurrencies won’t be allowed on Steam, according to a rule added to Valve’s “What you shouldn’t publish on Steam” list. The change was pointed out by SpacePirate, a developer working on an NFT-based game, who said that the change was because the company doesn’t allow game items that could have real-world value.

Steam, if you’re not familiar, is the largest distributor of PC gaming software in the world. With more than 120 million monthly users, it’s the default place for most PC gamers to buy digital downloads. And last week, as some blockchain-based games had begun to appear on the platform, Steam pulled out the rug from underneath them. Parent company Valve has yet to make a comment beyond its update to the Steam rules.

The developer of Age of Rust, a forthcoming adventure game that will award NFTs to players who solve puzzles, was among those whose titles were removed from the platform. The developer, SpacePirate Games, lamented the move.

“Steam’s point of view is that items have value and they don’t allow items that can have real-world value on their platform,” the game’s official account tweeted. “While I respect their choice, I fundamentally believe that NFTs and blockchain games are the future. It’s why I started this journey with all of you.”

But when one app store door closes, another opens. The Epic Games Store, a Steam rival that the Fortnite maker introduced in 2018, quickly said that it is “open” to considering NFT-based games. Here’s Clark again:

When we asked about allowing games that featured NFTs, Epic told us there’d be some limitations, but that it’s willing to work with “early developers” in the “new field.”

Epic says that the games would have to comply with financial laws, make it clear how the blockchain is used, and have appropriate age ratings. It also says that developers won’t be able to use Epic’s payment service to accept crypto; they would have to use their own payment systems instead.

Among the reasons this came as a surprise is that just weeks earlier, Epic CEO Tim Sweeney had seemed to wash his hands of the blockchain altogether. “We aren’t touching NFTs,” he tweeted, “as the whole field is currently tangled up with an intractable mix of scams, interesting decentralized tech foundations, and scams.”

Sweeney is well within the mainstream of tech commentary when he worries that NFTs are scammy. When I wrote about Axie last week, a lot of you shared similar sentiments with me in the Sidechannel Discord server and in your email replies. Aren’t these NFT projects fundamentally pyramid schemes, you wondered; Why does any of this have to be on the blockchain at all? There are other ways to represent digital scarcity beyond the blockchain, you told me.

In any case, grinding for several hours a day to make money playing a Pokémon clone hardly sounds like most people’s idea of a good time. If it’s a full-time job, can you really even call it a game?

Despite those objections, though, the development continues. Each day brings with it a fresh round of funding announcements for blockchain-based projects, with hundreds of millions of dollars being allocated into crypto-focused startups and VC funds. Games, which have proven to be one of the first crypto projects to attract a user base that does something other than trade money back and forth, often figure significantly in those fundraising announcements. (Here’s $4.6 million for a company that rents Axie monsters to players in exchange for a slice of their income, for example.)

All of which is soon going to put platforms into the same position that Steam found itself in. Do we let these things into the store or not? The easy thing to do is to say “no” — but doing so creates an opportunity for anyone willing to say yes.

To be sure, the sale of in-game items has a checkered history. Blizzard’s popular dungeon crawler Diablo III set up an official in-game auction house a decade ago to let players sell rare swords, armor, and other goods that they had earned in virtual battle. These items weren’t unique in the way NFTs are, but they were rare and had real-world value. Unfortunately, though, Blizzard found that its auction house broke the game entirely: all of a sudden, people could simply pay to win it.

Here’s Bo Moore writing in Wired in 2013, when the auction house was shuttered:

Diablo doesn’t have more dungeons, more bosses, etc. Players just play the same procession of levels on harder and harder difficulty levels, picking up better and better loot. In other words, the loot isn’t just a helping hand towards their ultimate goal – better loot is the ultimate goal. And with the auction house, players found that the best way to obtain it was to just buy it. […]

And the next thing you know, they’re not playing the game anymore. Why would they, when the reward structure that would otherwise motivate them to play was no longer there? Without the promise of better stuff, Diablo was all stick and no carrot.

Games that develop this “pay to win” dynamic are among the most-loathed titles around — but they are very much around. Games that offer free downloads, as many mobile games do, often allow players to pay to gain advantages over their freeloading rivals, even as it worsens the experience for most of the user base. More respectable games, like Fortnite, sell only cosmetic items. But the pay-to-win economy is real.

Of course, there’s no reason that in-game NFTs bought from third parties have to give players advantages in gameplay. A unique Fortnite skin created by a popular artist might have value to both the person who sold it and the person who bought it, and the balance of gameplay wouldn’t change at all.

But even for platforms inclined to support blockchain integrations, there remain a number of hurdles to clear on the policy and user experience side. How and where does the buying and selling take place? Does the platform get a cut of the sale? And if NFTs do affect how the game is played, rather than simply how it looks, how does the developer ensure the game is balanced and accessible to a large number of players?

The questions are coming to gaming first, but it’s easy to imagine them cropping up elsewhere in the new economy. And when they do, platforms will be faced with a choice: shut it all down, as Steam did, and bet that the whole crypto craze will some day fall into the ocean; or be curious about it, the way Epic is, and see if there’s a way to channel all this developer enthusiasm into something creative and profitable.

It’s worth noting that most big believers in the tech world’s other big prediction about the future this year — the metaverse — come down firmly on the side of NFT integration. Mark Zuckerberg described for Facebook employees this summer a world in which people would one day rent NFT art as decorations for parties in virtual reality. The idea of unique NFT skins that people can dress up their avatars in, and take from place to virtual place, is foundational to the metaverse as futurists most often describe it.

Maybe that will all fall into the ocean, too. But one way or another, I think digital scarcity is coming to platforms. And when it does, they’ll have a lot of re-thinking to do. For now, Valve loses nothing by leaving NFTs behind. But there may come a day soon when it’s companies like Valve getting left behind, and developers like SpacePirate laughing all the way to the bank.

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‘Dogecoin killer’ shiba inu is up–here’s what to know before investing



'Dogecoin killer' shiba inu is up–here's what to know before investing

Another dog-inspired cryptocurrency called shiba inu, or SHIB, hit an all-time high of $0.0000594 on Wednesday.

Despite its price being below 1 cent, the “meme token” has garnered a lot of attention. Shiba inu now ranks No. 11 among the top cryptocurrencies by market value, according to CoinMarketCap. It is up more than 111% over the past seven says, as of 9:42 a.m. EST on Wednesday.

Shiba inu, dubbed the “dogecoin killer” by its supporters, is trailing closely behind dogecoin, which ranks No. 10.

Though shiba inu is cheap to buy and it may be tempting to jump in, experts say investors should do their research first.

“Before investing in any cryptocurrency, it’s important to understand what you’re investing in and the associated risks, not just hype around it,” Douglas Boneparth, certified financial planner and president of Bone Fide Wealth, tells CNBC Make It.

Shiba inu is typically considered an altcoin, which refers to the multitude of cryptocurrencies aside from bitcoin. Cryptocurrency can be a very volatile and speculative investment in general, but experts say altcoins can be even more so.

Here’s what you should know.

What’s SHIB?

Shiba inu was created in August 2020 by a pseudonymous founder called Ryoshi. As its name suggests, the token is inspired by shiba inu dogs.

Shiba inu is an Ethereum-based ERC-20 token, which means it is created on and hosted by the Ethereum blockchain, rather than its own blockchain.

Ryoshi decided to launch shiba inu on Ethereum because it’s “already secure and well-established,” according to the shiba inu white paper, or, as its community calls it, “woof paper.”

However, experts warn that the ease of launching a project on the Ethereum blockchain means that underdeveloped cryptocurrencies can be launched into circulation at a low cost to a developer.

Shiba inu has a total supply of 1 quadrillion. Ryoshi claims they do not hold any shiba inu coins and nearly half of its supply is locked in a liquidity pool on decentralized exchange Uniswap. The rest was sent to Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin.

According to shiba inu’s white paper, Ryoshi sent tokens to Buterin with hopes that he’d keep the tokens. However, Buterin did not. He burned a majority, taking them out of circulation, and donated a significant amount to the India Covid Relief Fund and other charities.

What are the risks?

“Altcoins like SHIB are primarily community-based, meaning their success is largely dependent on the success and growth of its community instead of its utility,” says Boneparth, who has invested in bitcoin since 2014. Indeed, Ryoshi calls shiba inu an “experiment in decentralized spontaneous community building” in its white paper.

Experts warn that any cryptocurrency investment can result in the loss of your entire investment. They generally recommend that you only invest what you can afford to lose, regardless of which cryptocurrency you choose.

But altcoins may require additional caution due to their differences from something like bitcoin, including their structure, supply and utility.

Bitcoin, for example, launched in 2009 with the intent to have utility as a peer-to-peer financial system. Its blockchain was carefully created, with a well-thought-out ecosystem. Bitcoin also has a limited supply, which allows for built-in scarcity by design. Because of that, it’s seen as a store of value by its holders, who also hope it becomes a prominent decentralized digital currency.

Most altcoins lack these characteristics.

Shiba inu supporters argue that its ecosystem, which includes smart contract capabilities; NFTs, or nonfungible tokens; and opportunities for liquidity mining, to name a few, offer utility beyond community.

But nonetheless, “many altcoins can be extremely risky and may not have any inherent investment value, and retail investors should not trade these assets without research and due diligence,” says Brett Harrison, president of cryptocurrency exchange FTX US.

Rather than investing in a surging cryptocurrency based on hype, Harrison looks for crypto assets with specific utility.

“There are a number of crypto assets that can be suitable for retail users, whose investment prospects can be tied to their ability to provide a store of value, to facilitate an efficient mechanism for payment transfers, or to power a protocol used to build blockchain-based applications,” he says.

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Don’t miss: Elon Musk continues to tweet about altcoins like baby dogecoin—but investors should tread very carefully

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Photoshop will get a ‘prepare as NFT’ option soon



Photoshop will get a ‘prepare as NFT’ option soon

Adobe is launching a system built into Photoshop that can, among other things, help prove that the person selling an NFT is the person who made it. It’s called Content Credentials, and NFT sellers will be able to link the Adobe ID with their crypto wallet, allowing compatible NFT marketplaces to show a sort of verified certificate proving the art’s source is authentic.

According to a Decoder interview with Adobe’s chief product officer Scott Belsky, this functionality will be built into Photoshop with a “prepare as NFT” option, launching in preview by the end of this month. Belsky says attribution data created by the Content Credentials will live on an IPFS system. IPFS (InterPlanetary File System) is a decentralized way to host files where a network of people are responsible for keeping data safe and available, rather than a single company (somewhat similar to how torrent systems work). Adobe says that NFT marketplaces like OpenSea, Rarible, KnownOrigin, and SuperRare will be able to integrate with Content Credentials to show Adobe’s attribution information.

Art theft has been a Big Deal in the NFT world. There have been many examples of people minting art they didn’t create or don’t have the rights to on the blockchain. The reason is that anyone can mint an NFT, even if they don’t own the copyright to the content, and there’s not really anything the blockchain can do to stop that. Worse, the minting is enshrined on the blockchain, making the NFT’s creation seem authentic if you’re unaware of the original work.

In other words, I could right-click on an existing image of an NFT and mint it again myself, potentially fooling unaware buyers. While Adobe’s system won’t prevent art theft, it does offer a way to prove that the NFT you’re selling isn’t stolen — past that, it’s up to buyers to decide how much value they place on that.

Even Banksy, who gets a mention in Decoder, has been caught up by NFT scammers. One NFT collector (ironically named Pranksy) paid $300K for an NFT attributed to the famous street artist, which was almost definitely fake. He ended up getting the money back, but there wouldn’t have been as much of a fuss if Banksy had digitally signed the NFT. As Adobe’s Belsky points out, Banksy probably wouldn’t want to link his name and Adobe ID to a crypto wallet, but the system is meant to be open-source — it’s possible the anonymous artist could figure out some way to provide Content Credentials verified by the company in charge of authenticating his work.

NFTs aren’t the only thing that will benefit from Adobe’s Content Credentials, which are a result of its Content Authenticity Initiative. The company is launching the system as a beta, and users can use it to show what edits were made to a file in Photoshop, tag their stock images on Adobe’s system, and more.

To hear more about Adobe’s view on NFTs, the impact of certified attribution on art and NFTs, and Photoshop on the web, check out this week’s episode of Decoder and the rest of our coverage from Adobe’s Max conference.

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Twitter is working on blockchain-linked Collectibles tab



Twitter is working on blockchain-linked Collectibles tab

Twitter is working on a tab that shows off a user’s NFT collection, and it’s beginning to look a lot more complete. The platform first began working on the feature in September — a tweet from Mada Aflak, a software engineer for Twitter, first showed off the early stages of its experiment in late September.

The tweet’s video demonstrates how you can connect your crypto wallet from popular providers like Coinbase, Metamask, and and then choose one of your NFTs to use as your profile picture. Your full collection of NFTs will be stored in a tab on your profile, labeled Collectibles.

Once selected, your profile picture will have a small badge that verifies that it’s a real NFT. Twitter hinted at letting users verify the NFTs they tweet back in September, so that detail doesn’t come as much of a surprise.

These were the earlier stages of the feature, and reverse engineer Jane Manchun Wong just showed off how it has changed since then. She sent out a tweet showing a slightly more detailed version than the glimpse we got originally.

In addition to the Collectibles tab, Wong revealed that Twitter is working on a view that lets you get a close-up look at an NFT. You’ll also be able to tap through to a page that shows detailed information about the NFT, including a description, its creator, any properties, as well as some information about the collection. One change to note about the Collectibles tab is that it looks like it’ll take the place of the Likes tab on your profile — Wong notes that you’ll have to scroll horizontally to reach it.

A feature dedicated to NFTs is definitely nice to have, but it also shows Twitter’s disregard for more pressing issues on the platform. As developer Nathan Lawrence points out, Twitter could be using its resources to add better features dedicated to fighting misinformation.

Lawrence also noted something even more concerning: Twitter appears to have integrated NFTs into its interface, while misinformation prevention tool Birdwatch remains hidden on a dedicated portion of the site. Twitter launched Birdwatch, a crowdsourced misinformation tool that empowers the community to identify and flag questionable content, in January. Since its launch, we really haven’t heard much about it besides the fact that Birdwatch notes now appear in tweets. Overall, it’s not a great look for Twitter.

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