EA signals NFTs are a 'big part' of the future of games and FIFA players want them

FIFA 22 on a computer
Games with NFTs have been criticised for their negative environmental impact. Photo credit: Getty Images

Games giant EA has signalled non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are a big part of the future of gaming, despite concerns from some in the industry.

During an earnings call this week the company's chief executive Andrew Wilson told investors he believes players of its FIFA football franchise wanted the tokens inside the game.

"They want more modalities inside the game, which go beyond just straight 11 on 11 football," he said.

"They want more digital experiences outside the game, esports, NFTs, broader sports consumption and they want us to move really, really quickly.

"We're going to work with our global collection of partners that we feel best enables us to do that."

Wilson said there was a lot of "hype" about NFTs, but he felt good about EA's position on their use.

He said it was still early in the process to figure out how it would work, but "you should expect us to think more innovatively and creatively about that on a go-forward basis".

But Max Nichols, a senior technical designer at Bungie - the company behind franchises like Destiny and Halo - says NFTs are harmful to games.

"We already know that they're environmentally devastating, extract wealth into the hands of bad actors, and are mostly scams or worse," he wrote on Twitter.

"But I'm a game designer and I also believe that they fundamentally harm the player experience."

He said pitches for NFT games tended to be either impossible or equally good without NFTs, and embedding them into games distorts every game design decision.

That leads people to enjoy 'play to earn' games less, he wrote.

"To circle back around to what really matters here: 'Your players have no money because they got scammed', 'your players are all dead because of global warming' also harm the player experience in your game."

Popular gaming platform Steam has already signalled it won't allow any games using blockchain technologies like NFTs in its store.

That decision is perhaps understandable after early investors in a non-licensed cryptocurrency game based on Netflix show Squid Game lost all their money after the creators disappeared, reportedly pocketing an estimated US$2.1 million in the process.

Epic Games, which created blockbuster battle royale game Fortnite, has also indicated it won't be allowing NFTs in its games, with CEO Tim Sweeney's hesitancy due to scams.

But Piers Harding-Rolls, a gaming analyst, told the BBC that NFT and blockchain games are "new disruptive forces" in the industry and all major publishers would be looking at their potential to make money.

"It would be bad commercial practice not to be analysing how these technologies could impact its existing business," he told the corporation.

EA has previously been criticised for its use of loot boxes in its games, like FIFA, because it involves an element of gambling and the games are widely played by those under 18.

Loot boxes are microtransactions in-game that cost real world money, with the player getting random items in return. Belgium banned them in 2018, saying they were in "violation of gambling legislation" in the country.