Both GameStop and the NFT market have been in the news several times this year. And today, the two are teaming up for a story so crazy you couldn’t make it up.
To understand this story, it is important to know that GameStop recently opened its own NFT market. The retail chain has struggled to stay relevant for ages and now believes it can by riding on the blockchain hype. What a shame that in their first month they are not only involved in a large-scale plagiarism scandal, but that it also has to do with a game collection.
The game collection in question was called NiFTy Arcade and set itself apart from the rest by offering interactive NFTs. Instead of the JPGs we’ve come to expect from NFT traders, NiFTy Arcade sold HTML5 games that you could play from your wallet or the GameStop Marketplace. An interesting idea in itself, if it weren’t for the fact that most games sold were not minted (converted to NFT) with the permission of the creators.
The person behind NiFTy Arcade is Nathan Ello, who says he created the collection as a way to show that NFT can be much more than images. “If people find value in these NFTs, that’s a bonus, but my goal is to create and showcase games that can be played on the NFT Marketplace and from NFT wallets,” Ello said in an interview with Ars Technica. “If anyone wants the convenience of playing the game directly from their wallet or profile page without navigating to mine, they are welcome to purchase a copy.”
The last sentence immediately reveals the first problem. The whole idea of NFT is exclusivity. That you as a buyer own something. But the games in NiFTy Arcade are just everywhere on the web and can be played by anyone with the correct URL. However, that is irrelevant to Ello as he has made a lot of money from hundreds of NFTs sold through NiFTy Arcade. There is debate as to what exactly he earned from this, but it is not a small amount.
The other issue we mentioned earlier in this article: permission. Of the three games in NiFTy Arcade, at least two have not been approved by the developers. These are the games Worm Nom Nom and Galactic Wars. In addition, he also grabbed and embossed the games Breakout Hero, Super Disc Box, and Invader Overload elsewhere without any permission, according to Joseph “Lexaloffle” White, the creator of the PICO-8 engine.
Once confronted, Ello pretends his nose is bleeding and claims he took games that would be in the free domain. However, both Super Disc Box and Worm Nom Nom are clearly listed on their respective websites with a license that prohibits commercial use. This means Ello wasn’t paying attention, didn’t understand what he was doing, or simply didn’t care. And all three are big problems if a person does this in a market that is ”self-regulating”. Galactic Wars had an unlicensed reference to Itch, so he has the benefit of the doubt there. At least from yours truly, but not from Borja ‘Volcano Bytes’ de Tena, who made Galactic Wars. “If you want to benefit from my work, you should at least ask,” said the Spanish developer.
After Ello came under fire, he decided to launch a charm offensive by offering affected developers a cut of the revenue. However, this did not go well either. Developers felt offended that this happened after the fact and by the content of the offer. “My work was sold without my permission,” Breakout Hero developer Krystian Majewski tells me. “Even if he wanted to return the money he made through my work, it would be through some crypto shit.”
For anyone curious about the Galactic Wars license.https://t.co/8jnBsgz1jIhttps://t.co/VuD09jSVQZ pic.twitter.com/w0TdReWWbv
— NiFTy Arcade (@NiftyArcade) 15 July 2022
If you haven’t earned blockchain, you probably think this is the end. Ello has been banned and can no longer make money. It just doesn’t work that way. Everything he has sold will continue to exist on the blockchain and can be traded there, even if GameStop no longer sees the items as legitimate. As a result, other people are still profiting from the games that they have become “owners” of without permission from the creators. In addition, the games can still be played by these owners on GameStop’s servers. And even if they remove them too, due to the nature of the blockchain, the games will remain available thanks to IPFS.
White hasn’t let that stop him, sending DMCA takedowns to GameStop to ensure the games can no longer be run through their servers and demanding that the NFT be screened before they can be sold. At the time of writing, neither White nor Ars Technica has received a response. “It’s not going to happen unless it’s required by law. At the very least, there should be a reliable and simple process for content removal. But in my experience, GameStop doesn’t even offer that,” White said.
Meanwhile, Ello remains on the defensive, saying he’s working at GameStop to get his embossing privileges back. NiFTy Arcade, meanwhile, has been revived on the LoopExchange blockchain with new games it says it has licensed. When asked, he says “not minting new interactive NFT games until I’m sure those games comply with the rules of the NFT market.”
The situation is slightly more complex for the affected games, as a lawyer has already been involved in one title. That lawman is Jonathan Loitermann, although we don’t know which developer he represents. What we do know is that he is already in talks with Ello and is confident they can do a deal. For others, it has become a matter of principle, like Tena, who says that ”I’ve been working on video games for years, but VolcanoBytes is not something I do for money. It’s my personal project, something I do for love, but my income is not a real business. But it’s my job and it can’t just be exploited by others without my permission.”
Majewski agrees with this statement: “I’m a small developer doing non-commercial projects to teach people how to make their own games. NFT is a loss for me, even if I don’t participate in it. It costs me time and energy .”
Both gentlemen also believe that GameStop should have taken responsibility, especially with something so strikingly different from normal. Both call the “power to the creators” slogan being used a sham and a false promise. ”It’s a shame. But it is also standard for NFT projects. Does not? That’s what technology is for. To shirk responsibility and turn away. This is where the real evil of NFT projects lies. Take advantage first and ask questions later,” Majewski concludes.
Ello says it’s looking at a buyback program for those who can no longer trade in their games at GameStop or to give them a new NFT through an airdrop that can be sold.
Source: Ars Technica