GameStop plans to launch its own marketplace for non-fungible tokens (or NFTs) and is co-creating an “up to $100 million” fund for game developers who use it. The marketplace will mark GameStop’s expansion from a popular meme stock to a company that dabbles in cryptocurrency and Web3 tech — although it may also provoke the wrath of gamers who are stridently opposed to NFTs.
The new GameStop NFT marketplace is supposed to launch later this year. It’s built on Immutable X, a platform based on the popular Ethereum cryptocurrency blockchain. Designed by Immutable, the company behind the NFT trading card game Gods Unchained, Immutable X is intended to mitigate the biggest drawbacks of Ethereum: its massive energy consumption and the high associated “gas fees,” which can add exorbitant processing costs to any transaction. The protocol combines hundreds of thousands of sale records into a single transaction that’s written to the Ethereum blockchain; Immutable promises to make up for the environmental costs it does incur by paying for carbon offsets.
Immutable’s existing partnerships are supposed to give the new GameStop initiative a boost since companies that already use Immutable X will be able to feature their NFTs on the marketplace. Immutable and GameStop are also partnering to create the fund for developers. While Immutable X is used by some non-gaming-focused partners like TikTok, GameStop’s marketplace is pitched as a place to buy and sell in-game assets represented as blockchain tokens — GameStop offers the examples of digital real estate, weapons, and character skins.
GameStop previously signaled its interest in blockchain tech last year, advertising for a “head of Web3 gaming” as well as a variety of NFT-based jobs. NFTs are often described as a way to prove ownership of in-game items, and they can let players trade items outside an approved marketplace like an in-game auction house. Some “play-to-earn” games like Axie Infinity also use cryptocurrency and NFTs to run an in-game economy that translates into real money for players. But their benefits are sometimes oversold — particularly claims that they will let players carry items from one game to another, a possibility that’s difficult and often undesirable for many other reasons.
While some companies, particularly Ubisoft, have forged ahead with NFT gaming despite criticism, others have canceled plans for NFTs linked with games like S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 and Worms. That’s happened partly due to criticism from players but also a lack of enthusiasm from developers — who responded overwhelmingly negatively to the phenomenon in a recent survey. But launching with buy-in from blockchain-native games could help GameStop dodge the backlash that’s followed publishers and studios delving into NFTs.