Get ready to talk NFTs, play-to-earn, web3, metaverse and more – whether you like it or not

Image credit: Axie Infinity

It started last week, as my inbox filled up with press releases and meeting requests from blockchain, play-to-earn, web3 and metaverse companies.

Then, in the interminable passport queue at San Francisco airport on Saturday, I bumped into an old colleague of mine and we got talking. 

We talked a bit about the mobile business, and then about “all that crypto-blockchain-metaverse stuff” (his words). “I’m glad you’re reporting on all that and not me,” he said, witheringly.

The next day, when I was putting together this GDC session guide, that handful of terms kept cropping up again and again.

I counted a total of 36 GDC sessions about NFTs, web3, play-to-earn, the metaverse or a mix of all of the above. Most of them were sessions aimed at people in mobile, like you and I.

Interestingly, of those 36 sessions, only 10 are ‘organic’ sessions not presented by sponsors (28%). To put it another way, of all the GDC 2022 sessions about these buzzy ideas, most – 72% – have paid to be there. Clearly, the team curating the GDC schedule aren’t as enthusiastic about this stuff as the event’s sponsors are.

All of this tells us something about the week that lays ahead of us.

You won’t be able to escape talking about NFTs, play-to-earn, web3 and metaverse ideas at GDC this week. Image credit: gdconf.com.

The gulf between the investor and tech community that’s really fired up about this new wave of ideas, and, well, everyone else, seems to be pretty vast right now.

And those two groups are going to bump into each other again and again in hotel lobbies, meeting rooms and conference halls in and around GDC this week. It’s quite a cocktail for a conference, isn’t it.

Away from the polarising bubbles of social media discourse, most people, I suspect, are pretty neutral about these ideas and their influence on the mobile games business.

Me too. It’s good to talk about possible futures and what’s coming next, absolutely. It’s exciting. But all of these ideas need real, live examples that people can play, enjoy, and that represent a sustainable business. That simply hasn’t happened yet, and it doesn’t really look like happening soon.

So brace yourselves. If you love talking about decentralisation and ownership and smart contracts and digital identity you’ll find plenty of people to share your enthusiasm with this week.

And if you can’t stand it all, sorry, but you probably won’t be able to escape it, try as you might. Good luck out there.