Google Play’s new NFT policy: a game-changer for web3 games, or too little too late?


Google is effectively opening up its Play store to web3 gaming later this year.

The blog announcing the change comes with some caveats. Developers must be transparent about NFT usage in their games, and studios cannot “promote or glamorize any potential earning from playing or trading activities” – so play-to-earn is a pretty clear no-no.

Google will not allow NFTs to be included in gacha-type mechanics either, which is fair. The policy changes are effective as of December 7, and are outlined in more detail here.

The tech giant also provided a video explainer – we’ve skipped to the bit that refers specifically to the blockchain policy here:

The trouble is, all this feels like it has come months, if not over a year after the wave of hype around NFT and blockchain-enabled game development hit – and parted so many investors with their cash.

Since then, we’re aware of a couple of studios that raised funds as web3 specialists that have quietly pivoted away from it, and after a multitude of scandals in the wider blockchain space, skepticism is arguably greater than ever.

This part of the games business needs a genuine breakout hit soon to prove players actually want this stuff. And now investors are betting big on AI, the funding, hype and chatter around this space isn’t anywhere near what it was in early 2022.

So, after Google’s policies were announced, we asked several well-known figures from this space for their thoughts on the changes. Here’s what they said:

Magic Eden head of games Chris Akhavan:
“We’re really encouraged to see Google Play officially welcoming web3 enabled games and apps on their platform. Mobile remains the largest distribution platform in the world by far, and the barriers to exploring web3 integration into mobile apps have definitely held the industry back. The new messaging from Google is likely to revive interest in exploring the use of NFTs among mobile game studios and give the broader ecosystem a boost of confidence to be able to invest in building great mobile games and apps.

We hope to see both Apple and Google continue to explore how to unblock key issues for web3 developers. In particular, the requirement around using Apple/Google’s fiat-based in-app purchase exclusively for all payments related to games, NFTs and other content makes it very hard to enable users to exchange value through crypto currencies or to use noncustodial wallets. Hopefully we’ll see some more openness in this area down the line.”

Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow CEO Chris Heatherly:
“Mobile as an industry is stuck right now and Google seems to understand we need to innovate to continue growing. The policy is largely fair and mitigates against many of the problems we saw in early web3.

However, I think the prohibition of NFT loot crates, as one example, show how web3 games are going to have to be designed with these policies in mind and it will be harder to just graft a meaningful web3 element onto existing games. Overall, this is good news that will allow a ton of innovation at a time the industry desperately needs it.”

Village Games CEO Will Luton:
“My first thought on this: Why now? The consumer demand for NFTs are at an all-time low and the general buzz has died away. I suspect that there’s a lot of pressure from the devs who raised funding in the bubble of the last few years who really need a mass market platform to show traction. Because it isn’t anywhere else.

With IDFA, off portal billing, side loading and all the developer disquiet towards Apple, I suspect Google want to capitalise on that and have Android be the default lead platform for devs and even attract exclusive content. Already if you’re interested in web3 you have to be on Android, this cements that.”

Mighty Bear Games CEO Simon Davies:
“It’s hugely significant because it gives developers clarity on what the rules are. We want to respect and build within clear guidelines and this gives us the clarity needed to invest and start rolling out new games and experiences .

There’s never been a better time to be building in Web3 than today. This is a once in a decade moment where a new platform emerges. Like with mobile, those who are at the outset will reap huge rewards further down the line.”

Blockchain Game Alliance director of global development Flavien Defraire:
“Google’s decision to change its policy toward blockchain based apps is incredibly exciting news, especially for those who have been tirelessly working on cross-platform development with the anticipation of such advancements.

This forward-thinking approach presents a remarkable opportunity to explore new avenues of creativity in gaming.”

Ultra co-CEO and founder Nicolas Gilot:
“It feels like a significant step towards integrating blockchain technology into our everyday lives and making it more accessible to a broader audience.

Apple has taken a more cautious stance. It remains to be seen whether Apple will follow suit, however, if Google’s policy change proves successful and attracts developers and more users, it may apply pressure on Apple to reconsider its current approach. The impact of these small wins will undoubtedly shape the decisions of gaming giants in the near future.”

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