Less than a year ago, WildWorks, makers of the virtual world game Animal Jam for kids, launched its next big effort with a game aimed at Generation Z teens called Feral. But in recent days, the company has angered many of its core users with news that it is repurposing Feral’s technology platform and many of its assets to enter the crypto gaming space with a metaverse game called Cinder, powered by the Solana blockchain.
The response from core WildWorks fans has been far less than enthusiastic at this news for several reasons. Players who were already concerned about the pace of development and the unfinished nature of Feral are now concerned about what it means for Feral’s future as the company has moved to build a crypto gaming experience using its assets. Feral. They are also less than enthusiastic about the environmental impacts of cryptogaming and NFTs — a view WildWorks CEO Clark Stacey had shared until recently.
In a Medium post, Stacey addresses this particular concern, among other things, noting that he himself had believed that technologies such as NFTs were “irreconcilable with environmental conservation” and had no value to gamers.
However, he says his opinion has since changed as he learned more about blockchain developments outside of Ethereum. While Ethereum, like Bitcoin, relies on an energy-intensive “proof of work” system that requires what Stacey called a “ridiculous amount of computing power” to validate its transactions, alternatives have emerged that iterate on the less energy. -demanding “evidence”. of stake” validation systems, such as Wax, Cardano and Solana.
“Transactions on these blockchains could be more efficient than the credit card networks we now use to take payments in most of our games,” Stacey wrote. “Combined with WildWorks’ ongoing efforts to offset and reduce carbon emissions from game development, we are determined that our use of the Solana blockchain in our new game will not increase the company’s carbon footprint,” he said.
Cinder players will use the Solana blockchain to purchase their “playable NFTs” – the Cinder Fae, which will feature 11,111 exclusive avatars designed by the WildWorks team. The NFTs have about 150 characteristics of varying rarity in 9 categories, so each will have a unique appearance that cannot be duplicated, explains the Cinder website. Players can connect their NFT avatar to Cinder on the day it is minted to join the free MMO community and explore the virtual world. The minting is scheduled for early January. Over the next year, players will be able to convert the game content they design, such as avatars, playrooms, and party rooms, into NFTs stored on Solana, which can be bought or sold through Cinder’s marketplace.
While Stacey addressed fans’ concerns about the environmental concerns surrounding crypto technologies, that wasn’t the only reason fans were frustrated with this shift toward crypto.
Many also believed that today’s crypto ecosystems still have a lot to answer in terms of their other drawbacks – including their use for money laundering, or how NFTs too easily enable the theft of art from creators, and the security vulnerabilities. with “altcoins.” Stacey acknowledges that these allegations contain some truth, but also notes that it is still too early for blockchains in general, and that regulation and further development could allay these concerns. He also said there are creators who are want to engage with these new technologies to contribute to solutions that benefit the creator community, and they should be given that opportunity.
One such area includes creator-designed avatars and other marketable content, which can be difficult to capitalize on on current platforms like Roblox, Stacey said.
“[Roblox doesn’t] creating gameplay experiences themselves, they are not the ones whose creative output actually appeals to players, but they get 75% of what creators earn because they run the platform and own the output of their users. If I create a really cool avatar in Roblox and someone wants to buy from me, I can’t sell it without going through the platform,” Stacey wrote. (Roblox’s “discount” is actually a bit more complicated than that, in part because the mobile app stores take their own share on top of Roblox’s share. But the general point that developers earn a small fraction of the total revenue is correct. )
Cinder’s NFTs would instead allow users to tokenize and then sell and trade their creations, preserving a larger portion of the total revenue. Stacey, in the Discord AMA, said players in the Cinder market can keep 96% of the transaction, while Cinder only takes 4%.
But Feral fans aren’t necessarily looking for explanations. They are just against crypto and NFTs and making their views known. This belief system may also have to do with how the fans still view WildWorks as a game maker for kids – or at the very least a game maker targeting the under-18s market. After starting their journey in the kiddie game Animal Jam, they see the company’s move into the crypto gaming space as an inappropriate one.
However, WildWorks had already expressed its interest in expanding Feral beyond the children’s gaming market, targeting teens, not younger children. With Cinder, the market isn’t for kids or teens, it’s for adults. The company said the new game aims to attract a similar audience to those who would play other crypto games such as Axie Infinity, The Sandbox or Blankos Block Party.
More importantly, WildWorks needs revenue to continue its gaming ambitions – Feral or otherwise. Stacey told the Feral Discord community how WildWorks has invested over 2 years of development and $6 million into building Feral. While it’s aiming to make that a self-sustaining business, that time hasn’t come yet.
Stacey admitted to Gadgets Price that it became clear when Feral was in Early Access that it was not achieving the product-market fit that WildWorks had hoped for.
“We got to the point where we couldn’t keep investing in it at the level we had and stay financially healthy,” he told us. “However, we didn’t stop the game because there was still a passionate community playing, and we were hoping to find a new publisher for it or some other way to continue development.”
Cinder could provide those “other resources” if successful – but ironically, Feral may not survive because of the fan reaction. Fans are threatening to stop the game and cancel their Animal Jam subscription in protest.
For some, WildWorks’ shift to crypto gaming was a nail in the coffin, as they took the opportunity to vent about other issues they had with the company. Fans started off-topic discussions about alleged flaws in WildWorks’ moderation systems, hackers, and the use of headgear in Animal Jam — which Stacey said had been an “ignorant” choice. (The company had discussed the issue with the Native American players who contacted them, apologized and agreed that those virtual items would no longer be made or promoted. However, the company did not remove the items from the player inventory, if at all. were obtained.)
The friction between WildWorks’ business needs, coupled with a desire to explore what it sees as the future of gaming, and the genuine response from its longtime fans is an example of how difficult it can be for companies to acquire blockchain and crypto. technologies to embrace . This problem is exacerbated because the potential of the blockchain can often be obscured by the negative aspects of the industry – or, as Stacey put it, the “thieves and scammers and bad art” and the lack of “regulatory guardrails” around crypto developments. from today.
As for Feral, fans’ concerns about the future seem justified. Stacey says that if the community continues to support the game, it will find a way to build it further.
“If they don’t, we’ll announce plans to shut it down once that decision is made. It hasn’t been made to date,” he notes. “We understand that many in the Feral community are philosophically opposed to NFTs and blockchain technology in general, but while we have tried to address their questions and concerns, Cinder is being designed and marketed for a different player. They will not lose anything from the presence of assets that we have created for Feral that are also present in Cinder.”