In a notable shift, the Epic Games Store has updated its policies to permit the inclusion of blockchain-based games on its platform. This move marks a departure from its previous stance and sets Epic Games apart from other digital distribution platforms.
However, the implementation of this new policy has raised concerns surrounding content guidelines and the application of age ratings, particularly about games featuring play-to-earn mechanics.
Epic Games Store Embraces Blockchain Games
According to a PC Gamer report, unlike its competitor Steam, which banned NFT games in 2021, the Epic Games Store has demonstrated a more open-minded approach.
The CEO of Epic Games, Tim Sweeney, expressed a belief in developers’ freedom to choose how they design their games, leaving it up to users to decide whether or not to engage with blockchain-based titles. As a result, the first blockchain game, Blankos Block Party, debuted on the Epic Store shortly after Sweeney’s statement.
The ESRB, the North American video game rating agency, recently assigned an Adults Only (AO) rating to two blockchain-based games, Gods Unchained and Striker Manager 3.
Surprisingly, the rating was not due to explicit adult content, but rather the inclusion of play-to-earn mechanics offering “cash prizes.” According to Epic Games Store’s content guidelines, products with an AO rating cannot be distributed on their platform, resulting in the removal of these games from sale.
The ESRB clarified that the AO rating was not directly related to the games being blockchain-based but rather their specific implementation.
The rating agency considers factors such as real-money rewards, prizes with real-world value, and the involvement of cash in determining ratings. Although not a blanket rule, blockchain-enabled games or apps can receive an AO rating if a combination of these factors is present.
Clash Of Ratings And Guidelines
Following the removal of Gods Unchained and Striker Manager 3, Epic Games Store made an exception to its policy for games that received an AO rating solely due to their crypto or NFT (non-fungible token) technology implementation.
However, these games must still adhere to Epic’s content guidelines, including prohibitions on gambling facilitation and other restricted content.
The clash between the ESRB’s rating decisions and Epic’s content guidelines has created a complex situation for blockchain game developers.
While Steam continues to ban blockchain games, the Epic Games Store’s more accepting stance allows blockchain-based titles to reach a wider audience.
Nonetheless, the challenge lies in navigating the fine line between implementing the nascent technology and avoiding content that triggers an AO rating.
The Epic Games Store’s decision to allow blockchain games on its platform signifies a shift in the digital distribution landscape. While this move presents new possibilities for developers, challenges arise when reconciling age ratings and content guidelines for blockchain-based titles.
As the gaming industry continues to explore the potential of blockchain technology, finding a balance between innovation and compliance with existing regulations will be crucial for the future of this emerging genre.
Featured image from Shutterstock, chart from TradingView.com