Gods Unchained, a blockchain-based card game that allows players to earn cryptocurrency and non-fungible tokens (NFTs), was removed from the Epic Games Store last week due to an Adults Only rating from the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). The rating was assigned because of the game’s play-to-earn elements, which the ESRB considered as rewarding assets with real-world value. This violated Epic’s policy of not allowing games with an AO rating on its platform.
However, the game’s developer, Immutable Games Studio, appealed the rating and argued that the play-to-earn features were not related to the game’s content or theme, but rather to the underlying blockchain technology that enabled players to own and trade their digital cards. The studio also pointed out that other games on the Epic Games Store, such as Blankos Block Party and Grit, also had blockchain integration and did not receive an AO rating.
After reviewing the appeal, the ESRB revised the rating of Gods Unchained to Teen, which is suitable for ages 13 and older. The rating board acknowledged that the game’s play-to-earn elements were not intended to simulate gambling or encourage addictive behavior, but rather to provide players with more control and ownership over their in-game assets. The rating board also noted that the game’s content was not excessively violent or sexual, and that the game had a clear disclaimer about the risks and responsibilities of using cryptocurrency and NFTs.
As a result of the rating change, Gods Unchained was restored to the Epic Games Store on Monday, December 18, 2023. The game is now available for download and play on the popular PC gaming platform, which has over 230 million users as of March 2023. The game is also accessible through its own website, and is planning to launch on iOS and Android devices later in 2023.
Why does it matter?
The incident highlights the challenges and opportunities of blockchain games in the mainstream gaming industry. On one hand, blockchain games face potential barriers from established platforms and rating systems, which may not fully understand or appreciate the innovation and value proposition of play-to-earn mechanics. On the other hand, blockchain games also have the potential to reach a wider and more diverse audience, especially through platforms like the Epic Games Store, which has a reputation for supporting indie and experimental games.
The case of Gods Unchained also shows the need for dialogue and collaboration between blockchain game developers and traditional game stakeholders, such as rating boards, publishers, and distributors. By communicating their vision and goals, and by addressing the concerns and expectations of the other parties, blockchain game developers can foster a more conducive and supportive environment for their games to thrive and grow.