The Epic Store’s First NFT-Based Video Game Looks Lousy

Cowboys shoot their guns at the orange sky and ride their horses in the NFT video game Grit.

Image: Team GRIT / Gala Games

Developer and publisher Epic Games will make its official foray into crypto with Grit, a battle royale game from blockchain video game company Gala Games.

Previously, Epic Games clashed with video game marketplace Steam, who took a firm no-NFT stance in 2021. Epic’s founder and CEO Tim Sweeney said at the time that “Epic Games Store will welcome games that make use of blockchain tech provided they follow the relevant laws, disclose their terms, and are age-rated by an appropriate group.” And now the company is doing it. It’s really doing it.

Gala Games announced at its Galaverse convention on June 6 that it had “signed a partnership with Epic.” Because Grit was created by Team Grit not Gala Games (though the two separate companies entered a “partnership” in February), the game is currently listed as an early access game on Steam as well. This listing is clean of any reference to Web3, crypto, or the blockchain and hasn’t been updated since January 25, when Team Grit announced a delay and before it partnered with Gala. Gala Games did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Gala Games’ partnership with Epic, then, marks Grit’s formal online release. Gala implied in its presentation that there would be more blockchain games eventually released on the platform, though every title that Gala Games currently lists on its website is either in development, in beta, or in its “test” phases. You will likely have to wait a bit before the crypto gods descend and turn all of gaming into a Buttcoin valued at two whole cents.

Grit is going to be one of the very first [NFT-based] games on the Epic Games store,” Gala Games said at Galaverse. “This is the moment that it’s all gonna start to change, and everybody’s gonna figure out that…why would you play any game where you don’t own what you buy in the game?”

Great question. I can think of a few reasons.

Grit is a remarkably beige-colored battle royale set in the wild, wild west. You can shoot other players with guns and ride NFT horses, which one Twitter user pointed out to be asset flips—or at least the horse that Gala placed in an “epic chest” drop at Galaverse is a faithful asset flip.

There isn’t anything inherently wrong with asset flipping, an often reductive term that refers to the time, money, and hair-saving practice of using pre-made assets in game development, but advertising pre-made assets as “epic” in any way feels scummy. It’s especially icky that Gala seems to be framing these flips as limited NFTs, since you can already buy them off of the Unreal Engine marketplace, plug them into Unity, and melt them into one giant horse king that obnoxiously believes in trickle-down economics (the horse king got stuck in a Jordan Peterson podcast somewhere between Unity and narrowly escaping the blockchain). There is nothing exclusive, innovative, or particularly exciting about goading gamers into buying an asset flip for 8,000 Buttcoin.

In fact, it’s impossible to see what distinguishes Grit from an NFT-free, more visually meaty survival western like the Red Dead Redemption games. They are noticeably less beige and blocky, yet crucially, also contain guns and horses.

Grit’s description on the Epic Games store has an opaque definition of crypto’s role in the game, describing it as “the world’s first Web3 battle royale” with “an economy based on ownership and rewards.” We have little insight into gameplay aside from an anemic trailer and a Twitter video that proves that Grit is not only beige, but also was likely made by an eighth grader with nothing better to do after school. The texture and shading looks like something a tween might produce after playing too much Roblox, something that would be impressive if Gala’s developers were indeed going through the growing pains of puberty, but the final product isn’t the landmark in Web3 that Gala claims.

To answer Gala’s question, I would much rather enjoy the luscious and thoughtful world of Red Dead as a decrepit Web 2.0 plebeian than pass a Grit horse back and forth across the blockchain in pursuit of a measly six Fartbucks.

Grit does not yet have a release date, but if you just can’t wait to get exploited by a digital horse, the beer company Budweiser announced an NFT collection with “the pioneers of digital horse racing,” Zed Run. It’s actually against God to create a blockchain game that doesn’t involve horses. By the way, I am so glad we’re chopping down rainforests for this.

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