Will Wright cemented his place in gaming history by creating two of the most storied franchises, SimCity and The Sims, as well as the ambitious but ultimately flawed Spore. His next project could risk much of the goodwill he’s accumulated with a move into blockchain technology. Wright says he’s not interested in NFTs, but that technology is a core part of the project. That could make his planned VoxVerse virtual world a tough sell.
The game, which has no official release date, is a simulated world set on a massive cube. Players will have the opportunity to own bits of the cube to create attractions, mine for resources, and interact with other players. VoxVerse is backed by Gallium Studios, a blockchain-focused studio founded by Wright and Carmen Sandiego co-designer Lauren Elliott.
Wright tells Axios that he’s more interested in attracting a million free players than catering to “10,000 rich whales,” a reference to those who have massive reserves of cryptocurrency to throw around. Gallium, with Wright and Elliott leading a team of engineers and artists, is working with Gala Games on the project.
Wright has no particular interest in NFTs as a business model, saying his real goal for the blockchain is to power secure transactions between layers. Still, much of what Gallium plans for the VoxVerse could be considered a typical non-fungible token. Gala Games offers a series of crypto-backed “Vox” items, the newest batch of which comes from the DreamWorks movie Trolls. They were released recently for 0.888 ETH (about $1,300 at current rates). Owning a Vox guarantees you a piece of the eventual VoxVerse. In other words, an NFT.
The focus on blockchain technology is a matter of fairness to Wright. He estimates that user-created content in The Sims amounted to about 30 percent of the franchise’s value, but there was no mechanism to compensate them for their work. That won’t be a problem in the VoxVerse. He believes there will be three classes of players, including a small group of so-called Whales who own chunks of the cube and commission content from a larger group of creators. Then, there will be the unwashed masses of free-to-play people who just want to hang out and explore the VoxVerse.
So far, no one has managed to make a blockchain game that people want to play. Several have gone belly-up after being reduced to ghost towns. Wright and Elliott understand game design, but can they create a world infused with crypto and NFTs that people actually want to visit? So far, Gala has spent $25 million on the chance they can.