By Cheri Faulkner
An NFT minter on the new GameStop NFT marketplace has been caught selling versions of HTML 5 games which he did not make and had no permission to sell, according to an in-depth report.
The report (via Ars Technica) states that the Nifty Arcade collection provides “interactive NFTs” that are fully playable from a crypto wallet, or the GameStop marketplace itself, but that these games have been minted and offered for sale without permission from their creators.
The tens of thousands of dollars earned prior to the Nifty Arcade profile’s suspension from the platform are still in the hands of the man behind the account, and whilst the NFTs are no longer listed on the marketplace for sale, the games can still be accessed on GameStop’s servers and “may now be functionally impossible to remove,” the report said.
Speaking to Ars directly, Nathan Ello, the creator of the Nifty Arcade, said that his collection grew as he wanted to “highlight potential use cases for NFTs beyond static images.” When quizzed on freshly minted NFT versions of games that were already playable for free online, his response was someone muddled, with Ello choosing to focus on his “intent to create and showcase games that are playable within NFT marketplaces and within NFT wallets,” and blaming “convenience” of people being able to play the game directly from their own wallet without navigating to his page as the driving force behind his decision.
The Nifty Arcade collection’s first three games netted Ello 8.4 Etherium (roughly £11,566 at the time) from direct sales, but Ello admits he never sought permission from the original creators for two of those games – Worm Nom Nom and Galactic Wars. Ello claims he tried to set up the collection by finding “open source game repositories approved for commercial use,” but the games are clearly listed with licenses that prohibit commercial usage on sites such as itch.io and Lexaloffle.
For anyone curious about the Galactic Wars license.https://t.co/8jnBsgz1jIhttps://t.co/VuD09jSVQZ pic.twitter.com/w0TdReWWbv
— NiFTy Arcade (@NiftyArcade) July 15, 2022
Ello has since taken to Twitter to argue his case stating that Galactic Wars was listed with an “unlicense” tag which “suggested a public domain release”. The game’s assets are now listed on that page under a noncommercial Creative Commons license, but the archived copies of the listing don’t contain that asset license warning.
Galactic Wars creator Borja “Volcano Bytes” de Tena spoke to Ars and said, “This person didn’t contact me to ask me anything. He just took my game and sold it.” He went on to say, “If you want to profit from my work, I think you should at least ask.”
After pressure from creators, Ello said he “offered 100% of the primary-market proceeds from each of the original NFT sales to the original developers” of the games included. This wasn’t enough for most, especially as it was included after the fact, with Breakout Hero developer Krystian Majewski saying, “Even if somebody wanted to return the money they made off of my work, it would be in the form of some shitty Crypto anyway.”
Despite the fact that GameStop have removed Ello’s profile and listings, the NFTs can still be sold or traded on other marketplaces, and the games that those NFTs point to are still live on GameStop’s servers. Anyone with the right link could get GameStop’s servers to provide a playable, unlicensed copy of the games Ello had minted.
Ello is still working with GameStop to get his account reinstated, but says that he has relaunched the Nifty Arcade collection with a new set of games that have licenses and profit-sharing agreements.
Developers admit Ello deserves blame for reproducing their content without permission, but also say GameStop must take responsibility for creating “a platform and incentive structures for this kind of predatory practice.” de Tena said, “They could have any verification process, but they just want their money and commissions or revenue shares, I guess … ‘Power to the creators’ is fake.”
Majewski concluded, “This is where the real maliciousness of NFT projects like this lies. It’s all ‘exploit first, ask questions later.’”
In other news, following two days of qualifying matches in Nottingham, all four of the home nations have qualified for the Commonwealth Esports Championships.