The International Olympic Committee has become the latest organization to jump into the non-fungible token craze.
The association that organizes the Olympic Games said Thursday it has launched a mobile game based on the upcoming Beijing 2022 winter event. The game will incorporate NFTs, collectible crypto tokens designed to represent ownership of virtual properties.
The app, called Olympic Games Jam: Beijing 2022, was developed by nWay, a blockchain game studio owned by Hong Kong-headquartered firm Animoca Brands. NWay’s titles reward users with NFTs as they progress, part of a fast-growing genre of games known as “play to earn.”
Olympic Games Jam: Beijing 2022 will let players compete in a number of sporting events, including snowboarding and skiing. Users can also don their avatars with a range of custom skins.
People will be able to buy digital versions of the famous Olympic pins and trade them with other users on nWay’s marketplace. The digital pins are licensed through the IOC’s official licensing program, with the organization taking royalties on each sale.
Taehoon Kim, CEO of nWay, said the company’s new game would allow people to “own a piece of Olympic history.”
“We intend to support the game with continuous updates in the months to come, to keep the players engaged, and the Olympic spirit ongoing,” he said in a statement Thursday.
An nWay spokesperson said the game will be available in each country where Apple’s App Store and Google Play are available. This excludes China, which has strict regulations both on games — all of which must be approved by Beijing officials — and crypto. The Chinese government moved to stamp out all crypto-related activities last year.
The launch arrives a day before the opening ceremony for the Beijing Winter Games. The IOC first unveiled plans to enter the NFT space last year, introducing virtual pins that can be collected or traded. It hopes to expand the audience for these pins with its new game.
The move could prove controversial, however. Several brands have tried to break into the NFT market, often facing criticisms due to concerns over fraudulent activity in the market and the environmental impact of cryptocurrencies.
NFTs have proven particularly unpopular with gamers, who have protested various moves in the space from publishers like Ubisoft and Team17, the maker of Worms.Gamers have criticized NFTs as a cash grab, with echoes of the controversy surrounding “pay to win” mechanics where players can gain an advantage over others by shelling out real cash for better items or abilities.
Proponents of NFTs, on the other hand, say they provide people with the ability to own in-game items in a way that they can’t on centralized services from big publishers. NFTs can be thought of as a digital receipt on the blockchain which says you own a particular item.
Disclosure: CNBC parent NBCUniversal owns NBC Sports and NBC Olympics. NBC Olympics is the U.S. broadcast rights holder to all Summer and Winter Games through 2032.