Ni no Kuni: Cross Worlds is a cross-play mobile and PC MMORPG that released on May 25th and took a lot of players by surprise. The game features a gorgeous anime visual style and has a ton of game modes, from Raids, PvP, and World Bosses, to a pet system complete with a mini adventure game that lets players train their Familiars and send them out to battle enemies in a strategy-esque combat mode. The most astonishing feature that a lot of players may not even know about, is the inclusion of blockchain, which premieres in the form of two token currencies. While the mention of blockchain may inspire a feeling of hesitation to even pick up this stylish free-to-play MMORPG, it’s actually not the worst part of the game by a wide margin.
I’ve spent several hours in Ni no Kuni: Cross Worlds which actually hasn’t been that difficult, seeing as how the game is built heavily towards not being present while you progress. An argument could be made that Ni no Kuni is one of the best MMORPG experiences on mobile, if you take into account that the majority of mobile MMORPG’s are also auto-play, and generally pretty bad. From the onset, the voice acting and stylized animation can bring you in and make you feel like you’re watching an anime with interactive prompts. The background music is whimsical and inviting and somehow spurs me forward through the quest system, which is altogether just a means to an end that usually culminates in a voice-acted cutscene in the vast ocean of forgettable autonomous interactions.
Throughout your progress, you get inundated with the usual mobile-style upgrade nonsense that only means to force you to pay to progress, or move inch by inch at a snail’s pace over the course of several months. Upgrades on your weapons, armor and familiars can still fail, and require you to find many multiples of those items if you want that demoralizing 100 Combat Power boost, which you’ll definitely need, because so much of the content is gated by Combat Power – a combination of a ton of different avenues of gameplay from your gear, to even the titles you earn for doing mundane tasks. Are you starting to get the picture? Ni No Kuni: Cross Worlds is first and foremost a nickel and dime, gacha mobile game.
But You Said Blockchain Right?
Ni no Kuni: Cross Worlds does implement blockchain in the form of two token currencies. One of those currencies is Territe. You earn this in game by simply playing. You edge buy it directly from the developers, although there is some precedent that allows you to increase the amount of Territe you can generate and hold by leveling faster, giving an edge to those that pay to rush through the game. On the opposite end, you have Asterite, a currency you earn by playing competitive modes like the Lava Valley 3v3 ranked matches, which again, favors those that pay to boost their stats, as they rank higher on the PvP rankings. There are some important points to keep in mind when it comes to these tokens:
- Both tokens can be earned on PC and mobile platforms. Both currencies have uses in game to upgrade or purchase in-game items.
- The Currency Exchange is ONLY on the PC version of the game at this time. Mobile players probably won’t even know they are earning a currency that can be tokenized unless somebody tells them.
- Territe is used to level up your items, craft new items, and upgrade your familiars.
- Asterite is used to purchase upgrade items in the Medal shop, and it wouldn’t surprise me if there were other uses I have yet to find.
- You can earn Territe by farming the Chaos Field instances and nodes in the Familiar Adventure Mode. You can AFK farm in the Chaos Fields, and even set the game to farm for you while the game is closed, making it easy to earn Territe even if you’re not logged into the game.
- You have a limited amount of Territe Energy, when it is exhausted, you can no longer earn Territe from farming until it has been replenished.
- Asterite and Territe can be tokenized for their respective NKA and NKT tokens, and traded to your Marblex Wallet. Then you can exchange your tokens at a Crypto Exchange for something worth real money.
- Black Diamonds are also available as part of the cash-currency exchange system, conceivably as an intermediate currency. We have yet to see how Black Diamonds are implemented up to this point.
- Finally, the token system doesn’t go live until June 9thso we have yet to see what the token economy will look like, how many people will attempt to exchange tokens, and how many people will end up buying them.
If You Can Buy This Currency On An Exchange is the Game Pay to Win?
Here’s what’s really interesting about the token implementation of Ni no Kuni: Crossworlds. It’s not the worst thing about the game. Not even close. Don’t get me wrong, there seems to be a lot more headed down the pipe for this game, as Netmarble intends to add NFT’s to the game by the end of the year, but as it stands right now, the nature of the token system takes a backseat to the ever-present predatory monetization and gacha implementation that the mobile MMORPG scene has come to be known for.
Similar to Genshin Impact, Ni no Kuni: Cross Worlds has a pity system for their gacha rolls, so you know exactly how much to spend to get your guaranteed 4-star item. In addition to that there are over 25 tabs in the in-game shop, each with numerous items and upgrades that you can buy. If that wasn’t enough, every single progression point is met with a limited-time buy-me-now-or-else offer. You can’t complete a new game mode, progress through the story, or level up your character without getting notified that you have something new that you should buy.
When you read the coverage out there of Ni no Kuni: Cross Worlds blockchain usage, it’s met primarily with disdain. I’m flabbergasted that so many people are willing to give the rest of the predatory monetization a pass, in favor of knocking the low-hanging fruit of Netmarble using a simplistic blockchain system. The fact is, the game was pay to win out of the gate before blockchain ever got involved. On the contrary, the blockchain system may actually end up being the great equalizer between players.
Blockchain Can Work for the Whalers Not the Whales
It’s important to first point out that, you could play Ni no Kuni: Cross Worlds without ever utilizing the blockchain. Yes, you’ll still earn Territe and Asterite, but if you’re not actively attempting to buy or exchange it, you’ll use it in game like any other in-game currency. However, if you’re really interested in progressing your character, chances are you’ll be tempted to start buying some of the in-game packs. Even if you just want to progress steadily, it’s going to cost you some real money eventually.
This is actually what whales (players that throw around a ton of money to advance as fast as possible) bank on. They want to be able to outspend everyone so that they become the shining beacon of unobtainable glory that most players simply can’t surpass. Not everyone wants to drop thousands of dollars on a game, but the blockchain economy provides a path for the free player to earn a little money on the side at the expense of those whales who are looking to pay their way to win. This could lead to the potential for some players to make some money to further fund their characters, at the expense of those willing to shell out the money to surpass the time gates.
If whales want to max out their character to the highest they can go, chances are they are going to need plenty of Territe to do it. The problem is, Territe is somewhat difficult to come by, and takes hours of grinding, even at higher levels, if they intend to make that dream a reality.
Won’t Whales Have the Advantage in Blockchain Too?
Sure, in the grand scheme of things, a max level player will generate more Territe than a low-level player, but the generation will hardly keep up with the necessity to use it, if what you’re looking for is to get to the very top of the Combat Power mountain. The real “earning potential” for whales lies in the procurement of Asterite, which will likely be a currency almost entirely controlled by high rollers, simply because you earn it through competitive play, and that means skill and balance will always lose to those that can afford a higher CP.
For those looking to level at an average pace, exchanging some excess Territe to those that are actually willing to buy it is most definitely a boon. It has been obvious for years that regular players can’t compete with heavy spenders. In this particular blockchain implementation, you may not always have to compete directly with whales, but instead, you’ll sell them the materials they need, because truthfully, you can’t stop them from spending, but you may just be able to profit from it.
Ni no Kuni: Cross Worlds is a curious experiment of a game. It has collected every monetization system available to us, and presented it to a global audience in an appealing Anime-style package on multiple platforms. The game has sky-rocketed in popularity, with over a million downloads on the Play Store alone in less than a week. It’s incomprehensible to me that this may be the best showing of a complete blockchain game up to this point, especially in the MMORPG genre, but somehow, here we are. While it is too early to say how this will turn out, the honest truth is, this is potentially the first time we’ve seen the implementation of tokenomics make a game better, or at least, it hasn’t made Ni no Kuni: Cross Worlds any worse. Unfortunately, because of the predatory nature of monetization as a whole, that’s not something to celebrate.
*At the time of this article Steven owns about 300 Territe earned in-game