Gods Unchained made waves when it launched on the Epic Games Store back in June, offering a mainstream outlet for the NFT-driven card battler.
But the trading card game quietly disappeared from Epic’s marketplace just months after arriving. The reason? Its play-to-earn mechanics – enabling players to earn crypto and NFTs – earned Gods Unchained an “Adults Only” rating from the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). And that forced its removal.
- Gods Unchained, an NFT card game, was removed from the Epic Games Store after receiving an “Adults Only” rating from the ESRB due to its play-to-earn elements
- Epic does not allow games with an AO rating on its marketplace and treats unrated games the same as those rated “Mature”
- The ESRB gave Gods Unchained an AO rating because players can earn crypto and NFTs which have real-world value
- Gods Unchained is appealing the rating but currently cannot be on Epic’s store due to the rules
- Other blockchain games that offer earning tokens or NFTs could also potentially face AO ratings and removal
Epic Games doesn’t allow Adults Only games per its long-standing rules. The ESRB assigns its most restrictive rating to games with graphic violence, nudity or sexual content. But with Gods Unchained, it was the cryptocurrency implications that earned the game its AO scarlet letter.
The ESRB provides age and content ratings for games so parents can make informed choices about purchases for children. An AO rating signals that a game is for those 18 and up only. Epic treats any unrated game as having a Mature rating, which is for ages 17 and older.
On Epic’s platform, Gods Unchained players could earn Gods Tokens (GODS) which convert to ether. They could also obtain non-fungible token (NFT) playing cards by winning matches. Those NFT assets could then be sold on marketplaces. The ESRB flagged those opportunities to earn real-world value as grounds for an AO rating.
Gods Unchained hoped its Epic Games Store debut would introduce more gamers to its fusion of digital card battling and blockchain benefits. Instead, it earned the ire of a rating system tied to legacy definitions around mature content. This could be just the first of similar standoffs.
Gods Unchained publisher Immutable is appealing the rating decision. But the game currently cannot appear on Epic’s marketplace due to the rules blocking AO content. And the ESRB suggests that other games enabling players to earn cryptocurrency or NFTs could also receive AO ratings, limiting their potential distribution.
The predicament highlights the culture clash between traditional gaming guardrails and the expanding world of web3 games providing new forms of digital value. Rewarding players with tokens or NFTs is central to many blockchain-based game models. So the ratings conundrum could continue hindering adoption and accessibility.
For now, Gods Unchained has no clear path back to the Epic Games Store until its appeal shakes loose the AO albatross. But the title’s small window on a major marketplace shows that obstacles remain in bringing play-to-earn gaming into the mainstream spotlight.
The ESRB treatment of Gods Unchained’s crypto hooks could scare away other publishers. And it leaves developers stuck between censoring web3 features to appease gatekeepers or facing further platform rejection.