Call of Cthulhu Maker Chaosium Suspends NFT Program After Backlash

The publisher of popular tabletop roleplaying game Call of Cthulhu has "suspended" plans to release additional NFTs as a response to criticism from their decision to license NFTs for use on the VeVe platform. The company announced their decision today after a weekend's worth of online discourse surrounding the July 2021 "drop" of Call of Cthulhu NFTs and the company's hints on social media that more NFTs were on the way. Chaosium worked with licensee TYPE40 to produce NFTs on VeVe, an online platform that also works with a number of large companies and brands, including Disney (which owns Marvel, Star Wars, and Pixar), Warner Bros (which owns DC Comics), and CBS, which owns this website and the Star Trek brand. 

For those who have avoided the NFT discourse, NFT is shorthand for Non-Fungible Tokens and are digital collectibles hosted on a decentralized blockchain databases. Owning an NFT means claiming exclusive rights to a packet of information tied to a blockchain, with that packet of information often being some form of "unique" digital art. Although proponents of NFTs claim that they are the future of digital collectibles as they aren't tied to a centralized server or company, the annual energy cost needed to keep popular blockchains like Bitcoin or Ethereum (the latter of which serves as the home to most NFTs) is equivalent to that of what Singapore uses in a year. NFTs and blockchain technology has increasingly come under scrutiny for their immense environmental cost, as well as the questionable cash flow and solvency of the technology itself. 

Chaosium's decision is a relatively sudden change of course. Over the weekend, reached out to Chaosium about their NFT program and the increasingly negative public opinion surrounding NFTs and received a response from Chaosium VP of Licensing Michael O'Brien defending the program. "We believe we have partnered responsibly to enter this new market of digital collectables, and have a model that is protective of the creators and artists involved," O'Brien wrote to over the weekend. "But we understand that digital (or physical) collectables are not for everyone. We will never require anyone to own a digital collectible to enjoy any Chaosium product or game. Please note that Chaosium does not accept cryptocurrency payments for any transactions."

However, Chaosium president Rick Meints wrote a statement posted on the company's website today, which noted that their decision was directly based off of fan response. "We appreciate that many of our fans are angry and disappointed," Meints said. "We hear you. Your concerns must be listened to and addressed. That is why, in cooperation with TYPE40 and VeVe, we have made the decision outlined above. We do not have another scheduled release on VeVe or any other NFT marketplace. We will never require anyone to own an NFT/digital collectible to enjoy any Chaosium product or game." 

Meints defended VeVe in his public statement, as did O'Brien to, stating that VeVe was an "ethical company" that uses blockchain technology "in a legitimate, meaningful, and environmentally responsible way." Both statements included a link to a Medium article published in March 2021 by Ecomi, VeVe's parent company, which explained how VeVe utilizes "blockchain technology that is >99% more energy-efficient than Ethereum" and that Ecomi was also establishing a grant of "1 billion OMI" (a cryptocurrency created by Ecomi that has a value of $0.0065 as of press time, meaning that the grant would have a value of $6.5 million) to offset the cost of producing NFTs that would go towards various environmental non-profits. The Medium article also goes into detail about the cost of minting NFTs on Ethereum, stating "as the price of Ethereum increases, the economic incentive to invest capital in more computational power increases, causing electricity usage and carbon footprint to spike, generating 57.6 kg CO2 from the minting of a single NFT."

But while VeVe initially operated on the GoChain blockchain that operated using a method that consumes significantly less energy than Ethereum, VeVe announced in May 2021 that it was moving its 2.6 million+ NFTs to the Ethereum blockchain via the Immutable X "layer 2 protocol." Immutable is a protocol that bundles together hundreds of transactions and creates a proof that's stored on the blockchain. While this allows a platform like VeVe to record hundreds of NFT transactions together as a single transaction (thus reducing the cost of minting those individual NFTs to next to nothing), it still uses the incredibly energy-consuming blockchain as the basis of the platform. notes that Immutable purchases carbon credits to "offset" the energy it consumes and additionally has teamed up with two non-profit organizations to offset the carbon emissions created by the protocol. This doesn't remove the carbon emissions from the environment, but one of the non-profits claims that Immutable is responsible for the planting of over 5,000 trees.