In a New Year’s message, Square Enix’s CEO Yosuke Matsuda reaffirmed the company’s focus on blockchain technology with “multiple blockchain games based on original IPs under development” despite the public backlash against the initiative. This echoes Matsuda’s New Year’s message from last January, where the company first expressed its enthusiasm for an NFT-fueled, metaverse future. More recently, Squeenix partnered with the “environmentally friendly” blockchain firm Oasys, probably to sidestep potential controversies about, y'know, the environmental impact of the technology.
Matsuda addressed some of the public pushback in his letter, claiming that new tech usually receives initial backlash before becoming widely accepted. “New technologies and frameworks lead to innovation, but they also create considerable confusion,” he wrote. “Having ridden out such societal tides, some such technologies and frameworks gradually become part of people’s lives, eventually giving rise to new businesses and growth.”
However, Matsuda did admit that “The market was driven more by speculative investors than by gamers” at this point. Although, he did point to “multiple blockchain gaming events held overseas” that “produced more active discussion than ever before about what makes the games exciting and what their user community looks like.” Square hasn't made things less confusing, as we still don't know how this tech could actually improve games.
Blockchain is clearly at the company's forefront. After selling a handful of their western studios and IP for $300 million, including Tomb Raider and Deus Ex, Squeenix mentioned that they’d be able to use the additional cash to launch “new businesses by moving forward with investments in fields including blockchain, AI, and the cloud.”
Elsewhere in Square’s kingdom, a handful of live-service games are quietly shutting down. The Final Fantasy 7 battle-royale spin-off, The First Soldier, ends services on January 11th, followed by Bravely Default: Brilliant Lights on February 28th. This follows from kart racer Chocobo GP which stopped receiving support in December 2022, nine months after its release.
It’s not all bad news for Square fans, as Final Fantasy producer Yoshinori Kitase teased fans with “another big announcement unrelated to FFVII” in a different New Years’ letter. Many fans have speculated that Kitase could be referring to a Final Fantasy 9 remake, based on the prophetic Nvidia leaks. Personally, Final Fantasy 9 is perfect as it is, so I have my fingers crossed for a new project. I’ll probably just replay FF9 anyway.
Regardless of any game shutterings, blockchain controversy, or classic remakes, Square Enix is poised to have a pretty good 2023. Their magic-flinging parkour game Forspoken releases in a few weeks on January 24th. On June 22nd, Square’s biggest series returns with Final Fantasy 16 - currently a timed exclusive for PS5. Then the next part of their FF7 saga continues with Final Fantasy 7: Rebirth next winter, also debuting as a timed exclusive for PS5.