Square Enix have ushered in the new year with a joyous message for those who play games to "have fun”. Sorry, but those who "play to earn” are key to their business model going forwards. NFTs, blockchain, and the 'metaverse' are the future of fun. Whatever that means.
In a New Year's letter, Square Enix's president Yosuke Matsuda expressed the company's enthusiasm for eye-rolling tech like NFTs and blockchain and the metaverse. He does touch on cloud and AI gaming, but a large portion of his gushing is reserved for "token economies".
Matsuda acknowledges that the majority of those opposed to "play to earn" trends are people who "play to have fun". Even so, he believes that those who "play to earn" are key to their dystopian future. Namely that these players will let them leverage user-generated content (UGC) and monetise it through blockchain tokens. He says that the lack of rewards for UGC is "one reason that there haven't been as many major game-changing content that were user generated as one would expect".
Thing is, if we're talking about those who "play to contribute", like modders for example, then it's not so much the lack of rewards that's the issue here. Obviously Squeenix dont consist entirely of Final Fantasy, but let's take this series as a prime example of their limited mod tools and mod support. The main Final Fantasy XV mods you'll find are dresses. Compare this to games like Skyrim, Half-Life, or Minecraft, where players can create entire new questlines, game modes, and silliness.
Through blockchain-based tokens, Squeenix hope to "enable self-sustaining game growth" and create an ecosystem they refer to as "decentralised gaming". Riiight. To be honest with you Matsuda, I'd rather have "fun" playing your games. What isn't fun is spending Fantasy Tokens on a jpeg of a non-fungible Chocobo that's partly responsible for messing up planet Earth.
Obviously, this all sucks. But what sucks even more is that Squeenix are aware it sucks. Matsuda knows that many players don't want it to happen, but they're going ahead with these plans anyway. It couldn't be clearer that this is for the benefit of the company more than the players.
So, what is Matsuda's plan? Well, he doesn't seem to know either. He doesn't explain how they're going to nurture this token-y ecosystem or fire up the 'ol self-sustaining engines. He simply says that the company "will keep a close eye on societal shifts in this space while listening to the many groups of users that populate it, and ramp up our efforts to develop a business accordingly, with an eye to potentially issuing our own tokens in the future." It's all a load of investor-pleasing buzzwords.
Sadly, Squeenix have joined a growing roster of video game publishers who believe that NFTs, the blockchain, and the many metaverses are part of the future of gaming—or a future beneficial to them, at least. Ubisoft, EA, and Take-Two all expressed their interest in the misery. Peter Molyneux's upcoming game is a "blockchain business simulator", too. And Epic bought Harmonix to work in their metaverse. Please, make it stop.