The game industry couldn’t wait one day into the new year to start spewing their nonsense. Not one day! What makes this extra comical to me is that we joked about this very scenario on our podcast a few days before. SquareEnix is entering the NFT space. Despite UbiSoft’s public failure in doing this very thing, Square thinks they can hop into this space and find new business opportunities. Hooray. Though I have to give Square credit. In the very first sentence of their open letter, Yosuke Matsuda made it clear that this was all about finding new business opportunities. At least he isn’t shy about only caring about the money.
The letter itself is a bunch of bloated business-jargon, but there are parts that are interesting. The first part alone highlights that all Square is trying to do is chase a trend. Facebook changing their name to Meta, to them, signifies that the idea of a metaverse is here to stay. Because, as we know, Facebook is at the forefront of technology and is definitely a company worth emulating. Also, for those unaware, the idea of the metaverse is basically making an avatar and being able to walk around in the internet. Think IMVU, but on a much more massive and corporate controlled scale.
Next was the praise of NFTs and the almighty blockchain followed by the admission that right now the prices of these “goods” is overpriced and “overheated.” That’s really an understatement. By the way, this seems to be a good time to bring up a very good NFT-based piece of performance art someone ran called The NFT Bay. The artist, Geoffrey Huntley, basically saved every NFT available and made it so anyone could download 15 terabytes of images. However, the interesting part is learning about what NFTs actually are. What’s on the blockchain is not the image of the NFT, but a hyperlink that leads to the image that’s usually hosted on any old website like Google Drive. At any time, another hyperlink can be sold to another person or the image can be re-hosted on several other sites. To call it unstable is charitable at best. If you want to hear a more in-depth explanation on The NFT Bay and NFTs as a whole I suggest this video here.
Now that we have an understanding of NFTs, we can all collectively understand why they are such a joke and a scam. Even with the loose explanation we had before, they seemed stupid. But the more we learn about them, the more of a scam this appears. On top of that, they are horrible for the environment due to the almost disgusting amounts of energy required to trade and exchange them. Imagine SquareEnix, the creators of one of the most popular pro-environment games in Final Fantasy 7 and also its remake, is now engaging in a practice known to actively destroy the planet. The irony is beyond palpable.
The letter continues to talk about looking for advancements and opportunities with the rise of 5G and the cloud, but then hits on blockchain games. If you’ll recall, we covered one such blockchain game that had a glitch that couldn’t simply be patched as most games are able to do now. No, they had to remove that version of the game, fix the glitch, then re-release the game. In doing so, all those tokens that were earned were useless and the players effectively had to start from square one. While Square isn’t exactly known for buggy games, so long as you don’t play their games on PC. Just imagining how that would be on their scale, I wouldn’t wish that blowback on any developer working at the company. Just imagine Final Fantasy XIV introducting NFTs in the game, but something breaks. This means the entire game has to come down, fix the issue, and then re-uploaded. This would happen every time something needs to be fixed.
We now come upon the part that perfectly shows off where Matsuda’s mind is. It’s the most games industry thing I’ve read in a while. To quote Matsuda:
“I realize that some people who “play to have fun” and who currently form the majority of players have voiced their reservations toward these new trends, and understandably so.”
Video games, as I understood it, are a medium where we as players are meant to have fun. And I could be reading too much into this, but it comes off as dismissive and cynical. Reading it in the context of the letter only makes that feeling stronger and it really solidifies that to me. Companies entering the NFT space aren’t interested in artistry, advancing the medium, enhancing the experience, or anything that benefits the player. It’s about the money.
The final point expresses that there are players who are more interested in user generated content and how, before the blockchain, it has been motivated by self-expression and not by any incentive. Which is why user generated content hasn’t been major or ground breaking. LittleBigPlanet, Sound Shapes, Dreams, Super Mario Maker, and more are games that haven’t been major or ground breaking. Mods for games that completely change the game like DOTA or The Forgotten City aren’t game changing. Maybe the idea of “game changing” means different things to me, but it’s hard to act as though user generated games and content just haven’t helped move gaming forward. Matsuda continues, expressing how a token based economy will help entice creators. The disconnect is deafening.
SquareEnix has been just another developer who saw these buzzwords crypto and the blockchain, then decided “Wow, wouldn’t it be great if WE had those thousands of dollars?” It’s yet another method for a company to make maximum profit for minimal effort. Instead of making quality games, we’ll make games where the gamers make the money for us. That idea has to be one of the most cynical ideas for gaming I’ve seen thus far, and the worst of it? I see it catching on. The NFT craze continues strong, and companies are determined to exploit it. All I can hope for is someone to mod Final Fantasy 7 so that Shin-Ra is making NFTs that drain all the mako from the world.