Well, we couldn’t get more than a few hours without another major company tossing a lit match into the crypto/blockchain/NFT tinderbox, and this time it’s (throws dart) Square Enix!
Square Enix President Yosuke Matsuda has issued a New Year’s Letter that does not focus on any particular games in its catalog, nor any of its successes in the past year. Rather, almost the entire letter is a massive pitch for blockchain games and NFTs, which Square Enix promises they will be investing in during 2022 in a big way:
“The basic and elemental technologies to enable blockchain games already exist, and there has been an increase in the societal literacy and acceptance of crypto assets in the past few years. We 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.”
And on NFTs becoming normal and accepted despite “overheated trading” in 2021:
“I see 2021 not only as “Metaverse: Year One,” but also as “NFTs: Year One” given that it was a year in which NFTs were met with a great deal of enthusiasm by a rapidly expanding user base. However, we do observe examples here and there of overheated trading in NFT-based digital goods with somewhat speculative overtones, regardless of the observed value of the content provided This, obviously, is not an ideal situation, but I expect to see an eventual right-sizing in digital goods deals as they become more commonplace among the general public, with the value of each available content corrected to their true estimated worth, and I look for them to become as familiar as dealings in physical goods.”
All of this reads as alarming to fans and particularly tone deaf given the reception NFTs have gotten in the wider video game landscape so far. STALKER 2 was forced to remove even a promotion based on NFTs because of fan pushback, first trying to justify it with a “no you guys just don’t get it!” message, then quickly deleting that and then deleting the contest entirely.
Ubisoft has been mercilessly mocked for its Ghost Recon Breakpoint NFT experiment, which in addition to being hated by gamers, does not have even appeared to have attracted interest from the crypto community, as aftermarket sales of the items netted no more than a few hundred dollars in total.
Looking at Square Enix’s catalogue, it’s horrifying to imagine how they might trying to blockchain-ify any of their existing series or jam NFTs into them. Obviously its largest series is Final Fantasy, which has both the uber-successful FFXIV MMO and then the arrival of Final Fantasy XVI coming probably a year or more from now. It is impossible to imagine that introducing blockchain or NFT elements into that series would cause anything less than a total fan meltdown, and many are noting that ironically, the major message of the series’ most beloved entry, FFVII, was about environmental destruction.
The same is true for Square Enix’s western games, Avengers, Outriders, Tomb Raider, Guardians of the Galaxy. Let me tell you, if Avengers or Outriders starts introducing NFT loot, that will be the moment I ghost that looter completely. And I’m not alone.
There’s a clash here between what appears to be a lot of tech executives wrapped in a bubble where they keep hearing the blockchain and NFTs are the next things that will make them even richer, and the reality on the ground of gamers who want exactly none of that in their game, and developers who don’t want to be forced to mash in those elements to their otherwise perfectly fine titles. This is often compared to gamers protesting microtransactions in games, something that was eventually “accepted” over time. But this feels different. If microtransactions were a frog slowly boiling in water, NFTs feel like a frog being thrown into a volcano.
If Square Enix wants to go all in on blockchain gaming and NFTs in 2022, they certainly can. But they should not be surprised if any and all announcements of this nature get torn apart by their playerbases to the point where they either have to abandon the plans or watch their players leave for greener, non-blockchain-based pastures.
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