2022 has barely started and Square Enix has upset its fans by announcing plans to get involved with NFTs.
Despite their infamous, if not outright toxic, reputation, it seems more and more video game companies are welcoming NFTs with open arms. Ubisoft announced its own Ubisoft Quartz NFTs and Square Enix is ready to do something similar.
In a letter published to the company’s website on New Year’s Day, Square Enix president Yosuke Matsuda wrote about the potential of NFTs and blockchain technology, which he sees as new major trends worth pursuing.
He is fully aware of the complaints directed towards NFTs and even acknowledges that their detractors form the majority, but he offers a far more optimistic take on their implementation and sees the concept of play-to-earn as something that can only improve games.
‘I realise 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,’ says Matsuda.
‘However, I believe that there will be a certain number of people whose motivation is to ‘play to contribute,’ by which I mean to help make the game more exciting. Traditional gaming has offered no explicit incentive to this latter group of people, who were motivated strictly by such inconsistent personal feelings as goodwill and volunteer spirit.
‘This fact is not unrelated to the limitations of existing UGC (user-generated content). UGC has been brought into being solely because of individuals’ desire for self-expression and not because any explicit incentive existed to reward them for their creative efforts. I see this as one reason that there haven’t been as many major game-changing content that were user generated as one would expect.’
Matsuda effectively wants to turn the act of play into work, something that has unsurprisingly not resonated well with audiences. Many have found his comments to be out-of-touch, if not condescending towards those who do play games just for fun.
His letter also fails to address the environmental impact of NFTs, which is one of the main complaints against them. The irony of one of Square Enix’s most iconic and profitable games of all time, Final Fantasy 7, having a very blunt message about protecting the environment, has not been lost on fans either.
I read your president’s letter. Between how condescending and dismissive it was towards what he admitted is the majority of your fanbase, his expressed interest in blockchain and NFTs has me concerned. If Square Enix moves to blockchain games, I will never buy them.
— Josh the Ar-TEEST (@heroesofcrash) January 1, 2022
It’s still surprising to see Square Enix go down this route considering how severe a backlash other companies received upon announcing their own NFTs. The aforementioned Ubisoft Quartz announcement was so thoroughly disliked that Ubisoft unlisted it from YouTube, although this didn’t lead to a cancellation.
Stalker 2 developer GSC Game World justified its NFT implementation as a means to raise additional funds for development, but fans raised enough of a stink to force the studio to abandon those plans.
While the likes of Square Enix and Ubisoft are so far committed to NFTs despite vocal pushback from their own consumers, it remains to be seen if NFTs in video games will be a short fad or as commonplace as microtransactions. Hopefully, it won’t be the latter.
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