In an open letter published on New Year’s Day, Square Enix President Yosuke Matsuda informed his company’s shareholders and the general public about his plans for the company’s future. He stated that the company plans to embrace blockchain technology and NFTs in order to promote “self-sustaining game growth.”
Matsuda’s reasoning behind this decision was a belief that the current state of gaming is a one-way street. In his words, gamers “play to have fun” and consume content made by game creators; occasionally, they provide user-generated content as a result of “inconsistent personal feelings” such as “goodwill and volunteer spirit.”
It’s Matsuda’s belief that this mentality has caused gamers to largely reject the possibility of NFTs in gaming, but he attested that effectively using blockchain technology could provide a more diverse experience for gamers who want to “play to contribute” and receive compensation for their efforts.
Aside from sharing his optimistic thoughts on the Metaverse, Matsuda did not announce concrete plans to actually add NFTs to any Square Enix projects; he only stated that the company would “keep a close eye on societal shifts in this space” while making more substantial investments into AI and cloud technology. However, he didn’t rule out the possibility of implementing blockchain technology and/or issuing tokens in the future.
Matsuda’s hesitancy to embrace NFTs in gaming may be motivated by the disappointing launch of Ubisoft Quartz, the first attempt by a AAA gaming studio to add NFTs to their gaming ecosystem. Aside from this, blockchain gaming mostly consists of smaller projects such as Decentraland and Upland. For the most part, major game studios seem content to use NFTs as collectible merchandise without any in-game applications. And in the case of Ubisoft Quartz, their in-game NFTs only provide cosmetic value for players with no effect on gameplay.
However, there are reasons for the Square Enix president to be optimistic about this technology. In his letter, Matsuda cited Facebook’s rebranding into Meta as a sign that the concept “is not a mere buzzword but here to stay,” and that blockchain games “have emerged from their infancy and are… entering a growth phase.”
Outside of gaming, NFTs are big business as well; major players such as OpenSea have market values in the billions. And while the president remarked that the industry was currently experiencing “overheated trading… with somewhat speculative overtones,” he attested that “an increase in the societal literacy and acceptance of crypto assets in the past few years” was a sign of good things to come.
Ultimately, the Metaverse and NFTs are a small but significant part of what Matsuda sees as the future of the gaming industry. Considering the successful development of self-sustaining communities for off-chain titles such as EVE Online, Team Fortress 2, and DOOM, it’s clear that gamers are interested in developing a symbiotic relationship with the games they play.
But with AAA studios’ track record of nickel-and-diming players through microtransactions and DRM, gamers are equally justified in their skepticism of Square Enix and Ubisoft’s intentions. Others are content with making fun of NFTs or playing games and/or mods that make fun of NFTs, too.
Editor’s Note: Featured image is the bonus boss DLC for NieR: Automata, which actually put Yosuke Matsuda into the game.