A year ago, Square Enix president Yosuke Matsuda said NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) and blockchain gaming were the future. Then 2022 happened and it became clear to all but the most diehard NFT investors and crytobros that all of this digital JPEG ownership was a scam that the public continues to mostly ignore. But apparently, even after all this, Matsuda and Square Enix aren’t giving up on NFTs or blockchain games. In fact, it sounds like the company is doubling down on “blockchain entertainment” heading into 2023.
As a reminder: NFTs are digital items that you don’t actually own. Instead, you buy a receipt that states you totally own that picture of an ape or whatever, and then you can collect it and hope to resell it for a huge profit one day. But you likely won’t make any money selling pricey NFTs as the marketplace around them has completely collapsed. It turns out overpriced jpegs aren’t a stable investment. Who could have guessed? (Millions of people did.) Anyway, Square Enix isn’t going to let some tiny things like near-universal public backlash to NFTs or giant cryptocurrency exchanges going bankrupt overnight deter the Japanese publisher from continuing to invest heavily into “Web 3.0.”
In a New Year’s open letter published on January 1, Matsuda said that Square Enix was investing in various business domains, but that it was “most focused on blockchain entertainment.” In the letter, he used a soup of buzzwords and empty ideas to try and paint a picture that blockchain tech wasn’t dying or collapsing, but in fact, was growing and becoming more popular. One piece of evidence cited by the Square Enix president: Web 3.0 has become a “firmly established buzzword among businesspeople.”
Following a very brief mention of the massive FTX bankruptcy that happened in November— where a $32 billion crypto exchange exploded overnight and nearly destabilized the entire market in the process—Matsuda did address the continued pushback against NFTs and blockchain technology. According to the president, this is all part of the plan and he suggested that new tech like this often creates “confusion” at first before people accept it.
“Having ridden out such societal tides, some such technologies and frameworks gradually become part of people’s lives, eventually giving rise to new businesses and growth,” explained Matsuda. “Following the excitement and exhilaration that surrounded NFTs and the metaverse in 2021, 2022 was a year of great volatility in the blockchain-related space. However, if this proves to have been a step in a process that leads to the creation of rules and a more transparent business environment, it will definitely have been for the good of the growth of blockchain entertainment.”
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The Square Enix president penned a similar letter back in 2022, though it t was widely dunked on by many online. Folks critiquing his vision for the company were especially unhappy with a portion of the letter where Matsuda talked about folks who “play to contribute” instead of people who simply play games for fun. Yet months later, in April 2022 interview with Yahoo, the Square Enix boss didn’t back down and continued to predict the future of gaming would include NFTs and the blockchain.
And like last year, Matsuda once again doesn’t lay out any specific or even vague plans for how NFTs or the blockchain will improve video games or how the tech will provide new options to devs or players. Instead, Matsuda just says that the company has “multiple” blockchain-powered games in development including the previously-announced Symbiogenesis. Get excited, I guess?
“Blockchain has been an object of exhilaration and a source of turmoil,” summed up Matsuda,” “But with that in the rearview mirror, we hope that blockchain games will transition to a new stage of growth in 2023.”
It’s not surprising to see Square Enix continue to focus on NFTs as just last year the publisher sold three game studios—Crystal Dynamics, Eidos Montreal, and Square Enix Montreal—to the monolithic Embracer Group and all to help further fund its future investments into blockchain tech, AI and cloud gaming.
Meanwhile, Square Enix has spent the last six months or so shutting down various online games including Babylon’s Fall and Final Fantasy VII battle royale spin-off The First Solider. I’m sure that’s anything to be worried about as the company pushes to include NFTs in future titles. Yeah, your investment into Square Enix’s digital worlds will be totally safe and last a long time…