Square Enix published a letter doubling down on their previous commitment to NFT economies, drawing a lot of fan backlash over the controversial stance on blockchain technology.
The letter, written by Square Enix CEO Yosuke Matsuda, takes aim at the so-called play-to-earn model- the idea that it’s better to have people play a game to make “money” via cryptocurrency rather than play it because it’s a beloved title of quality, as has worked out for Square Enix for the past 30 years.
“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”, the letter reads.
“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”, he continues. “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”.
In the interests of journalistic integrity it should be noted that the Square Enix CEO is, objectively, wrong. The entire MOBA genre, one of the most prominent esports, owes its history to user generated content. You don’t get much more game-changing than turning an RTS into its own genre. Even the battle royale genre, of which Square Enix has participated in, owes its history to a fan-made mod for Arma 3.
He then continues on to say that if people played more Square Enix games for money, there would be an uptick in user generated content as if people haven’t been drawing Final Fantasy VII Fanart for the past two decades.
Fan Reaction To Square Enix Supporting NFT Integration
Fans have been quick to voice their displeasure at the letter, which ignores many of the downsides of all things blockchain- namely its increasingly high technology and energy costs. Many fans draw direct comparisons to Final Fantasy VII- arguably the most popular game and explicitly about corporate greed destroying the environment:
President of Square-Enix promoted to President of Shinra pic.twitter.com/NAoHq2GWMN
— Kolshio (@Kolshio) January 2, 2022
Some have even pointed out the real-world hypocrisy of Square Enix embracing the blockchain by bringing up the issues with Final Fantasy XIV Online- the game that couldn’t get enough servers to accommodate its very successful expansion launch for Endwalker specifically because of the semiconductor shortage, caused in part by the uptick in cryptocurrency.
Finally, longer-resenting fans have also called out what they believe to be misguided effort on Square Enix’s part. The fans are wishing that Square Enix had instead used all this effort and energy to actually market their non-Final Fantasy titles, such as this year’s well-reviewed but under-performing NEO: The World Ends with You
square enix has spent more effort marketing nfts than it has on marketing neo: twewy
— sisi jiang / 姜思琪 (@six6jiang) January 1, 2022
It should be noted this kind of backlash isn’t unique to games that create masterpieces with environmental messaging either- both Ubisoft and the upcoming title STALKER 2 both spoke out in support of the blockchain, only to continue to be met with backlash by fans.
While it did prompt a backdown from the STALKER 2 developers, Ubisoft has only continued to double down on the feature.