Square Enix president Yosuke Matsuda has issued a public New Year’s letter to discuss what’s next for the company, and the “metaverse” and NFTs (non-fungible tokens) are among the major topics. Matsuda acknowledged that early efforts at NFTs by businesses have been “overheated” and overly speculative at times, but he believes businesses will eventually arrive at right-sized solutions for NFTs that the public will embrace. Meanwhile, Square Enix wants to leverage AI, blockchain technology, and NFTs to create video game experiences where players not just “play to have fun,” but also “play to contribute.”
It’s definitely nowhere near as evil as it sounds, but it’s also not as not evil as it could sound either. It’s basically a really complex and strange way of saying that the company wants to enable players to create user-generated content with additional value attached. Here is the relevant excerpt from Yosuke Matsuda in the Square Enix New Year’s letter:
… By contrast, blockchain games, which have emerged from their infancy and are at this very moment entering a growth phase, are built upon the premise of a token economy and therefore hold the potential to enable self-sustaining game growth. The driver that most enables such self-sustaining game growth is diversity, both in how people engage with interactive content like games, and in their motivations for doing so. Advances in token economies will likely add further momentum to this trend of diversification. I see the “play to earn” concept that has people so excited as a prime example of this.
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. 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.
The bottom line is that AI, blockchain technology, and NFTs are here to stay for the foreseeable future, whether at Square Enix or any other developer, but the actual effects they will have remain to be seen. This is a Wild West era for this wave of nascent new tech, and there are going to be so many painful and idiotic blunders along the way. But eventually, someone may finally figure out how to make this technology work — whether we like it or not.
Let us know if you play Square Enix games just to have fun or if you’re interested in Matsuda’s vision to “contribute” to the games’ content.