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.
-Yosuke Matsuda, President of Square Enix, 2022 New Years Letter
Welcome to the new year. Things are already trending towards dumb.
That isn’t the usual self-indicting stupidity that I generally go for as the capstone in a quote of the day post, but that is only because Mr. Matsuda is attempting to conceal his message in a mist of gentle and encouraging words.
But in digesting the final few paragraphs of the Square Enix New Year’s letter, one can only end up with poop that spells out, “Fuck fun, show me the money!”
A little too much Bobby Kotick vibe in that?
And yes, Square Enix is a business and the president thereof has a fiduciary responsibility to guide the company in a way that realizes growth and profitability for the firm. The question is really whether or not that responsibility requires him, as president, to jump on buzzwords that would upset what he admits is a majority of his players just to goose the stock price or accomplish whatever he had in mind when this was written.
I suppose if I believed in my heart of hearts that crypto, NFTs, blockchain, and pay to earn would deliver the gaming nirvana that the crypto bros would have you believe, I might let this pass. But I have yet to see an argument in favor of introducing any of that to video games that doesn’t just amount to a crypto tax on something the companies could do on their own if it was actually a good idea. I mean, I am pretty sure Raph Koster and Playable Worlds covers everything the crypto bros are promoting, yet have somehow managed not to bring blockchain into the picture because it adds nothing to the mix.
Seriously, does anybody think a company like Square Enix couldn’t roll up a pay to earn scheme or something that allowed users to get paid for content they generated that doesn’t require crypto connections to siphon off a piece of the profits? Tracking something via blockchain is basically putting it on an expensive, slow database. MySQL is free and your own server will cost less to run.
And that really gets to the heart of things. Even if you look past the obvious scams, the overvaluation, the constant problems, and the environmental impact, the benefits beyond hype are non-existent. Blockchain offers nothing that a dev studio couldn’t already do, nothing that hasn’t already been done, just at a greater costs with a loss of control over the product.
And the loss of control is the big hit. How is your game going to play out if the crypto currency you use to drive it suddenly gets popular and now everything in your cash shop is too expensive for new players? What are you going to do if the bottom falls out of the currency you went with and all of your new customers abandon ship having lost the money they threw in? How are you going to handle scams and theft in your game if you cannot revert a transaction because the blockchain determines who owns a thing and you don’t control that? Ask all those bored ape bros who have had their apes stolen… something that seems to occur daily… how happy they are about decentralization when it means nobody can address their problem. What kind of customer service nightmares are you willing to endure to jump on this bandwagon?
It beggars belief that executives at legitimate companies have suddenly found themselves in a situation where they feel the need to at least pay lip service to patently bad ideas because otherwise they will look like they aren’t jumping on board the latest trend. This is a pyramid scheme and it demands new people buy in so the people already invested can cash out and companies are at least saying they want their customers to be next in line to get swindled if it will just raise the stock price a bit.
But this one, this steps over a line that I hadn’t seen previously in that the President of Square Enix stood up and said that a majority of his customers won’t like this, but screw them, because we’ll just get better customers who will make us more money. Does he assume that customers who show up because they are in it to get paid won’t jump ship the moment the gravy train ends? Is he saying that they’ll stick around like the long term “play for fun” customers? Because, in the end, these schemes always make many more losers than winners, and nobody is going to love your game if you promised them income for playing and it doesn’t appear.
Now, this New Year’s post, like so many recent pronouncements, is all just so much chin music until they actually put something into action, so there is the distinct possibility that cooler heads will prevail and won’t throw themselves into a technology mostly known for being a scam, but we shall see. But putting current users on notice that the company might not see value in the play style of a majority of their customers seems like a bad sign all the same.
- PC Gamer – Square Enix President knows people who ‘play for fun’ dislike NFTs
- Massively OP – Square Enix President Lauds Blockchain
- Ars Technica – Square Enix signals major push into “blockchain gaming” mania
- Game Informer – Square Enix’s 2022 Plans Include Blockchain Games And Token Economies
- Game Developer – Blockchain games to become “major strategic theme” for Square Enix
- Contains Moderate Peril – Why Play For Fun When You Can Play to Contribute?
- Ed Zitron – Libertarianism For Me, But Not For Thee
- Twitter – Thread on Sustainability and Losing
- Twitter – Thread on lack of value add for NFTs