Quote of the Day – Why Just Play to Have Fun?

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.

Square Enix

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.

6 thoughts on “Quote of the Day – Why Just Play to Have Fun?

  1. bhagpuss

    The more we get into this, the less sure I am about the “It’s just techbro garbage – it’ll never happen” response that’s making gamers feel safer about ignoring it. Some of Matsuda’s letter is hard to follow, what with the slightly off translation and the plethora of jargon, but he does keep coming back to the uncomfortable premise that all of this is founded on some fundemental changes in both technology and culture that are already happening.

    This wouldn’t be the first thing in my lifetime that supposedly would never happen that ended up not just happening but becoming the absolute, unquestionable norm. Cell phones, texting, eCommerce… all of them were hyped up then shouted down and finally adopted and accepted. It always takes longer than the early adopters claim and the media always acts as though the thing they heard about yesterday is going to be here tomorrow but in the end a lot of this stuff ends up just being accepted through inertia and accretion.

    The thing that I see going on is everyone in this part of the blogosphere (including the big gaming websites) focusing on how crypto/blockchain/NFTs will or won’t affect gaming. Of course that’s their area of interest. Matsuda clearly expresses an interest and desire in that letter to move SE into areas beyond gaming, or expans whatever interests outside gaming they already have. I think he’s looking towards a time when games as we recognize them now are no longer the big money earners and he’s positioning SE to move into other fields. He all but says that.

    He also says that SE’s portfolio will included both “centralized” and “decentralized” games, to use his preferred terminology. I’m starting to think that we’ll end up with the kind of games we know and enjoy (“Play to have fun” games”) being siloed off as a form of entertainment for older customers. That established audience won’t be driven away and the games it plays will be left much as they are. There just won’t be much of an attempt to grow that audience for the future because new games and gamelike entertainment will focus on a new audience, one which will include most of the child and adolescent gamers that would previously have been directed to the old kinds of games. We’ll still be able to play our games but no-one much will care any more.

    Of course, that’s a future for 10-20 years ahead. Everyone’s acting as if things will happen tomorrow. I probably won’t even be around to see the world in which these unpleasant and offputting ideas have become just the way things are.


  2. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Bhagpuss – Yes, the whole thing is both vague and disturbing and gives the sense that he is trying to ride two horses at once.

    There is an ongoing swell of push back against people calling out crypto for the garbage it is right now with examples like those you presented and how things that became popular once had loud detractors. You see it all the time on Twitter.

    The problem is that there has been push back, often the eerily similar push back, when it comes to every new technology. You can find almost identical arguments over time against the telegraph, the telephone, radio, pagers, car phones, cell phones, fax machines, and email. But there has also been push back against things that didn’t go on to become popular. That people reject something and push back against it is not a reliable indicator of its eventual adoption. In fact, the loudest push back tends to come after something is already clearly well on its way to being part of the norm.

    And then there is the utility factor. Things that make things better, easier, more efficient, or less expensive tend to find their way into the mainstream even if we don’t like them. But crypto, as it is being proposed for gaming right now, is like a tax on the system, making things more expensive, less efficient, and more difficult for the developer.

    Now, this wouldn’t be the first time that somebody in corporate made things more difficult for the people who have to do the work just because there might be a buck in it, but even the buck seems somewhat illusory at this point.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Bmyers

    Maybe I have just gotten too old. I grew up saving my allowance and doing jobs around the house to buy Atari cartridges. You bought your console, bought your games, and that was your total investment. Along comes PC gaming and now you were buying a much more expensive thing to play games like Zork and Wizardry, and it followed similar as before, but the game and play. Then it started getting odd, you logged into the internet through AOL or another means and now had that added cost. I got into WoW in 2009, and initially had a DSL connection, and we shared one computer. Then it was a better Internet connection, a laptop and a second account at $15 a month. Last year, we were up to two mid level custom PCs, Fios Quantum internet connection, two blizzard accounts, and we barely play WoW. I log in once a week to do guild maintenance, and to see if they’ve fixed the guild finder bug yet, going on 7weeks. I don’t buy gold through the shop, I don’t buy pets and mounts, or transmog outfits. I’ve reached a line that won’t be crossed for how much I am willing to outlay to play a game.

    When my wife was furloughed at the beginning of covid, and we went weeks without unemployment due to the system being overwhelmed, I considered closing both accounts permanently. Looking at how the game has played out, my initial feeling about the entire expansion rang true and I should have saved the purchase price and a year of two subs. If gaming in general continues to have its hand out trying to make a score off me for more? I’ll walk away.


  4. zaphod6502

    @Bmyers – I applaud anyone that can avoid the temptation of buying virtual game items. You can save a lot of money by not wasting it on cosmetic or other pointless virtual crap.

    But the market for virtual nonsense is massive and is a money train for many developers and publishers. It seems there are more than enough people to buy into virtual schemes and this NFT nonsense is simply the latest window dressing for ingame item shops and so on. It also seems there are more than enough people with truckloads of money to spend as evidence by the “limited” Star Citizen ship sales that always sell out of $2,500 virtual ships. I am actually surprised the WOW devs haven’t jumped on the NFT bandwagon as well.

    I agree with Bhagpuss and it will only be a matter of time before new generations of gamers grow up with virtual items as the norm and physical games will be seen as a quaint old part of history. We are already seeing it now with my young cousins only wanting something called “robux” for their birthday presents to use in a game called roblox.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. evehermit

    “There is the distinct possibility that cooler heads will prevail”.

    I doubt it. You can tell from the metaphoric glassy eyes – too many company leaders are seeing dollar signs, with the added bonus of new jargon to spout.

    I think you summed it up nicely – it is just the latest Pyramid scheme.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. carson63000

    @bhagpuss – it’s 100% “just techbro garbage”, but you’re right, that absolutely does not logically imply that “it’ll never happen”. Garbage ideas happen all the time!


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