Square Enix NFTs are being panned by the gaming community

Yosuke Matsuda, president of Square Enix, wrote the company’s annual New Year’s letter to fans and stakeholders last weekend, and it has been panned left and right since it was published. Read the first two paragraphs of the letter and you will understand why. It reads like a collection of bizarre, random thoughts in an advertising brochure for “metaverse, blockchain, crypto and NFTs.”

To address the elephant in the room first, yes, the house of Final Fantasy already decided in May 2020 that “blockchain games” is one of the new trends in which it wants to invest. But Square Enix seems baffled by the gaming community’s response to NFTs, especially after Ubisoft announced its Quartz platform. According to Matsuda, “some people play to have fun”, but there is a group of people who just want to “play to contribute” and this last group can help make games “more exciting”. How? We’re glad you asked.

In Matsuda’s words:

I believe there will be a certain number of people whose motivation is to ‘play to contribute’, by which I mean to make the game more exciting. Traditionally gaming has not provided this last group of people with an explicit incentive, which was motivated solely by inconsistent personal feelings such as goodwill and volunteerism. This fact is not independent of the limitations of existing UGC (user-generated content). UGC was created solely because of individuals’ desire for self-expression and not because there was an explicit incentive to reward them for their creative efforts. I see this as one reason that there isn’t as much significant, groundbreaking user-generated content as you might expect.

What Matsuda is saying here is that all of the user-generated content we see in games is born out of gamers’ passion and interest in a specific game (or games). However, these players are not rewarded for their contributions, so we don’t see consistency when it comes to user-generated content. With “symbolic economies” these players can get “explicit incentives” so that they can continue to contribute to those incentives instead of just having fun.

Matsuda may be on to something here. By the way, Square Enix has already mastered the art of blame shifting, so should the NFT push fail, it can always blame its development teams as it casually blamed Crystal Dynamics for Marvel’s Avengers.

Be sure to read the full letter here.