If you’ve read Square Enix CEO Yosuke Matsuda’s New Year’s Letter, you know that he believes in the future of the metaverse and NFTs almost as much as he believes some gamers “play to have fun.” In Matsuda’s defense, what he was saying was that most of Square Enix’s fanbase wants to enjoy games and hates the idea of adding even more expensive, extraneous bullshit in their games. But Matsuda is right: Games shouldn’t ever be fun.
First of all, let’s just define “fun.” Going with broad strokes, let’s say “enjoyable” as a piece of art in and of itself. This might be a good story, immersive mood, or great gameplay. And I think we can all agree that none of that is important to the video game experience. You want to go on a breathtaking quest with quirky characters? Fuck you, read a book. Games aren’t made for that shit anymore.
The days of playing video games to “have fun” or “not feel the pain as everyday life” are over. As Matsuda says, games are now all about “play to earn.” That’s right, baby, get that bag! Rather than work at a job sitting at a desk staring at a screen all day, you could be working at a job sitting at a desk staring at a screen all day while learning to hate your favorite things! Just keep gaming all night and maybe you’ll feed the baby! It’s like streaming, except somehow even less lucrative. You’re not really a human being unless you’re turning your hobbies into mandatory homework.
And here’s one thing that’s not fungible: How great NFTs in games are going to be. And make no mistake: They are going to happen. Sure, virtually nobody wants NFTs in games outside of rubes who think the phrase “pyramid scheme” refers to a gameshow. But the nice thing is that you’re not going to be the sucker this time! All you gotta do is buy a video game for the price that it’s always been and then spend even more money on in-game items you’ll technically own in the most abstract of senses. It’s like regular DLC, but worse, and you have to watch it in case someone steals it from your crypto wallet.
To be clear, Square Enix isn’t saying it’s going to squeeze gamers for every penny they’ve got using shady business practices despite the fact they themselves acknowledged their fans don’t want this. They’re just saying that they’re going to make video games sound like a financial investment so a new crop of idiots can blow their money on virtual receipts for virtual desktop backgrounds. But the nice thing is, it’ll compromise the experience for everyone. Don’t want an NFT? LOL, just don’t buy one, no matter how many times the game reminds you that content is walled off behind it.
But the even nicer thing? Now games don’t have to be fun for it to even be worth it! One of the biggest costs of making video games is making video games - pulling focus from quality to focus on how much money fits in a canvas bag will also save a lot on development! Games can be boring or routine or painful to play as long as people are buying official certificates to show that their imaginary armor is the real imaginary armor. You don’t need to try to make a game interesting if your big selling point is that gamers can make a fortune by spending a ton of money! The logic may not play out, but logic doesn’t need to be fun either!
The important thing is, Square Enix and other companies are decentralizing games. What does that mean? Simple. Basically, decentralizing games means writing a long sentence in a press release in order to make a concept that’s existed before sound new by using buzzwords that make it seem like the Internet was just invented. Rather than just pay for a finished game made by professionals, now you can know your financial future rests on a project that the company abandoned to the wolves long ago.
Sound fun? No? Exactly.
Bright future ahead.
A vision of things to come.