We’re less than 24 hours into 2022 and a triple-A publisher has already bombarded us with a tidal wave of corporate bullshit. I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised - this isn’t the first time a major company has released a well-meaning letter to ring in the new year filled with tiresome language and trendy terminology focused on a cynical pursuit of profits and literally nothing else.
It’s a load of overblown nonsense, but even by that metric, this new blog post from Square Enix CEO Yosuke Matsuda really takes the cake. I hope I don’t get blacklisted for saying this, but a rhetoric surrounding the metaverse, NFTs, and other damaging concepts as the future of games can sincerely get fucked. This ain’t it, Square Enix.
Working in games you grow used to the nonsense of major publishers, whether it concerns the abuse of microtransactions or a pandering reliance on nostalgia in the absence of innovative new ideas. Live-service games launch in broken states while misleading marketing cycles result in titles being released long before they’re ready for the public eye. These are all predictable controversies that we’ll see run the track time and time again, but the corporate embrace of NFTs and the metaverse feel different. It feels like we’ve gone too far.
You can read the letter for yourself here, and I’ll give you a pat on the back if you make it past the first two sentences without curling into a ball and rolling off a cliff. Matsuda begins his boomer-centric tirade by talking about the Metaverse, touching on Facebook’s rebranding and how online spaces like this will soon breach the gaming sphere and have a substantial impact on Square Enix’s wider business model. Wicked, I can’t wait to see a bootleg Cloud Strife moping across the metaverse before dropping into random Zoom calls.
But wait - there’s more! The letter immediately descends into a diatribe on the innovation of NFTs and how they are poised to alter the digital landscape forever. Yes, I’m sure a scam geared towards rich celebrities, basement dwelling crypto bros, and destroying the environment is going to have a very long tail indeed. I’m not saying there isn’t a sustainable future for this technology, but right now it is mired by such transparent greed and disregard for anyone but those at the top that it comes across as a glorified pyramid scheme. That, and why on earth are they all so ugly? Right clicking to save all of them isn’t even worth the effort.
Matsuda makes it clear that Square Enix has made significant investments in all of these fields alongside increased R&D into blockchain technology so it can take advantage of their growing relevance. As a corporate business, I understand such an approach, but it blows my mind how those in power have a distinct inability to read the room. Ubisoft released the most generic NFTs in existence for Ghost Recon Breakpoint and was cancelled into oblivion, so much so that the company hasn’t dared mention them since. But does the vocal majority even matter when big players are still raking in profits anyway? I like to think so, but the tone of this letter makes me want to throw gaming into the sea forever.
Here’s the quote in full before I tear it a new one:
“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.”
WHAT DOES THIS EVEN MEAN? Putting “play to have fun” in quotation marks like you’re trying to label the millions of people who buy your entertainment products to have fun as a strange barrier to your corporate interests is the most nefarious shit. You’d rather have willing participants who pour hours into your experiences purely so your digital presence and eventual profits can grow larger and larger. It is so painfully obvious what the end product here is, and Matsuda only digs his own grave further by talking about how token economies and their inconsistent value is far more important than the games you’ve spent decades creating that have genuine artistic merit. Knowing that all of this can be thrown away in pursuit of new technologies and increased profits, even going so far as to roping us into the scam, feels so ignorant to the world we live in and where it’s going. Get fucked.
The letter closes with Matsuda talking about the covid-19 pandemic and the hardships it has wrought, but all of this meaning is zapped away when he makes the nonsense connection between this emotional turmoil and how digital advancements like NFTs, the Metaverse, and blockchain will bring us closer together in the wake of such disasters. Sure - keep destroying the environment and confining us to a vapid virtual world instead of seeking to change and improve the very real world we already have. I understand being an empathetic human being and putting aside profits for a couple of minutes is hard for giant companies, but we’d be in a much better place if some of them did.
I’m just tired. To me and so many, games can be a place of refuge when life gets hard. They are capable of depicting unforgettable characters, telling intimate stories, and pulling us into experiences that are designed to make us think and feel differently. Games are capable of things that no other artform is, but they are also bound to technology, and thus will be subject to all of the twisted and corrupt trends that emerge as we move forward.
I just feel like I’m in the right with how much of a negative impact NFTs and the Metaverse will have on the wider landscape, yet here I am with millions of others watching as companies and creators I used to admire embrace them because there’s money to be made. It doesn’t matter if I love their games, films, books or anything - they don’t care about me and they probably never did. Happy 2022 everyone, Square Enix just made fun illegal.
A vision of things to come.