In a New Year's letter, the President of Square Enix discussed the company's plans to focus on blockchain, cryptocurrency, NFTs, A.I., and the Metaverse in the coming years. This buzzword-soup of a letter was not well-received by gamers who largely want their games monetized less, not more.
But what does this new future for Square Enix actually look like? In this article, we'll explain how these new technologies could be added to Square Enix games like Final Fantasy.
The Worst-Case Scenario for Square Enix
What everyone fears with this kind of announcement is essentially one thing: games becoming more expensive without becoming any bigger or better. If in-game shops start selling NFTs instead of traditional virtual items, one could expect the average price of a microtransaction to get much more expensive.
NFTs, after all, are limited edition things by design, so it only makes sense that an item you can only purchase until it's sold out would be more expensive than the stuff you can purchase at any time. Plus, if you're buying anything with cryptocurrency, there are usually no refunds. Once you buy it, it's yours, whether you actually wanted it or not.
On top of the stuff you want being more expensive, these technologies in games will spawn legions of third-party companies that try to facilitate the buying, selling, and trading of NFTs and the cryptocurrency your particular game uses. Inevitably, many of these sites will be scams that end up preying on children.
People will spam in-game chats trying to sell their powerleveling services or a particularly rare item. They'll try to sell you limited edition costumes and mounts. They'll always be trying to sell you something if for no other reason than that the thing they have is sellable.
Depending on who you are and what game you're playing, this might not bother you. But on the other hand, it could be game-breaking for certain people in certain games like MMOs. Ultimately, there are a ton of variables you can't control when real-life money comes to a video game. Sometimes, it can work great, and other times, it can kill entire communities.
While it's completely possible that if and when these technologies come to games like Final Fantasy it will be a complete non-issue where everything is fine and fair and wonderful, this usually isn't the case when it comes to the monetization of a AAA video game.
However, it's important to acknowledge that games getting worse isn't a foregone conclusion, and while publishers won't suddenly do away with NFTs, for example, in general over some public outcry, how the community responds will very much influence to what extent they'll implement NFTs in games.
The Best-Case Scenario for Square Enix
Blockchain tech, cryptocurrency, NFTs, A.I., and the Metaverse can all come to Final Fantasy or any other Square Enix game and actually be good things. This may not be the most likely thing to happen, but it's important to understand these technologies can be used not just for good but to improve games in and exciting ways.
Using a cryptocurrency to buy NFTs instead of virtual currency to buy virtual skins in an in-game marketplace can come with a variety of benefits for the consumer. For example, cryptocurrency can be bought and sold in any increment. However, virtual in-game currency is usually sold exclusively in bundles.
They bundle the currency together to make sure that you'll have to spend more money on a larger bundle than what you'll need to buy the thing you want, leaving you with the leftover currency you'll be pressured to use and top-up. This won't be a problem anymore if you can just buy whatever amount of cryptocurrency you actually need for a specific item.
Related: NFTs in Video Games Explained
Blockchain, cryptocurrency, and NFT technology are all decentralized by design, meaning they can't be tweaked or manipulated by companies or governments. This is to say that you won't have to worry about a game's servers getting shut down or losing your account because an NFT is something you'll be able to prove you own totally independent of a game.
This will require a service from Square Enix where they'll allow you to register NFT purchases on an account, as long as you have the proper documentation showing you actually own the particular NFT you'd like to register, but that's an easy service to get going.
Plus, while like with any commodity there will inevitably be shady places to buy and sell stuff, when you buy an NFT it will actually retain value. Imagine if the particular skin NFT you saved up for to make your character look amazing actually retained most of its value when you bought it. What if it immediately wasn't bound to your account, making it worthless.
Instead of feeling forced to buy new skin NFTs when you get bored of your old ones, you can sell your old skins and buy new ones without having to spend a dime. Of course, this assumes the market functions to the extent that you can viably buy, sell, and trade, but this level of function is not hard to have.
Other technology like A.I. or Metaverse functionality can also be good for games. An MMORPG like Final Fantasy XIV is a huge game, and every year, it gets a little older. Older content looks a lot less richly detailed and graphically impressive as other games now do.
What if you could use A.I. upscaling to massively increase texture quality across the game? What if you used NVIDIA's A.I.-driven DLSS upscaling to give gamers much better performance? What if machine learning could help build more lifelike animations?
As for the Metaverse, what if there was VR functionality in Final Fantasy? What if you could strap on your headset and walk around a town or your own in-game house in VR? What if there was a VRChat-like feature where you could just hang out with other gamers, talk, and play minigames all in the world of Final Fantasy XIV?
These technologies can do amazing things for games, and Square Enix's catalog isn't unique in this aspect. It's important to separate one's judgment of a particular technology from how companies or governments are actually using the technology. However, history does show us that when given an inch, many companies will take a mile.
If you're worried about the future of Square Enix or just Final Fantasy games, make sure your voice is heard. These technologies are still new, and we've yet to see how exactly they will make their way into mainstream culture. There's still time to set a good tone.