2021 was a year of such staggering impact in our little overlap of the crypto and gaming Venn diagram that it all but erased the years before it for me. I struggled to recall even the earliest happenings of 2021 for the latest podcast episode, “The 2021 WAX Wrap-up“. In fact, an observation I made in that episode, particularly about WAX but it applies across blockchain gaming as a whole, is the timeframe of blockchain gaming going parabolic in 2021.
There were rumblings of games that were picking up steam towards that back end of 2020, like Axie Infinity, but the full-scale explosion wasn’t until Q2 of 2021. Think how little can truly be done in 9 months with regards to reactionary development. We saw billions of dollars poured into companies by way of investment, but the fruits are some way off. This is why we are so excited to see what 2022 will hold.
I barely got a few hours into 2022 before the President of Square Enix decided to whet my whistle of things to come with his open letter.
Yosuke Matsuda Gets It
Square Enix’s President, Yosuke Matsuda, has written a detailed open letter to bring in the New Year, and it’s more or less entirely centered blockchain and the metaverse. You ought to read the full letter — it’s fascinating — and it has instilled a lot of confidence in us blockchain gaming proponents. Matsuda just seems to get it. His careful steps around Play to Earn (P2E) are comforting, but what stands out is his belief in the creator economy so many of us preach about. I don’t want to pull too much from the letter as it’s important to read in context, but there are a few paragraphs I want to draw attention to.
“Lastly is blockchain games. Be they single-player or online games, games have traditionally involved a unidirectional flow whereby creators such as ourselves provide a game to the consumers that play them. By contrast, blockchain games, which have emerged from their infancy and are at this very moment entering a growth phase, are built upon the premise of a token economy and therefore hold the potential to enable self-sustaining game growth. The driver that most enables such self-sustaining game growth is diversity, both in how people engage with interactive content like games, and in their motivations for doing so. Advances in token economies will likely add further momentum to this trend of diversification. I see the “play to earn” concept that has people so excited as a prime example of this.
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. This fact is not unrelated to the limitations of existing UGC (user-generated content). UGC has been brought into being solely because of individuals’ desire for self-expression and not because any explicit incentive existed to reward them for their creative efforts. I see this as one reason that there haven’t been as many major game-changing content that were user generated as one would expect.”
— Yosuke Matsuda
Matsuda goes on to discuss the primary distinction between decentralized and centralized games in terms of what players get out of their contributions to games. He calls the new self-sustaining game growth we will see from incentivized contributions as the heart of decentralized gaming.
Too many in the space have missed this benefit. Too many have focused on P2E’s allure to a new breed of players and I worry these same developers will utilize P2E to funnel reluctant players into the game loops of the developers’ choice. So, amid my myriad concerns going forward, Yosuke Matsuda and Square Enix stand apart; they appear to see very clearly why blockchain technology is the next revolution for gaming.