After nearly three years of nods toward blockchain technology, Square Enix has officially announced its first Web3 venture, and it’s a game! (Well, sort of.)
I have an admiration and special affection for Square Enix. Not only have they created a plethora of games I’ve enjoyed throughout my life, including the Final Fantasy MMORPG which is a true gem, but Square Enix showed an interest in blockchain technology early.
Nearly a year ago to the day, Square Enix put forward concrete plans to work on Web3 products. In their bi-yearly business briefing, they announced that blockchain games were to be a focus and that they were “contemplating robust entry into blockchain games” to keep up with the changing environment of digital entertainment. This was compounded on New Year’s Day 2022 when Yosuke Matsuda, Square Enix’s President, penned an open letter. I want to take a short extract from that letter:
“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, President of Square Enix
My initial reaction to this section is still the same today: Matsuda sees the collaborative value blockchain can have to gamers when so few seem to. Square Enix then spent 2022 dipping their toes in Web3 waters in various ways. The most noteworthy was when the company sold off several flagship IPs, including Tomb Raider, Deus Ex, and Thief, to reinvest the money. Buried in that press release was the following sentence: “In addition, the Transaction enables the launch of new businesses by moving forward with investments in fields including blockchain, AI, and the cloud.”
Yesterday, 3rd November 2022, at Web3 Conclave, Square Enix announced their first product in Web3.
What Is SYMBIOGENESIS?
What is SYMBIOGENESIS? It is a web-based, digital collectible art project that will function as Profile Pictures (PFPs) and will have an interactive story, and game elements. By owning an NFT in this collection, you become a character in the story, and “as a character in a story that takes place in an alternate world where the player can ’untangle’ a mystery by completing missions that revolve around questions of the monopolization and distribution of resources. With each strategic move players make, more of the story unfolds.”
— SYMBIOGENESIS (@symbiogenesisPR) November 3, 2022
No, I have no idea what any of this looks like either. I’m also a little on edge over just how much substance there is to this project, but due to Square Enix’s track record, I’m hopeful. The launch is expected to be around Spring 2023 and it is to release on Ethereum, though I noted “tentative” in brackets after that piece of information. I wonder if this means they are looking at layer 2s or if the conversation over which chain to publish on is still ongoing.
Square Enix did announce NFT collectibles in partnership with Enjin’s Efinity parachain in the summer, though I have not seen a lick of information to suggest that the partnership has extended further. I would prefer to see SYMBIOGENESIS on Immutable X or Polygon, personally, and particularly if they’re looking at Ethereum directly, but we shall see.
So, why is this important? Well, despite anti-blockchain derision (and this announcement has seen the same mainstream gaming media mafia offer the same tired opinions again), Square Enix has continued on its path resolutely. Every step taken isn’t merely more flesh in the game, it’s an indication of what might be on the horizon: a good old-fashioned Square Enix game, but with blockchain.
The likelihood of the success of SYMBIOGENESIS I couldn’t possibly speak to with this little information. In truth, it’s more likely to fail than prosper, but Square Enix knows how to make games, and so if the collection has enough of a game behind it, perhaps it will. All I know is that this legacy publisher and titan of the gaming industry is part of the groundswell of giants in Web3.