If there’s one thing that’s consistent across all industries is that there’s no greater goal than squeezing every little bit of profit you can out of a product. NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, have absolutely been a thing video game publishers have been eager to engage in as a way to bilk more money out of fans without eroding the profit margin by producing physical goods. The idea mostly tries to make individual digital purchases unique and could theoretically allow, say, rolling a gacha character in a game and then selling that character to someone else — in a market transaction that the publisher squeezes a fee out from every time.
Which sounds, like, regular evil and not particularly evil until you take even a cursory look at how much energy goes into creating those unique identifiers in a way that endows it with digital ownership security. In a world that already needs to take major steps to slow down climate change even a little bit, NFTs are a ridiculous and unnecessary counterintuitive notion for no gain except for the people slicing money off on the side.
Take-Two, EA, and Ubisoft have all, within the last week, announced to different degrees that they will be pursuing blockchain and NFT technologies to leverage in games in the future. Meanwhile, Steam actively says they won’t allow it in their games or anything on their store.
You can add Square Enix to the chorus of publishers looking to incorporate all this into their video games and revealed they’re more or less ready to do so with games currently in-development. As part of their quarterly results briefing, the Japanese company detailed how they have experimented with NFTs as part of their Million Arthur mobile game by selling unique cards.
In their slides for the presentation, Square Enix indicated that they see the games as “expanding” from centralized to decentralized formats that can be premised on token economies described above. Which, even if you take out the massive environmental concerns from this, sounds like some real shitty game design.
It is a trend that will presumably make the EAs and Square Enixes of the world a lot of money in the short-term. But they’re called trends for a reason and at some point we’re going to reckon with the fact that we did a lot of bad for Million Arthur trading cards.