Despite linear gamers snubbing NFTs, Square Enix is doubling down on its commitment to non-fungible tokens with the launch of two projects designed to support next year's Final Fantasy VII 25th anniversary. In a major show of confidence in its decision to invest in blockchain technology, Square Enix is bringing NFTs to its biggest and most prestigious games franchise, Final Fantasy VII.
Yet, fans aren't happy with the decision. They took to Twitter (where else?) to vent, with @confusionmydude typing: "Yo, why are you guys making NFTs? Especially FFVII ones? That goes against the messaging of the game and the way you’re packaging them somehow doesn’t fully jive with the logic of NFTs either. This is a product for no one. Do better."
The Final Fantasy VII series focuses on a climate disaster and has a strong environmental message, so it's kind of ironic this will be Square Enix's first big NFT release. Historically NFTs have been seen as a new power-hungry tech and believed to be harming the environment. You can read more about this and exactly how non-fungible tokens work in our guide, What are NFTs?. Our guide to the best NFT marketplaces also highlights which blockchains are actually carbon neutral. For inspiration, read up on ex-Final Fantasy artist Yoshitaka Amano's new NFT collection.
As well as this project, Square Enix has recently announced its first NFT game too, called Symbiogenesis. This story-driven mystery game will release in Spring 2023.
Square Enix appears to be listening to its fans, or at least acknowledging concerns. Its forthcoming NFTs will be created in partnership with Enjin, and will be minted on the Efinity blockchain, a side-chain of Polkadot, which is less energy intensive than Ethereum. Enjin plans on making its Efinity platform open to developers to create NFT-power games, so we could even see Square Enix's first tokenised games emerging on this blockchain.
In response to the negative reaction some fans are coming to Square Enix's defence. @AC0DEM0NK3Y wrote on Twitter: "Games media looking even more sad today as they say how ironic it is and are partnering for NFTs in FFVII given it's message about the environment...without spending 5 minutes reading about and its consensus mechanism. Keep pushing past the ignorance."
Controversy aside, what does Square Enix have planned? Firstly, next year's Final Fantasy VII 25th anniversary will be used as a springboard for blockchain-enabled digital and physical collectibles, likely tied to its two game releases Final Fantasy VII Rebirth due in 2023 and Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII - Reunion; a PS5 remake of its classic RPG releasing this winter.
Two new NFT projects, Art Museum and Bring Art, will launch in 2023 as NFTs on the blockchain. Bring Art will be a single edition, physical figure that will be tied to a digital NFT version, while Art Museum will be physical trading cards that unlock a related digital NFT card.
In a press release Square Enix stated: "While the company currently focuses the majority of its business on tangible products such as figurines and miscellaneous items, the new Bring Arts and Arts Museum products are a part of its early growth into emerging areas of opportunity created by new technologies."
It continued: "In addition to providing consumers with another way to collect items, the company is using technology to safeguard against piracy and counterfeit products by providing them with a digital letter of authenticity for their Bring Arts action figure collectibles."
Square Enix's collectibles business is a major asset to the company, so it's not too surprising its first proper exploration of NFTs will derive from offering fans unique figurines attached to NFTs, to offer new utility as well as souvenirs. Interestingly you will be able to buy a figure without an NFT for $130, while the Digital Plus Edition, which will include an NFT, will be priced at $160.
Currently the best NFT games are released from smaller startups and studios so it's encouraging to see a major developer such as Square Enix reveal its plans and align NFTs to arguably its biggest franchise. While it's focusing on collectibles, it will be interesting to see how any planned utility will be implemented. It will, of course, need to keep its fans onside if this is going to be a success.