When Square-Enix, one of the most famous games publishers in the world, announced that it was going to be delving into the world of NFTs — even as the world of NFTs crashed and burned around it — gamers were concerned about just how their games, everything from Final Fantasy to, uh, *checks notes* Various Daylife, could be affected. It turns out the first steps are infinitely stupider than possibly imagined.
Square-Enix’s first tentative foray into NFTs has begun not with its games, but its merchandise, starting with three Final Fantasy VII collectibles in the “Bring Arts” line of posable action figures. Sure, Cloud, Tifa, and Aerith have had a zillion cool toys before, but these ones actually attempt to directly translate the iconic concept design work by Tetsuya Nomura for the original PlayStation game, in 3D form.
They are, perhaps all the more infuriating given the circumstances, incredibly cool. It’s kind of amazing just how much like Nomura’s art they look, and rendered in a complete form it’s almost like a fascinating blend between the classic, spiky, chunky polygonal aesthetic the first PlayStation was capable of in 1997, and the more realistic renditions of them we’ve seen in VII’s recent Remake. As someone who loved FFVII as a child, grew away from it, and then realised just how special it is to me again playing Remake, I would buy these in an instant.
Except for the fact that they all come with a “Digital Certificate of Authenticity” that is in fact, just an NFT. The system requires collectors to sign up for a wallet with the Enjin blockchain network, and there’s even a “Digital Plus” version of each figure you can get that, for an increased cost, lets you redeem an NFT that gives you access to a 3D replica of the figure viewable in the real world through an augmented reality site. You can’t just buy the figures themselves — both versions come with the NFT. And if you buy the figure and simply choose not to register for a wallet, the token not only still exists for that figure in the first place, you’re also paying way more for nothing at all — each FFVII Bring Arts figure costs $US130 ($180), while typical releases before this have cost around $US85 ($118)-$US100 ($139). That’s a lot extra for something that you don’t want!
The absurdity of it all or the shittiness of the mandatory token itself is one thing, but what makes this even more bizarrely dumb as Square-Enix’s first tentative foray into the blockchain hypewagon is doing it with characters from Final Fantasy VII. It’s a game about a group of radical eco-terrorists, Avalanche, and their allies who rise up against the meglomaniacal megacorporation Shinra, who go about bombing their power factories because they are literally over-harvesting the very life force of their planet as an energy resource, hastening the rapid deterioration of the world. Sure, sure, eventially VII goes the way of most RPGs and you’re having giant meteors summoned to destroy the world and what have you, but at its core, it’s fundamentally a story about the environment, and the people mad enough at the systems and structures around them to fight to save it.
Cloud, Aerith, and Tifa would tell you to stop wasting your Gil and shove that NFT where the sun doesn’t shine. Or they would, when these figures eventually come out in spring 2023. Guess you just have to hope Enjin is still around at that point, which given the current state of the crypto market, might not exactly be the safest guarantee.