Yesterday, Square Enix announced a new Cloud Strife figure in order to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Final Fantasy VII. Actually, they announced several figures that you can preorder now for their November 2023 release. That Cloud figure particularly garnered the ire of both the gaming media and Twitter, so we here at ESTNN investigated it further.
Square Enix's new premium Figure comes with NFTs
Foremost, let's do some defusing of this latest internet bomb. The new Cloud Strife figure, which is based on his design from the 1997 original, does indeed come with an NFT. The base version comes with a digital certificate of authenticity that will be stored on the blockchain. In addition to that, there will be a version for $30 USD more that will include the figure itself as a digital good. Much of the outrage comes from fans of Square Enix, for Square Enix doing what they've been doing for a decade now. Sell weird merchandise, you'll wonder who'd want that.
Like that Final Fantasy XIV limited edition guitar, or the high fashion clothing line based on the characters of Final Fantasy XV. So for Square Enix, this is just their usual business strategy. But this is a new one, since NFTs, Cryptocurrency and the Blockchain are the internet's favorite punching bag for solid reasons. But the outrage towards Square Enix selling digital merchandise on the blockchain seems to be a little overactive. So I took some time to read the fine print and will try to defuse the situation a little, while also dismissing some bad faith arguments that have recently been made.
So first and foremost, the ‘FINAL FANTASY VII BRING ARTS ACTION FIGURE – CLOUD STRIFE' comes in two editions. The standard edition will sell already for a premium, but that is just Square Enix and their merchandise in general. That standard edition will come with a digital certificate stored on the Efinity ecosystem ‘Polkadot' which according to this Bloomberg article is by far the most eco-friendly blockchain out there. Using less than 0.001% of the energy required by other blockchains like Bitcoin. So at least you can not claim that there wasn't any consideration towards that.
The Digital Plus Version of the figure comes with the same certificate and an NFT version of that figure for a higher price. Did we mention that you don't have to activate the digital certificate on the blockchain and that the basic version doesn't fall out of line with Square Enix's usual price points either?
What is probably also worth noting about all of this is that by release, the NFT of both the certificate and the figure will be unavailable to trade until Square Enix decides otherwise. And with the current outrage against them, they will probably think it over twice. But this is all there is currently to say on the issue at hand. No one is forcing anyone to buy any NFTs and join the blockchain. There will only be a limited number of this collector's item and it will be available in digital format for enthusiasts.
There are currently numerous fans and what I would politely call ‘outrage merchants' skewing the details around this. But that is just par for the course of the crypto debate at large. Lots of people with lots of opinions and some very ill-informed takes on the subject. From both sides.
So, let's clarify some things!
I want to take some time to address some of the more dicey arguments I've seen. I hope to defuse the situation a little. And that is partially because I'm still a Square Enix fanboy, but also because I'm sick of sounding like a crazy person whenever this topic comes up.
So, there is a great number of claims that Square Enix sold both Eidos Montreal and Crystal Dynamics to Embracer group just to spend the money on their NFT ventures. This is simply not true, according to the financial report released in May 2022. The companies behind Tomb Raider and Deus Ex were sold to invest money back into the company. Square Enix always had trouble with their overseas studios if the sale of IO Interactive was anything to go by. And yes, some of that money will also go towards investing in other fields, all of that you can read here.
Then there was also this whole poetic irony thing about Final Fantasy VII, the game about the consequences of environmental damage having merchandise turned into an NFT. As mentioned above, Enjin's NFT technology is currently the most eco-friendly of its kind on the market. And at least according to their website, they've been putting a lot of effort to reduce their carbon footprint significantly further. That's the plan, how that will play out is left to be seen it is however very disingenuous to paint them and Square Enix as the real life ShinRa Cooperation when the opposite is the case.
Which brings us to NFTs, how many of you read the term and think of ugly monkey images being pumped for profit? It is true that most of the crypto space has dominated the news cycle with scam after scam. That is the issue with unregulated markets, since there is no protection for users and none of it is covered by any laws because the technology is so new. That doesn't mean that NFTs themselves are bad in concept, in a world that is being more and more digitized.
The concept of digital ownership is becoming very important. How often do you see some big channel or Twitter account post someone's work without proper credit? Or for monetary gain, this is probably not on many people's minds but especially for artists working in the digital space, this is very significant. The concept of NFT exists mostly as proof of ownership and to secure the value of a digital good.
Now is owning a virtual figure that you can look at on your phone and maybe place in your virtual metaverse apartment really needed? That's up to you, currently, it is really just a collector thing, but I assume similar to the after-market of real-life figures. The digital ones will have a similar appeal to collectors and enthusiasts, without the risk of degrading or being damaged. So who knows, people should probably look at it, scoff, and laugh, and that's about it. And we'll check into this whole market again in 5 to 10 years to see if all of this was worth being upset about or not.
But calling for the president of Square Enix to resign because they release a piece of merchandise you don't like is really just the kettle calling the pot. In the end, we just got a lot of wasted time getting upset over some niche novelty merchandise, even Square Enix seems to be super afraid of doing. Why do it with a very limited run of what is probably their safest and most profitable brand?
Anyway, this was enough food for thought for today. I highly encourage you to check out some linked material to get a better scope of the situation, and patiently ask you to educate your fellow gamers on the subject. Because this only spirals out of control because of all the misinformation floating around. That's all for now, for more gaming news and esports, check us out at ESTNN