Ubisoft, Square Enix, And.. Blockchain?
The two gaming giants are working to merge the worlds of gaming, blockchain and crypto.
The gaming companies behind massive franchises like Assassin’s Creed, Final Fantasy, the new Tomb Raider, and Kingdom Hearts are now setting their sights on a new frontier: blockchain gaming.
Yup.. it’s another gaming article.
As I’ve pointed out before, the gaming industry has always been in the perfect position to begin adopting blockchain/crypto technology. Even though the mainstream headlines don’t highlight many of these stories, many strides have already been made to bridge the gap between the two industries.
For example, while South Korean gaming giant, Nexon, is best known for some of their online games, many people aren’t even aware that they also own Bitstamp and Korbit (two relatively large crypto exchanges). They are even currently considering the purchase of Bithumb, yet another large crypto exchange. Fun Fact: Nexon is the same company that owns the game, MapleStory.. a.k.a. the game where I first interacted with bitcoin.
Personal bias aside (because they are two of my favorite studios), Ubisoft and Square Enix are two of the biggest names in game development and publishing today. Both having extensive libraries of AAA, blockbuster titles under their belts, these companies have established quite the reputation for themselves.
And in recent years, we’ve been seeing both studios starting to venture into the realm of blockchain and explore ways to integrate the technology into mainstream gaming.
Back in 2018, Ubisoft, along with a few other blockchain-focused companies, banded together to create the Blockchain Game Alliance — their goal being to rally groups from both the blockchain and gaming industries to collaborate as they work to merge the two fields.
The following year, Ubisoft debuted a prototype for a blockchain game called Hashcraft at Blockchain Gamer Connects San Francisco. The game, often described as a mix between Minecraft and No Man’s Sky, offers players the opportunity to not only explore a virtual world, but to build and expand in this world as well. Players are able to do things like build their own islands, stash goods/treasure for other players to hunt for, and even set their own rules as to how other players can interact with their creations.
Later, Ubisoft announced it‘s alignment with Ultra, a next-generation games distribution platform. Nicolas Pouard, director of the Ubisoft Blockchain Initiative, said in an interview:
Our team at the Strategic Innovation Lab strongly believes that all blockchain use cases that bring value to players are important to support, and Ultra offers a solution that does just that… During this first trial period of collaboration, we hope to help them in bringing it to a larger scale and experiment with the possibilities this opens up for the industry.
After another year in the space, Ubisoft announced that they were shopping around for new blockchain startups that they could potentially support and/or partner with. They were determined to be at the cutting edge of innovation in this space. Representatives from the Ubisoft Entrepreneurs Lab said in another interview:
Blockchain technology is entering every single industry, including the entertainment industry. We can see a nascent ecosystem flourishing in many different directions exploring new possibilities to envision the relationships with the gamers, and between them, virtual assets ownership and exchanges, transaction security, and all what a cryptocurrency can allow. We have already worked with blockchain startups now for more than three seasons and we want to keep on progressing on that mysterious but promising topic.
Ubisoft has gone above and beyond to show their confidence and optimism moving forward in the field of blockchain and gaming. They have even dipped their toes into the NFT pool, launching a blockchain collectibles game centered around the Rabbids, one of their token mascots. Rabbids Tokens, as they’re called, exist on the Ethereum blockchain, and were created primarily as a project to raise money for UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund).
I think that it’s safe to say that when the fusion of mainstream gaming and blockchain tech develops and becomes more commonplace, Ubisoft will be one of the pioneers leading that charge.
While Ubisoft is definitely leading the pack in terms of game developers pursuing blockchain integration in mainstream gaming, Square Enix doesn’t plan on getting left in the dust. With the company philosophy being “to spread happiness across the globe by providing unforgettable experiences,” Square is more than willing to push the boundaries and experiment with new tech that they feel their audience would resonate with.
In 2019, Square’s president, Yosuke Matsuda, made his interest in blockchain gaming known in his annual letter to their shareholders. He stated:
With the subsiding of the cryptocurrency bubble, the use of blockchain technology has spread to a variety of non-cryptocurrency domains as well. One has been the gaming space, where there have been some interesting developments with games and game platform services using blockchain technology. We are also very interested in potential applications for blockchain technology in the digital content space.
A year later, Square turned those interests into actions when they invested over $2m in The Sandbox, a community driven, blockchain gaming platform that seeks to allow gamers to monetize their in-game creations and fully personalize their gaming experience. Matsuda, in another annual report to the shareholders, stated:
..games using blockchain are no longer in their infancy and are gradually coming to represent a more significant presence. Rather than treating blockchain gaming as an opportunity for speculative investment, we believe establishing whether it is capable of bringing something new to our customers’ gaming experiences will be the key to growth.
That wouldn’t be the end of it though. In March 2021, Square partnered with Double jump.tokyo, the blockchain-focused development company behind My Crypto Heroes (one of the most popular blockchain games currently on the market). In this partnership, Square plans on collaborating with them to develop NFT assets. Keisuke Hata, the NFT Digital Sticker Business Manager at Square was quoted:
Blockchain technology has been attracting attention as a means to provide digital entertainment content with value other than currency. We are pleased to start the development of NFT digital assets services using our IP and hope to contribute to the creation of new value and the future of digital assets from this partnership.
While Ubisoft may be in the lead in terms of progress and development, Square is making some serious moves as well, following closely behind and slowly closing that gap.
All in all, Ubisoft and Square Enix have made huge strides in their plans to fully merge these two classes of technology. And they aren’t alone.
As the space continues to grow, develop and evolve, more and more mainstream players will start to get involved — the possibilities expanding with each new company that jumps into the fray. We’re witnessing not just the birth of new technology, but the birth an entirely new age in the gaming industry.
Blockchain and crypto are still relatively young, so to say that blockchain gaming is barely in its infancy stages would be an understatement. Nonetheless, with developers like Ubisoft and Square Enix on the front lines, the gamer in me can’t wait to see what the future looks like!
I’m just hoping that it ends up closer to “Ready Player One” than to “Black Mirror.”
*I am not a financial/investment advisor, this article is not financial/investment advice and any information shared here should be personally researched prior to making any financial/investment decisions.*