Square Enix's new RPG has a controversial feature that breaks my heart

Two characters on dark background
(Image credit: Square Enix)

Square Enix has released the first trailer for its controversial upcoming game Symbiogenesis

At first glance, the title seems to have all the high fantasy whimsy you might expect from the folks behind Final Fantasy 16. The trailer greets us with an idyllic floating continent and a punchy J-pop tune. However, Symbiogenesis is the first game to implement what the developers called “a completely new form of NFT-based entertainment.”

NFTs or “non fungiable tokens” are allegedly uncopiable digital objects which people exchange, often for real-world money. 

The official website goes on to describe the game’s genre as “narrative unlocked NFT entertainment.” Though the “main story… can be played to the end without having any Character NFT”, the title includes an NFT marketplace where players can exchange character NFTs which are required for “accessing the characters’ stories in-game.” 

The developers are keen on seeing a conflict between the need to “monopolize necessary items” and “sharing NFTs with other players”. Despite its pastoral JRPG exterior, it would appear that Sybiogenesis will contain a cutthroat internal market – a move which, as a long-time Square Enix fan, I find rather unsettling. 

Gil-ty conscience

Though couched in a lot of high-concept and abstract language, it would appear that Symbiogenesis intends to use an internal NFT market as an arena through which players can purchase the means to progress through the game. 

According to the game’s project evaluation report, “revenue” and “profit points” are significant aspects of the game’s structure. According to the report, the NFTs purchased by Symbiogenesis players give them access to the otherwise hidden stories of one of the game’s 10,000 characters, creating an “information gap” between players with NFTs and those without. 

The title seems to be an NFT market wrapped in a story-driven RPG. It breaks my heart to see Square Enix use charming JRPG trappings to sell their attempt at a blockchain-based finance market.

The World Tree

(Image credit: Square Enix)

All of the title’s most interesting features look as though they could exist independently of this bizarre turn towards cryptocurrency. Perhaps the most interesting facet of the game, the World Mission, will have three players from the player base selected to complete the game's final mission while the rest look on.

The inclusion of a profit-driven NFT market seems like an oddly cynical move on Square Enix’s part

It’s ambitious to place the fate of an entire game world on the shoulders of only three people. However, it is a fascinating commitment that does a lot to pique the interest of my inner MMO fan. The idea of building an in-game economy through the use of a persistent market is also a compelling idea on paper. Eve Online is rightly renowned for its dynamic, player-driven market and how it affects the wider game world, a facet that makes it one of the best MMO games out there.

Looming over all of Symbiogenesis’ features, however, is the specter of the NFT market, which will, by the look of it, require players to risk actual money on blockchain assets. The inclusion of this feature seems like an oddly cynical move on Square Enix’s part. Symbiogenesis could be a fascinating project, but the inclusion of an NFT market comes off as superfluous at best and downright predatory at worst.

Cat Bussell
Staff Writer

Cat Bussell is a Staff Writer at TechRadar Gaming. Hailing from the crooked spires of London, Cat is an experienced writer and journalist. As seen on Wargamer.com, TheGamer.com, and Superjumpmagazine.com, Cat is here to bring you coverage from all corners of the video game world. An inveterate RPG maven and strategy game enjoyer, Cat is known for her love of rich narratives; both story-driven and emergent.