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Final Fantasy Maker Square Enix Plans 'Aggressive' AI Moves in 2024

source-logo  decrypt.co 03 January 2024 08:50, UTC
Final Fantasy game publisher Square Enix is planning an “aggressive” use of artificial intelligence (AI) this year and into the future, according to the annual letter from company President Takashi Kiryu published Monday.

“I believe that generative AI has the potential not only to reshape what we create, but also to fundamentally change the processes by which we create, including programming,” wrote Kiryu.

The publisher’s president stepped into his role in June 2023 and plans to “promote the shift to digital” as gamers have largely moved away from physical discs and cartridges—and will likely continue to do so.

“We also intend to be aggressive in applying AI and other cutting-edge technologies to both our content development and our publishing functions,” Kiryu said, adding that AI will be used to increase game development productivity and applied to “marketing efforts” in the short term.

But Kiryu doesn’t see AI as a passing fad. In the long term, the executive said that AI could be used to “create new forms of content” for its business.

Square Enix’s AI ambitions don’t mean that it’s necessarily abandoning its crypto gaming or “Web3” efforts entirely, though. Such topics have been key talking points in previous annual letters from the president, albeit under previous company president Yosuke Matsuda.

Kiryu stated that blockchain, cloud gaming, and AI were all focus areas for the studio in 2023, and the company will undergo changes to its “organizational structure” to continue research and development in these areas. It’s unclear if such changes might involve layoffs—or whether staff might simply be reassigned to new teams.

However, generative AI is a controversial topic in the gaming industry. Smaller blockchain gaming teams working on Parallel and the Unioverse have praised generative AI’s potential, joining giants like Microsoft who see it as a tool devs can use to make games better and more quickly. But Microsoft’s generative AI tool announcement for Xbox was met with widespread backlash from concerned talent, who fear the new tech could cost them their jobs. Such concerns aren’t unfounded, either.

Considering that blockchain isn’t mentioned elsewhere in Square Enix’s letter, it may be that AI will be the studio’s dominant focus area for emerging technology in 2024.

Square Enix released its first original, NFT-optional Ethereum story art game, Symbiogenesis, for web browsers in December. Its NFT character avatars have since traded for thousands of dollars, with bizarre names like “Condiment” and “Wastebasket.”

The game was designed to offer players quests within a single main storyline in a 2D world, and its Ethereum NFT collection has seen about 87 ETH ($204,000) in total volume traded so far.

Square Enix did not immediately respond to Decrypt’s request for comment.

Edited by Andrew Hayward