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‘Symbiogenesis’ is some NFT garbage from Square Enix, not a ‘Parasite Eve’ revival

Square Enix

Square Enix has revealed that Symbiogenesis, an upcoming project that was widely rumored to be Parasite Eve-related, is actually something else — and it's centered around NFTs (non-fungible tokens). The publisher described Symbiogenesis as "its first digital collectible art project designed from the ground up for Web3 fans."

Symbiogenesis takes place in a self-contained world containing a large cast of characters that can be collected as NFTs. Square Enix says you'll be able to use these digital artworks as profile pictures on social media accounts, something you definitely wouldn't be able to do by simply taking a screenshot.

In addition, you can use your character "in a story that takes place in an alternate world where the player can ’untangle’ a mystery by completing missions that revolve around questions of the monopolization and distribution of resources," Square Enix said in a press release. That's somewhat ironic, given that the entire perceived value of NFTs is derived from artificial scarcity.

The publisher will start selling NFTs (which will likely be on the Ethereum blockchain) in spring 2023, alongside the debut of "a free browser service" on Google Chrome. The browser-based approach makes some sense. Symbiogenesis wouldn't make it onto Steam, which banned NFT games last year.

This is one of the highest-profile stabs at an NFT-driven gaming experience yet. However, the NFT market has cratered this year. Gamers have largely rejected NFTs too.

Last December, it emerged that Ubisoft had sold barely any NFTs in Ghost Recon Breakpoint, the first title in which it employed blockchain tech. A few weeks later, an Ubisoft executive claimed players would benefit from having a marketplace where they could buy and sell NFTs of in-game items, "but they don't get it for now." In April, Ubisoft announced that the game wouldn't receive any more content updates, effectively putting the game on ice and diminishing whatever value Ghost Recon Breakpoint's NFTs had.

It seems Square Enix is facing an uphill battle to make Symbiogenesis a success. It's not a surprise that the company is moving in this direction after announcing in January that it would invest in blockchain games. Square Enix sold off some of its more notable Western studios this year and it initially planned to plow much of the proceeds into the blockchain and other tech before walking back on that plan.

Meanwhile, Square Enix may have to try to placate fans who were convinced that Symbiogenesis was actually a revival of 1998's Parasite Eve. After the publisher registered Symbiogenesis as a trademark last month, some pointed out that the term means “the merging of two separate organisms to form a single new organism" — which is one of the foundations of Parasite Eve's story. While that connection is somewhat tenuous, it's hard to blame fans for being upset and disappointed that the project is ultimately an NFT grift.