Remember the good old days of Square Enix? When they used to consistently pump out exceptionally good JRPGs? Lets not forget of course that the Final Fantasy series is what launched Square into the spotlight and set the bar for the JRPG genre for years to come. Unfortunately, Square have lost their way quite a bit in recent years, finding themselves facing disappointing sales and a decline in trust from those loyal fans. Thankfully though, one thing that Square have really started to work hard on is listening to those fans, the people that have always been there to buy the games in first place.
The president of Square Enix, Yosuke Matsuda, has recently given an interview to the Japanese site Nikkei Trendy, which has been kindly translated for the Western audience by Siliconera. In it, Matsuda discusses the incredible success of Bravely Default, which released here in Europe for the Nintendo 3DS at the end of last year. This was the first game in a long while from Square that actually felt like those classic JRPGs that Square became famous for in the first place. Bravely Default was a game designed by Square to appeal to the JRPG fans in Japan itself, so when the game released in the West and sold over 200,000 copies in North America alone in the first few weeks, Square soon realised that their original core fans were still here, and still eager to buy the right games.
Matsuda said –
“In the past, when we developed console games with a worldwide premise, we lost our focus, and not only did they end up being games that weren’t for the Japanese, but they ended up being incomplete titles that weren’t even fit for a global audience. On the other hand, there are games like the JRPG we made for the Japanese audience with the proper elements, Bravely Default, which ended up selling well all around the world.”
“Due to having split [the development mindset] according to regions around the world, we weren’t able to see this clearly up until now, but fans of JRPGs are really spread around the world”
“If you focus too much on the global aspect, you might lose sight of who you’re actually making the game for. For example, if you look back at 2013, we’ve had some home console games made for a global audience that struggled.”
“The development team for Hitman: Absolution really struggled in this regard. They implemented a vast amount of ‘elements for the mass’ instead of for the core fans, as a way to try getting as many new players possible. It was a strategy to gain mass appeal. However, what makes the Hitman series good is its appeal to core gamers, and many fans felt the lack of focus in that regard, which ended up making it struggle in sales.”
Square Enix may have struggled a lot in recent years but I find myself very pleasantly surprised when I look at their attempts to fix their problems. You only need to take a look at the re-launch of Final Fantasy XIV; after the original game flopped, the new game director Naoki Yoshida turned first to the community and asked them what they would like to see as improvements for the re-launch. Final Fantasy XIV now has a large and stable subscriber base and was one of the main reasons that Square moved comfortably back into profit last year. Naoki Yoshida continues to engage with the fans even now and the large content patches are often filled with exactly what the community has been asking for.
If Square keep there promise and move back into making games for their core fans then we could soon be seeing an even bigger turnaround from the steps they’ve made so far. With new Final Fantasy, Tomb Raider, Hitman and Deus Ex titles in development now too, Square Enix look set to regain their place among the top quality AAA developers.
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