What would the world be like without Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest? Probably a grim, dark place full of violent, gritty reboots and other things executives think fans want. But let’s be honest: even if something unthinkable happened to Square, there would very likely still be Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest games. I would just personally like to see Square continue on as a top-tier publisher.
I cringe at the thought of the company’s demise. As of late, Square Enix has made not only some questionable decisions regarding its properties but also seems to be completely ignoring long-time fans for the most part. At least they revitalized Final Fantasy XIV, I guess? There is most definitely cotton in the ears of Square Enix, or perhaps the publisher doesn’t have the internet, because there is no other reason, that I can fathom, to explain some of the things the company has said and done recently.
First off, let’s look at the company’s reaction to the retail sales of Tomb Raider. Never, ever, I repeat ever, should 3.6 million retail units sold be a disappointment for any product. If this is truly the case, some misguided analyst or financial adviser forgot to carry a zero somewhere and should be dragged out into the street and shot. OK, maybe nothing that drastic, but seriously, most companies, even in the gaming industry, would be stoked to sell even 1 million units in the first month, let alone 3.6 million. Astonishingly, Square Enix later revealed it had expected Tomb Raider to sell 6 million units, which would place it in the fastest-selling games of all time list. Tomb Raider never had a chance at this.
I don’t know what’s in the “kool-aid” they serve at SE headquarters, but that is an absurd notion for an unproven reboot. Maybe, if Square had tempered their “swords” a bit, cut the useless multiplayer mode out of the game and cut a few more marketing costs here and there, the game would not have been such a “disappointment.” Later in the year, Square Enix director Yosuke Matsuda had this to say about the situation.
I believe it is difficult to guarantee an appropriate return on our investments within the revenue model of purely packaged software, there is a huge difference from the perspective of business risk between a model where no revenue opportunities take place for several years until the product is completed (upon which investments are recovered at one time), and a model where revenue opportunities exist in some form prior to product completion, even if the amount of money invested is the same.
To that notion, I say this with all due respect — BULLSHIT. How many other developers and publishers do this successfully every day? It’s bad enough the company screwed up, but hey, how about this as a realistic answer: we took a huge risk based on reactions of focus groups and previews by releasing three of our very first fully western-developed games this year without the safety net of a single eastern-developed release to back them up. We made an error in judgement.
I realize that this would never be publicly stated, but come on Square Enix. Anyway, that is only the company’s recent past; let’s talk about the future.
Today a trailer was released for what I can only take as a personal affront. Nosgoth has been revealed to the world, and I will be candid here, it looks horrendous. It can only be described as what it truly is — a shameless cash-in, three-on-three multiplayer, free-to-play title built using the leftover assets from the much more promising, yet inexplicably cancelled, Legacy of Kain: Dead Sun. I am among the once countless (embellishment) diehard Legacy of Kain fans, a series, I might add, that took gaming down the road of mature storytelling long before the likes of Grand Theft Auto or Metal Gear. A series that challenged gamers with real-time, 3-D combat long before God of War or Devil May Cry were a gleam in anyone’s eye. I’m not sure if you know who Amy Hennig is, but she was one of the main writers of the Legacy of Kain series. More recently, she wrote the Uncharted games. I just want to know in what backward world does Square Enix think Nosgoth is what fans of the series would want or, much less, would attract new players?
I could continue to ramble about the Legacy of Kain situation. After all, it was the last straw for me with Square Enix and motivated me to write this article. But before we move on, what are two of the hottest movie and TV series that ran during this console generation? Answer: Twilight and True Blood. While not my particular brand of vampire media, it’s safe to say vampires were hot and heavy in the mainstream, but did anyone at Square Enix say, “Hey we have a vampire franchise, maybe we should capitalize on this vampire mania? Naaah, let’s just make a sequel to a FInal Fantasy (XIII) game no one wanted, moving on.”
I’ve yet to mention the countless other failures to localize Dragon Quest games, or the failure to bring back a fantastic series that was once a console titan and has been relegated to handhelds only in recent years. The Mana series remains one of my favorites from Square’s ample stable of IP. Anyone who says The Secret of Mana is not in their top 10 SNES games either never played it or is mentally unfit and should be taken to the nearest padded cell. Why not Square Enix? Why not do a full rebirth of the series on next-gen consoles in glorious HD graphics and modern combat systems, but still maintain that sense of wonder and desperate beauty that Secret of Mana’s music and aesthetic still captures so well to this day?
Even some of my most diehard Final Fantasy fan friends have grown weary of the franchise. I will say that XV finally, FINALLY, looks to be shaping up. It has my interest more than any entry since X. I won’t spend too much time talking about XV, as I already covered it in a previous article. But at this point, Final Fantasy XV has been in development since 2006. At what point will the sales of that game reach into the profit column? Eight, nine million units? FFXV has to be one of the most expensive games ever made. You want the definition of a make-or-break product? look no further than FFXV.
I could go on and on about the failures of Square Enix’s and my concerns about the company’s future, but I will leave you with this. If someone at Square Enix happens to read this, please, please listen to your fans. Fans, not focus groups, will make or break you with hype, good or bad. Please balance your future sales expectations with your development efforts. To fans of the publisher: let Square Enix know where they stand – tweet, email or carrier pigeon your thoughts to them if you have to. It’s become abundantly clear Square Enix has no direction, and you could very well influence the company to save itself.