Written by Andre McEachrane Wednesday, 26 October 2011 18:24
One of the top Japanese developers of all time hasn’t been doing to well recently, heres hoping they find their way.
Not so long ago Square Enix was on the top of the world. Their flagship series' Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest were outselling everything else on the shelves with some like Final Fantasy VII becoming one of the highest rated and selling Playstation games for that generation and also becoming known as the game that made the system as popular as it was. However, that was also most fifteen years ago and things change.
Square's 2008 financial call showed their first signs of a downward spiral with a 20% loss from the previous year, rounding out to a $89 million loss in profits. After having some but probably not as much success from Final Fantasy XIII as they’d hoped, they went on to lose another $150 million. With 2011 over in just a couple months we haven’t really seen any big games come out straight from the company and we won't until Final Fantasy XIII-2 comes out in January. Instead the company has been pushing Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Dead Island a lot this year but that may not be enough.
While Final Fantasy XIII was a love it or hate it kind of game, most can agree that the mainly corridor filled areas and vacuous characters were a step back in design for the series. Along with the much criticized Final Fantasy XIV which even brought the developers out to apologize for the game, Square has shown that they are not in a good place and need to make some changes.
The biggest problem Square has to deal, in fact what most Japanese developers in general have to deal with is how traditional their games still are after 20 years. From the Nintendo Entertainment System to the Playstation era, Japanese role playing games were probably the most popular genre in gaming, but for the most part that time has passed. As the years have gone by the way games are played have evolved and they don’t rely on all of the old mechanics developers built decades ago. Nowadays western RPGs have taken over, kicking most JRPG games to the curb especially in North America and Europe with Bioware and Bethesda games now leading the charge. It’s time Square learned a bit from Western developers and apply it to their games.
I’m not saying Square should completely change the way their games play but they should learn to move away from things like save points and clichéd characters. Having to lose hours of play time because the developers decided not to give another point to save your game isn’t acceptable anymore. Square’s President Yoichi Wada has already made comments about this saying, "we need to go beyond traditional Square Enix.” Player choice in dialogue and story direction are just a couple of the ideas today’s RPGs have been using and some Square could take advantage of. If the company isn’t up to making these kinds of changes on their own they could possibly team up with another developer, maybe one they happened to acquire a couple years back.
Back in 2009 Square reached an agreement to purchase Eidos Interactive known for its Tomb Raider, Hitman and Deus Ex franchises among others. With Square now in charge of the company, there is no reason why they couldn't get Eidos to help bring a more western vibe to their games. Just have them co-develop the next Final Fantasy to give it a new perspective or even better yet work with them on a new series preferably not a JRPG. Square is known for their role playing games and they do them well but it wouldn't hurt to branch out a little to other genres. Even if it’s something like Kingdom Hearts were it mainly plays like an action games but has RPG elements in the background. I would love to see Square do more action/adventure or strategy games with Eidos helping them out. The company can do something great that doesn’t have to be another role playing game.
Then there are of course fans crying out for companies to make certain games because it would please them, even if it wouldn’t be financially smart. Then there are times when you wonder why wouldn’t a company just make that game, and a Final Fantasy VII remake is one of those kind of games. Again this isn’t just because I too would like to play one but it would be easy money for the company. FFVII has sold 10 million copies since its release back in 1997 and was known as the game that sold the Playstation to millions of consumers. FFVII is, while not the agreed upon best game in the series, is definitely the most popular.
Recreating the game with same engine that XIII or even with their newer Luminous engine instead of seeing those blocky characters would be mind blowing, also making the game for Vita with save transfers wouldn’t hurt either. Neither would a 360 or Wii U port. The demo made to show off the Playstation 3 years ago has already further proved that there is an audience so why not just go for it.
Something that must be eating up a lot of Square’s money is the so very long development time for Final Fantasy Versus XIII. The game was first announced in 2006 and by now Square would have been working on for at least five years, not counting all of the time that had gone into it before the announcement. Their Luminous Engine which they said Versus is using is said to cut down costs but as to how much we will probably never know. Getting this game out is hopefully their main objective and I would hope that by late 2012/early 2013 this game will be ready to go. A 360 and Wii U port probably wouldn’t hurt to get a little more money out of it, it definitely helped for FFXIII.
Square Enix is a great company, they were great when they were just Squaresoft and they have grown into something pretty great since joining with Enix. They just need to evolve from who they once were so they can catch up with the other developers in this current age then maybe then they can go back to being one of the best developers in the business, cause right now they seem to be slipping each and every day.