Square Enix Is Going Back To Basics, Focusing On Core Gamers
They generally make good games, sometimes even great games but Square Enix does not understand how to make money. Whenever they make a AAA game the budget is so preposterous that it needs to break records in roder to simply break even.
Tomb Raider was one of the best-selling games of 2013 and took nearly a full year to just get itself into the black.
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Think about that for a second.
It’s not that their games are not making enough money but rather that too much money was spent making them.
Square Enix seems to be flip-flopping at the moment. Last year when the company all but wrote off 2013 as a financial failure and did some restructuring, the ideas was to still do AAA but in smaller quantities and focus on mobile or means by which they could turn a profit with far lower input costs. Company president Yosuke Matsuda has expressed his interest in doing quite the opposite.
Forget the casual market where EA and Activision make enough money to not take a hit from failures such as dead Space 3, Square Enix is going to focus on core gamers and titles again. More specifically, Matsuda wants the company to rekindle its roots in heavy JPRGs.
Speaking with Nikkei Trendy, 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.”
The success of Bravely Default has caused Matsuda to recognise the value in the core fanbase and appeal of globally-minded releases once more.
“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.
“Through the means of various networks, the latest information that is announced in Japan is instantaneously being spread across fans throughout the world. Whether it’s North America, Europe, or South America. There really isn’t much of a gap [in the relay of information].
“With that in mind, and all of the collective fans, there’s a sense of mass, which loses the image of a niche market. For the new games we’ll be developing from this point on, while this may sound a bit extreme, we’ve been talking about making them as heavy JRPGs. I believe that way, we can better focus on our target, which will also bring better results.”
Matsuda admitted that 2013 was not a good year for the company and cited Hitman Absolution as an example of games that struggled; not because they were bad but because it went for universal appeal and somewhat turned its back on the core, the fans who loved the Hitman games.
“The development team for Hitman: Absolution really struggled in this regard,” he recalled. “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.”
“So, as for the AAA titles we’re currently developing for series, we basically want to go back to their roots and focus on the core audience, while working hard on content that can have fans say things like ‘this is the Hitman, we know’. I believe that is the best way for our development studios to display their strengths.”
From a creative standpoint this is great. Focusing on core gamers within their respective niches might allow Square Enix to actually turn a profit but only provided that they don’t expect a puzzle platformer to sell as well as Call of Duty.
From a business standpoint it might make more sense. Smaller focus, less marketing, lower budget and theoretically bigger profit margin with better critical reception. That’s in theory. I won’t say this often but the reality is that Square Enix needs to turn a profit and this sort of plan is slow-release. They should turn their attention to mobile and make that profitable to fund the niche projects.
I’m no business expert, I could be entirely, horrendously wrong.