Square Enix tried to branch out with different triple-A game genres with Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Hitman: Absolution, the Tomb Raider reboot, and Thief. While half of those games earned critical acclaim, they did not get the sales and mass traction the company aimed for. A recent Nikkei Trendy interview (via Siliconera) stated that Square Enix President Yosuke Matsuda would be rethinking its current approach towards triple-A games.
For starters, Matsuda said the company would shift its focus back to Japanese role-playing games and the core audience it catered to during the company’s “golden age” in the late 90s. “When we developed console games with a worldwide premise,” he said, “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.” However, he brought up the case of the 3DS JRPG title Bravely Default, a JRPG tailored for the Japanese audience that sold very well all around the world.
When it comes to upcoming console or mobile games, he said that there’s an element of difficulty in developing global titles. Therefore, the company will be making them without too much focus on the ‘global’ part.
He admitted that the company did not see this clearly due to its region-split development mindset back then. “[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].”
The company’s new direction for the future will be turning its new games into “heavy JRPGs”. “With that in mind,” Matsuda said, “there’s a sense of mass which loses the image of a niche market. [Turning new games into heavy JRPGs sounds extreme, but] I believe that with this method, we can better focus on our target, which will also bring better results. If you focus too much on the global aspect, you might lose sight of who you’re actually making the game for.”
Matsuda brought up the struggled development of Hitman: Absolution as an example of too much global focusing. “[Developer IO Interactive] 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.”
Long story short: Square Enix will be going back to its JRPG roots, focus on its core audience and work hard on content in a franchise that previously made its fans go bananas. To be fair, the company made amends with the release of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn last year which earned critical praise. If the company keeps this up and channels the aforementioned mantra on Western-developed titles, it may crawl out of that slump it was stuck in a few years ago.