I recently made a tweet about Final Fantasy Versus XIII becoming the Japanese “Duke Nukem Forever” and a few comments/replies actually got me thinking. Particularly one from @MrSuitMan on Twitter:
@zabu_san They’re gonna go out of business before they get to 21.
— Le Tran (@MrSuitMan) September 27, 2012
As you can see, @MrSuitMan believes Square-Enix will not be lasting much longer; which isn’t the first time I’ve read or heard this! Square-Enix apparently do not have the same ability to entice or appeal to a lot of gamers these days. Sure in Japan, you slap their name on something and it’s pretty much printing yen, but bring that overseas and the Benjamin’s and Euros (or whatever your currency of choice may be) doesn’t move in the same way. Hell, the name “Final Fantasy” seems to not carry the same impact it once did. 10-15 years ago, utterance of that title sent chills down gamer’s spines! Nowadays, unless it’s the nostalgia train rolling down the track, people rarely bat an eye at a Final Fantasy announcement.
But what’s caused this shift in interest from Square-Enix? There’s obviously a ton of possibilities, but I believe the number one possibility is the fact that the quality as dipped!
That’s not to say the Final Fantasy games aren’t bad or should be avoided like some other games out there, but none of them really seem to reach the same level of the series’ past. Not to mention that most of the more memorable names from the company’s past have since moved on. Hironobu Sagaguchi is off with his development studio Mistwalker. Nobuo Uematsu (famed composer) has stepped away as the go-to guy for the series compositions.
And let’s face it’s the most Japanese name you still hear from the Square-Enix camp is Tetsuya Nomura! Partly because I tout his work whenever possible, but also because he’s probably the best thing going for Square-Enix currently, and how much longer might he last?
Square-Enix has Versus XIII is in limbo, and Kingdom Hearts III is far from officially released or even announced, so how much longer can he be willing to put up with that?
Keiji Inafune and Hideo Kojima have both voiced their thoughts on Japan’s current development focus, and both feel they need to change it up quite a bit! perhaps Square-Enix need to listen to their words?
The curse in Japan is that a lot of media is made in Japan just for Japan – you go to the cinema and it’s all Japanese movies. My generation is now being exposed to a wide range of influences, that’s why what I want to make is a little bit more in tune with what people in the West will like.
The Japanese industry must also realize the need to develop and rebuild their brands. And we need to do so now. It’ll be too late when our brands hold no equity or no power. Time is running out.
Two of the biggest development voices of our generation who aren’t afraid to share their issues; and their opinions are quite valid! Sure, we all like our Mega Man’s Mario’s, and Final Fantasy’s, but after a while, it gets stale. You can’t repeatedly rely upon the “same old stuff” to save you every 12 months. Try taking a risk every now and again.
Games like Dragon’s Dogma, Bayonetta, hell, even Vanquish are all examples of companies taking risk…and they hardly sold what established series would sale.
Of course, it’s up to us as consumers to support those products. Unfortunately, we as consumers often refuse to give these new IPs a chance, thus dooming them from the start and only hoping the old IPs get new games. Thus, we only go in a horrible cycle of futility: “I want new things but refuse to support them, give me the tried and true stuff I like developers!”
We’re all guilty of it, so if we wish for development to change and developers to release new things, we need to understand we’re as pivotal in all of this just as much as the creator(s).
Getting a bit off track there, so back to Final Fantasy & Square-Enix and all the memories we have associated with them! I might be presumptuous in my claim here, but I’m almost certain most of our audience started with the PSX Final Fantasy games, yes?
What was it about VII, VIII, or IX that pulled you in, had you coming back for X, XII, or XIII? (I’m purposely excluding XI for now, though I could talk for hours about that one!)
Was it is the characters, story, setting? I’m genuinely curious; I want, nay, NEED to know! Final Fantasy has always been a have series, and at one time seemed to demand attention from gamers worldwide, so what happened? Where did Square-Enix go wrong?
It’s never fun to watch a developer or company struggle, especially one we’ve all grown up with and have such fond memories of. Square-Enix are a company that I’d hate to see go away or shut down. They have such a legacy that deserves to be heralded, but they need to have a serious look into what they’ve been doing in the last 10 years and determine what needs to change.
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments at the bottom or on Twitter concerning Square-Enix over the last 10 years, so reply to me @zabu_san or below!