Every big Japanese game development company is bound to go through this phase. Konami and Capcom have already done so and now the turn has come for SquareEnix. The president of SquareEnix, Yoichi Wada, recently said during a summit that they need to compete with western developers better by changing their approach to the western market.
Since the birth of this generation a couple of very disturbing trends are forcing the hands of the big 3 in Japan to do something in order to stay alive. One trend has been the Japanese market by and large loosing interest in traditional games and consoles, like the PS3 and what it offers in favour of the non-game approach embraced by Nintendo on their systems. As a result the PS3 has been selling poorly in Japan and the market that used to be number one priority for Japanese developers before is no longer guaranteed to be enough to feed them. Meanwhile their sales numbers in other regions are also becoming increasingly threatened by a shift in taste in those markets towards what can now be considered western type games, which is a moniker that roughly encompasses games of the shooter persuasion.
“It may be a business alliance or it may be us taking a stake in others, but we need to go beyond traditional Square Enix” Yoichi Wada has said could be their strategy to combat these new changes and strengthen their foothold in the west.
Looking at how things are going for Capcom and Konami who have both gone through this phase in the past it would pay Yoichi Wada to be very careful how he approaches this challenge.
Konami has chosen the unfortunate approach of attempting to collaborate with western developers on sequels of some of their popular franchises, such as Silent Hill. While Capcom is attempting themselves to create games that they feel will appeal to western tastes, such as Lost Planet and Dead Rising.
Handing cash and beloved franchises over to mediocre western developers like Konami is doing could become a very expensive mistake for SquareEnix. They have a large pool of some of the most talented developers in the world under them already and the only problem they seemingly have is having creatively narrowed themselves down since their golden days around the turn of the century where they had their hand in a great deal many different projects such as Parasite Eve, Vagrant Story etc.
Unleashing the Final Fantasy shackles from around the ankles of their developers and allowing them to breathe freely and create new games, even games that do not fall under the RPG genre would help them grow as a company and loose their current unjustly placed one trick pony image. Here is hoping that Yoichi Wada is a wise man and means to do exactly that when he says that they need to go beyond traditional SquareEnix.
Final Fantasy XIII is slated for 2009, after a 4 year long development process, so it is safe to assume that it will be many years before the full effect of Yoichi Wada’s new strategy for SquareEnix is felt and its results can be seen and enjoyed by us.