Square Enix’s Console Production

As Square Enix pushes forward with their promotion for the third Final Fantasy XIII game with surveys asking for positive opinions on its protagonist, people still keep wondering what happened to the company over the last several years.

To put it bluntly, the last three mainline Final Fantasy games – one of them a direct sequel, have received very mixed receptions while a spinoff enters its seventh year of production. I don’t think anyone can deny that this is a far cry from where the franchise and the company were during the PlayStation and PlayStation 2 years. I’ve heard lots of reasons ranging from particular staff members to perceptions on Japanese games in general.

In my opinion problem number one is Square Enix’s production pipeline for console games. That seems to be almost the whole problem when you look at their console output this generation. They just can’t seem to get a game done in a timely manner.

I found Gamasutra’s postmortem for FFXIII to be very informative, but the one thing that stuck out for me was how it took Square Enix until they developed the demo to really nail a “shared vision” for the game. Having to reach that point in development before finally deciding to base the game on a limited demo is likely what brought about many of the things for which fans criticized it – specifically the general lack of gameplay content outside of battles. Add to that the fact that FFXIII was the company’s first internally-developed PS3 game and it didn’t come out until three years into the platform’s lifespan.

They put out Final Fantasy XIII-2 relatively soon after, but with the help of Tri-Ace – who have put out no less than four full-fledged RPGs (including XIII-2) on the PS3 and Xbox 360. Even people at Square Enix have noted how its western divisions at Eidos have been putting out most of the publisher’s best content over the last few years.

If you look at all the statements Tetsuya Nomura has given about Versus XIII – which Square Enix announced in 2005, it seems like they can’t get the game done because they keep siphoning its production resources into other projects. That brings us to their whole grand plan for “Fabula Nova Crystalis,” about which I was never optimistic in the first place.

Back on my 1up logs you might find blogs from five years ago where I expressed caution about Square Enix building FFXIII into its own franchise within the greater FF franchise before it’s really proved its bankability. Turning Final Fantasy VII into its own franchise made sense after that initial game became immensely popular. I don’t think you can really plan that kind of thing out though – not before the first game actually becomes a hit. FFXIII itself may have been a commercial hit (the fastest-selling FF game I think), but XIII-2 wasn’t. It seems like Square Enix is pushing forward with the micro-franchise idea no matter what it does to the overall brand.

While Square Enix still tries to figure out how to produce console games, I think the proof that their overall talent hasn’t floundered is in their handheld output. For starters I think their PSP games have been the best-looking on the platform, and they’ve put out a lot of them from Dissidia to Kingdom Hearts. Square Enix’s DS output has been no less prolific with titles like The World Ends With You, 4 Heroes of Light, and plenty in-between.

The problem is that for some reason they’ve decided not to localize what have probably been their best games as of late. I understand Final Fantasy Type-0’s problem of being on a platform that’s dead in western countries, but I think the 3DS is doing fine enough for them to bring over Bravely Default. Apparently they’re even pleased with how that game did in Japan.

Hopefully Square Enix has more fully picked up on the kind of game development that today’s hardware requires, and will be able to produce games next generation at a pace in line with that of most publishers. Well, really it’s a problem that’s plagued almost all Japanese developers this gen when it comes to console games. Fortunately the E3 2012 demonstration of the Luminous engine at least shows that Square Enix is already preparing for the next level of game development.

BULLETS:

  • Treasure is working on something for the 3DS: http://t.co/m1Qnn4yS We don’t know what but that doesn’t really matter. It’s Treasure.
  • Am I wrong for mapping gas and brake to A and X respectively in Need For Speed Most Wanted? Just feels so much more comfortable.
  • For those not interested in playing Dishonotred the stealth way: http://youtu.be/H_vW55TsANA 
  • Pretty cool comic, though  a little late for Halloween: http://t.co/7o5zgj1m
  • More console games should have pre-order bonuses like Crysis 3http://t.co/Hdj7Akul Pre-order the game on any platform and get a code for a free copy of the original Crysis on that respective platform.
  • Nice interview with Yoshitaka Amano: http://t.co/SQx6yBd6
  • Europe needs to quit with these limited editions: http://flpbd.it/N5sfV
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