Over the past generation, it has been hard to be a Square Enix fan. With three installments in the controversial Final Fantasy XIII series that seemed very little asked for, the tease of a potential HD remake of Final Fantasy VII, no true Kingdom Hearts sequel, the very late Final Fantasy XV (once called Final Fantasy Versus XIII), and Eidos’ games being touted as “failures,” it has been difficult for both the company and its fan base.
On the other hand, the company’s visage in the public has been going upward ever since the announcements at E3 2013 of the much anticipated Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts III. As well as these two games coming soon, Square Enix has a new CEO, Yosuke Matsuda. Through adopting new business models, faster development times, and the new HD remasters, Square Enix is set for a comeback.
One of Square Enix’s major issues of this past generation are the extremely lengthy development cycles that their main games have taken. In the span of Final Fantasy XV‘s development, we have seen three Uncharted games released and one revealed, and all three previous titles have the highest production values, fantastic gameplay and a well written narrative. An RPG development house called Level-5 alone has also released 3 games, Ni No Kuni, White Knight Chronicles, and White Knight Chronicles 2. Other much anticipated games such as Final Fantasy XIII (which took 4 years to develop), Kingdom Hearts III (until recently was put on hold until XV was finished; it is now finally in development), and the penultimate version of Final Fantasy XIV (4 years of development) were also delayed for a long time. Despite this prolonged history, Yosuke Matsuda has boldly told Infoseek (via DualShockers) that Square Enix “need to establish a system that will meet the needs of our customers in a more timely manner [and] […] [the company has] to enact urgent changes.” Through a new CEO, Square Enix may be getting a new, quicker development system so consumers can receive their much anticipated products “in a more timely manner.”
Thankfully, products are now reaching customers in a more timely manner as Square Enix and their out sources have been creating the recent HD collections/remasterings such as Kingdom Hearts 1.5/2,5 HD Remixes, Tomb Raider: The Definitive Edition, and the upcoming Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster. Through these collections and remasters, the player base for each of their franchises will grow as potential fans for a series like Kingdom Hearts can play the games on their current generation systems for the first time (Personally, I have played the HD version of Shadow of the Colossus on the PS3 and it is one of my favorite games ever released despite its age). This also allows for more profits to come from previously developed projects but it also reignites a passion for franchises that have been stagnant in fans’ eyes for many years such as Final Fantasy.
The company has also suffered in the past to catch up with new trends as their development processes have taken too long. Yosuke Matsuda has further explained this detail with Infoseek as he states that (via VG24/7) “past gaming generation changes took roughly three to five years.” He further explains, “Nowadays, released titles are updated every day, and it only takes about three months for a situation to completely change.” He acknowledges that the “DNA of providing high content is in the company [and] […] [they] will continue to honor this, while changing what needs to be changed.” Many different platforms are now in the landscape of gaming with the rise of free-to-play models, independent studios, and next generation consoles as the scene changes almost day-by-day.
Square Enix have effectively responded to the indie movement through the Collective program, which establishes the publisher as the overseer while games are getting crowd funded on IndieGoGo. Through this process, backers can be sure that the development process of each indie game under the Collective is successful. Free-to-play has begun within Square Enix through the successful title, Wakfu (which has recently been crowdfunded for an animation series), and an altered version of their 3DS spinoff of the Final Fantasy series, Theatrythmn: Final Fantasy. Square Enix, as of recent, have been showing signs of finding new ways to reach different sections of the market and we, the gamers, are the ones who are benefiting from the company’s transitioning.
Previously, Square Enix bought Eidos, the company behind Tomb Raider, Hitman, and Deus Ex, and until lately, it felt like they were two completely different entities. For example, part of the Crystal Dynamics concept art team worked on the Agni’s Philosophy tech demo, and Lightning has just been shown off in a Lara Croft costume. While these two co-operations seem rather small, it is a good sign that the company is using their assets in a much smarter way than the past. Perhaps, we could see segments of the Western development teams work on the much delayed, Final Fantasy XV or even Kingdom Hearts III . In fact , when speaking to OXM of Eidos developers potentially creating a Final Fantasy entry, Lightning Returns game design director, Yuji Abe, stated that “if [they] find the right developers, the right people who really wanted to do it, and we had the right game, then yes, certainly we’d think about it.” Motomu Toriyama, the director of the series, added to Yuji Abe’s statement, that “the whole thing about the Final Fantasy series is that for every iteration, for every game we do, we have a very different game […] so the development team is also different very time, so that there’s different ideas and different concepts driving it.” Toriyama concluded, “Obviously within that framework, having a very different type of team could work.” Through the purchase of Eidos, Square Enix now has some top tier developers under their belt that can set them up for stronger development processes for Square Enix’s key titles and new successful Western titles.
Square Enix is ready to succeed in this upcoming generation with quicker development processes, HD collections/remasters, new business strategies (free to play, The Collective, etc), and Eidos’ top tier developers. As Yosuke Matsuda has spoken, the company do have the “DNA of providing high content” and this generation should be great for both the fans and the developers of Square Enix’s iconic franchises.