So I read that Square Enix’s senior executive managing director Yosuke Matsuda talked on about the crowd funding site Kickstarter and the Steam Greenlight Community in a publisher’s earning call. It was mentioned that they (Kickstarter and Steam Greenlight) were the way to go for the future of developing and marketing games. The company (Square Enix) posted an expected loss of $148 million for the previous fiscal year (2012) primarily attributed to extraordinary costs and under-performing “hit titles” such as Tomb Raider, Hitman: Absolution, and a personal favorite of mine, Sleeping Dogs. I have to point out that in spite of selling millions of copies, they were still considered under-performing might also point out what they’re doing wrong in at least the marketing department of these games. Aside from those, I also have to call out bad business practices with their recent Final Fantasy titles:
The colossal flop and notorious vaporware are Final Fantasy XIV and the possibly defunct Final Fantasy XIII Versus. The first title (Final Fantasy XIV) gained notoriety over 2 years ago by being the major Final Fantasy flop and fell into obscurity by being a critical disaster, having a delayed console port with a major apology from Square Enix, and then relaunched this year after a possibly grueling and costly redevelopment process. It still baffles me to this day how the original Final Fantasy XIV could have gotten the green light and was developed to become one of the worse high-profile game launches in years. Only the hardest of core Final Fantasy fans will find this remotely relevant now as normal people would have moved on with their lives. I for one am satisfied with Lightning and the Final Fantasy XIII series. Yes, the characters (except Lightning, my waifu) pretty much suck ass especially her sister Serah, but the combat system is a damn fine tuned beast for people who like turn-based games.
Then we’ve got Final Fantasy XIII: Versus, seven years in the making with barely any updates and is surrounded with rumors of re-branding, re-development for the PS4 and what-not. It’s one of the top titles in my vaporware list because the studio doing it and the publisher couldn’t be straight up about the game’s development process and progress. What you have was such a big hype and absolutely nothing to show for it. I know they have other games, I mentioned it in the first paragraph. But fact of the matter is, Square Enix is Final Fantasy always was, and always will be. Other titles can pick up slack in some way yet if their main product, the Final Fantasy numbers suck ass, you know they’re in trouble.
While I certainly agree that Kickstarter and the Steam Greenlight community is a good way for developers to reach out to potential customers, the above mentioned titles among other things are the reasons why I believe a huge company such as Square Enix doesn’t belong there. For one, they (Square Enix) have the resources (always had) but never did they or any major publisher actually made any initiative or effort to reach out and be more transparent to consumers in the current console cycle or before that in their development of games.
I’m not saying they can’t do crowd funding, what I’m saying is they should stay away from sites like Kickstarter, and even the Steam Greenlight community. These guys have reach and resources to get their product advertised to the end users. Independent game developers, no matter how talented they are, don’t have the same amount of resources. As a matter of fact, you’ll need a big name like Brian Fargo to strike critical success with crowd funding. No offense against the man, but that’s just how it is. The guy’s game was published, people liked it, he disappeared, came back as an independent but was appreciated for his commercial success through a game publisher.
Major game publishers have erred in one way or another in this console cycle and I don’t believe any of them will actually get a better rep when they start jumping on the crowd funding and people input-oriented roles they have chose to ignore for the past decade or more. None of them deserves a free pass now or even in the next generation. There are many things big gaming companies can learn from emerging and successful independent game developers. Square Enix seems to be riding on this line of thought or making us think that way, now let’s see if they will actually put their money where there mouth is at and change their ways.