Years of ‘broadening the demographic’ have not fared too well for Japanese developer and publisher Square. The company was traditionally known for crafting role-playing games, and setting the bar while they were at it. Most entries in the Final Fantasy series remain global icons, even though they were originally conceived as Japanese games.
But in 2003, Square merged with Enix - another major Japanese company - and the games they published were far departures from their traditional formula. Square Enix’s president, Yosuke Matsuda recently admitted to Japanese tech site Nikkei Trendy that the company’s business tactics have not been very successful in recent years.
In 2010, Square Enix published Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days - a violent, gritty shooter that went against what consumers generally expected from the company. It didn’t sell particularly well, due in no small part to...well, it sucked. Bad games lose a company money; Square Enix has had financial difficulty in the past few years.
So what makes money? Games like ‘Bravely Default,’ a Japanese-styled RPG published on the Nintendo 3DS. Matsuda believes Bravely Default has “all the proper elements” of a Japanese RPG; the success of that title has convinced Matsuda that his company should focus on creating content for their core audience - “heavy JRPG fans,” as he called them.
Square Enix’s goal has been to widen their appeal by widening the kind of games they produce, to little global success. Bravely Default is exactly the kind of Japanese style game they’re originally known for; yet half of the game’s sales are in the European and North American markets. If Matsuda is right, we’re going to see more games like it.
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And I for one welcome the return to form.