Soapbox: Sq. Enix’s “Extraordinary Losses” And This Complete Xbox Mess Have Me Scared For The Future

Soapbox: Sq. Enix’s “Extraordinary Losses” And This Complete Xbox Mess Have Me Scared For The Future
Soapbox: Square Enix's
Picture: Nintendo Life

Soapbox options allow our particular person writers and contributors to voice their opinions on sizzling subjects and random stuff they have been chewing over. At present, Alana fears for Sq. Enix’s smaller-budget titles and is apprehensive about the remainder of the trade consequently.

What on earth is happening with Sq. Enix?

I asked that question about a year and a half ago when the Japanese writer and developer was firing on all cylinders, releasing a big quantity of video games in a brief span. So again in February 2024 when President Takashi Kiryu stated that the corporate would be overhauling how it makes games, “reviewing from scratch what the organizational construction is to embody the contents of the pipeline, and what’s greatest,” I wasn’t stunned. Disenchanted? Perhaps.

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Come April thirtieth, the company announces that it “expects to acknowledge roughly ¥22.1 billion in content material abandonment losses.” That is $140 million down the drain simply from reorganising construction, cancelling initiatives, and decreasing the quantity of outsourcing. When Final Fantasy VII Rebirth — arguably the developer’s tentpole launch of the yr — is underperforming, one thing is happening.

That feeling of disappointment is again, but it surely’s extra than simply that this time round — I am apprehensive. Absolutely, even with its massive tentpole franchises promoting beneath expectations, Sq. Enix desires to give attention to these massive names: Last Fantasy, Dragon Quest (which goes by means of its personal issues, together with a delay to Dragon Quest XII, and the lead producer reportedly “stepping down”), and Kingdom Hearts. I like all of these sequence to various levels, however I do not need a homogenised sport developer who solely makes ‘big-budget’ video video games.

I do not need a homogenised sport developer who solely makes “big-budget” video video games

It is a lot the identical story throughout the complete trade. This sense of concern ramped up tenfold this week after Xbox announced it was shuttering Arkane Austin, Alpha Canine Studios, and Tango Gameworks — the latter of which made certainly one of 2023’s greatest video games in Hi-Fi Rush. Apparently, it would not matter if a sport is nice, and even profitable, in any case. And whereas Hello-Fi Rush (and Arkane’s Redfall, which did disappoint) are seemingly higher-budget than say, an Octopath Traveler, they’re nonetheless exterior of Xbox’s ‘core’ video games, no matter they’re.

So what does “content material abandonment losses” imply, precisely? Basically, writing off the funding into now-axed initiatives. However what smaller initiatives will probably be getting the chop? I certain hope these NFT initiatives are within the firing line, no less than.

SaGa Emerald Beyond Screenshot
We want video games like SaGa Emerald Past — Picture: Sq. Enix

Wanting again over the previous few years, Sq. Enix has been busy reviving a few of its extra obscure franchises. Star Ocean made a return due to Star Ocean: The Divine Force and the wonderful Star Ocean: The Second Story R. The previous reportedly bombed throughout its opening week in Japan, and the latter bought over 500k copies in its first week. This has been a franchise in flux following Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness (which I didn’t take pleasure in in any respect), so it is felt like the way forward for this franchise has been unsure for a very long time.

One other recently-returned sequence is SaGa. A mix of remasters like SaGa Frontier Remastered and brand-new video games similar to SaGa Emerald Beyond have helped revive certainly one of Sq. Enix’s strangest properties. It is nonetheless too early to say something about Emerald Past, however in 2021, SE reported that SaGa rerelease gross sales “exceeded expectations.” They are not big sellers, and so they undoubtedly work on a decrease price range, however hopefully they’re doing sufficient. I may not adore each sport in that sequence — although I’ll shill for SaGa Scarlet Grace — however I would hate to see Sq. Enix trash one thing that feels wholly its personal factor.

I would hate to see Sq. Enix trash one thing that feels wholly its personal factor.

One in all my greatest worries is with certainly one of Sq. Enix’s latest sequence, Octopath Traveler. I actually preferred the primary sport, then Octopath Traveler II waltzed in and have become certainly one of my favorite RPGs of all time. The cellular sport is outwardly first rate, too. The primary sport bought one million copies in three weeks — fairly darn good for a brand new IP. As of September 2022, it has bought over three million units. The sequel sold one million copies as of June 2023, 4 months after it was launched… and we have heard nothing since. It additionally launched multiplatform from day one, versus the initially Swap-exclusive first sport. A million is an efficient quantity. An excellent quantity. However is that adequate for Sq. Enix at the moment?

Admittedly, Octopath Traveler II got here out after a yr filled with HD-2D — Triangle Strategy and the Live A Live remake each dropped in 2022, each utilizing these beautiful pixel artwork visuals. Triangle Technique admittedly is rather more area of interest than a turn-based RPG, and it managed to shift one million copies by the end of 2022, whereas Stay A Stay amassed 500k sales on Switch as of September 2022. Not earth-shattering numbers in any respect, however fairly notable.

To the typical participant, seeing Octopath Traveler II — the third HD-2D sport in 12 months — would possibly trigger some fatigue. But when Octopath and these HD-2D initiatives fall underneath that ‘smaller’ mission umbrella — regardless of Tomoya Asano saying that the art style “costs more than you think” — is that this the tip of larger studios utilizing pixel artwork visuals? I actually hope not.

Octopath Traveler II Screenshot
HD-2D fatigue? Not from me — Picture: Sq. Enix

Video games like Harvestella or Paranormasight may not have the broad attraction that the model of Last Fantasy has these days, however the gaming world can be much more boring with out them. Harvestella would possibly observe within the footsteps of Rune Manufacturing unit, however for Sq. Enix to dip its toe into a special sub-genre was enjoyable to see play out. And Paranormasight, developed by indie studio Xeen, felt like a really distinctive horror visible novel. but it surely obtained hardly any advertising and marketing within the West, solely being introduced throughout a Japanese Nintendo Direct. And now the ‘sequel’ will be in the form of a comic.

And I feel that is simply one of many massive issues which have precipitated Sq. Enix to put up these “extraordinary losses.” Advertising and marketing wants to be higher for these smaller titles. This big writer places out one of many higher visible novels lately and it basically evaporates into the ether? It obtained extraordinarily good word-of-mouth, however that does not appear to have performed a lot.

Secondly, project-wise, Sq. Enix simply threw every little thing on the wall, did not it? The developer launched method too many video games between 2021 and 2024. Final Fantasy XIV nonetheless continues to be the corporate’s greatest moneymaker, with Endwalker being an enormous hit. However even mainline video games like Final Fantasy XVI and, extra lately, VII Rebirth, undergo due to the glut of releases, sport launch delays as a consequence of COVID, and the truth that they’re locked to a single console. Regarding that glut — from Dragon Quest Treasures to Infinity Strash, the Pixel Remasters to Crisis Core, Tactics Ogre: Reborn to Minstrel Song, that is loads to launch over the course of a few years. I am cherry-picking, too. And I do know these are all created from totally different growth studios inside Sq. Enix, however there must be some knock-on impact sooner or later.

Paranormasight Screenshot
When will we see one other sport like Paranormasight?

And it looks like “content material abandonment losses” is that knock-on impact. We’ll lose these bizarre dangers that Sq. Enix generally takes, and spreadsheet figures would possibly be higher for it. However the richness of the online game trade and the tradition it feeds will probably be diluted consequently, because it has been with the closure of studios like Tango Gameworks, Paladins, and the massive layoffs at Embracer. AAA video games are needed, sure, however so are smaller video games.

I wish to see extra than simply crowd-pleasers come out of a giant developer.

After all, I am speculating right here, however as a lot as I like Last Fantasy (I confess that Rebirth is most likely going to be my GOTY, until Silksong decides to make an look), I additionally love video games that take a danger, that really feel totally different, and that dip a toe in experimental waters. Whether or not that is altering up the artwork fashion, taking place a special style route than anticipated, or just taking a punt on a small studio, I wish to see extra than simply predictable crowd-pleasers come out of huge firms. It is a part of what has drawn me to Sq. Enix, and different builders, over time.

I perceive that, on the finish of the day, this trade — like most — is all about earning profits. However video video games are numerous, enjoyable, attention-grabbing, creative, and various. I do not wish to see larger studios quit on ‘mid-budget’ video games. We’ll lose that extra human contact that selection and creativity offers us.

NFT video games, although? Get outta right here. What do you consider Sq. Enix’s technique? Tell us down beneath.

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