Dear Square-Enix: Your Fans Miss You
We've all addressed the subject - in one form or another - when Final Fantasy XIII launched - but I don't think it really hit home until I wrote that article about Square-Enix's new Extreme Edges label. Plus, it's something that Arnold and I spoke briefly about on IM last night.
Comparing the old Squaresoft to the new Square-Enix is a long, exhausting process that is often fraught with personal bias and the decision to ignore changing market trends. We are gamers and journalists; we are not big business executives and the last time I checked, a company as large as Square-Enix most likely has some very talented and capable individuals in its employ. They don't make decisions at random. They don't go out of their way to annoy people. To believe any of that is just the bitterness talking, and we have to concede that Square-Enix's business practices are, for the most part, beyond our inexperienced critique. Therefore, we can only view this from a fan standpoint, right? But even when we do that, we seem to come to the same conclusion: that Square-Enix has somehow managed to alienate many of its long-time hardcore fans.
Yes, many Japanese companies have desperately been trying to expand westward and appeal to North American and European audiences; hence, the significant change in gameplay and style in certain big-name titles (like FFXIII). But at what point did those who made so many Squaresoft gems successes in all parts of the world stop playing games? At what point did all their preferences and opinions shift gears? It'd be one thing if Square-Enix - and other Japanese designers - continued to make games in the style their fans recognize and love, along with some new projects. But it almost seems as if they've entirely abandoned any and all "old" formulas and rushed into the more-action, less-strategy realm. I suppose, as a Western gamer, I should take offense to this, as it essentially insinuates that we're just plain...dumber. If you look at Square-Enix's adjustments, you will see how Japan views this audience: as a group dominated by action and FPS fans who can't sit still for two and a half seconds.
But again, this would almost be understandable if they had simply branched out. But they didn't branch out. They overhauled their entire approach. The only conclusion one can reach is that they honestly do believe that the millions of gamers who rewarded them for their JRPGs in the PlayStation era really want something "new and improved." Their idea is that nobody wants turn-based. Nobody wants traditional. Nobody wants anything they've ever seen before because we Westerners are just too impatient. But is this right? Do the sales reflect this belief? I'm not sure they do...and while I'm also not sure there are enough of us left to warrant something like a Final Fantasy VII remake, I refuse to believe we've all changed. But then again, maybe they don't care. Maybe they're going after a different demographic...but isn't that still turning your back on those who loved you to pieces at one point?
I just don't know. I know we can't get Squaresoft back. I know few want turn-based or other traditional RPG themes to return. But I wonder how "few" there really are, that's all.
4/27/2010 9:26:16 PM Ben Dutka