Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Letter to Square Enix

Dear Square Enix,
My name is Lee, and I am an American fan of your company. I grew up playing your amazing games like Final Fantasy 6, Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy 7, and the Dragon Quest series. These days I continue to hear troubling news concerning your company's earnings and the shock waves this is causing for your investors and fans. What happened?
As a person who studies the gaming industry and trends as a whole, all signs seems to point toward delivering undesirable sequels like Final Fantasy 14 or lackluster new intellectual properties like The Last Remnant simply because there is a level of nativity concerning modern game development on the level of the captain of the Titanic believing his ship was unsinkable. Westerners and outspoken Japanese developers cite a general level of stubbornness in Japan's gaming industry toward innovation or the idea of allowing younger employees to head up design teams. This isn't Square Enix's problem alone, however as a person who believes in your company, I would like to provide some insight into how you could turn things around.
First let us examine some recent failures and why they occurred:
  • Final Fantasy 14 changed almost everything that fans loved about Final Fantasy 11. This was completely unnecessary. There is an old American saying: “If it's not broke, then don't fix it” which basically means for an online MMORPG, fans really only expect better graphics, great music, and expansions that create new level caps, create new quests, and possibly new classes.
  • The Last Remnant was designed with a look and feel that Westerners would embrace, but then it failed miserably. Square Enix needs to truly study Western RPGs that have done well such as Mass Effect and Dragon Age, and understand what makes them great. How can you hope to rival these games without understanding their approach to story telling? The answer is simple: You cannot.
  • Chrono Trigger did not sell well on Nintendo DS, and many speculate that this is the reason there has been no sequel announced. Many fans hold a special nostalgia for Chrono Trigger. However, it was re-released as a straight port of the SNES game with an added dungeon tacked on. Many younger gamers never played the original game, therefore they do not hold any nostalgia for Chrono Trigger. To draw them in, updated graphics should have been added. Also the original price point was an insult to fans when most Nintendo DS games were selling for less at that point in time.
  • Gun Loco was canceled, which was a good move. However, this game should have never been “green-lighted” in the first place. The character designs looked really bizarre and the game play shown really speaks to the fact that Square Enix seems almost oblivious to what fans truly want to play.

    Now that we have examined some reasons that Square Enix is doing poorly these days, allow me to suggest a few ways your company could improve their fiscal results and once again become a leader in the gaming industry:
  • Announce a sequel to Chrono Trigger, and assemble the design team behind the original game. This will take some work on your part, but fans and the gaming press will love you. Your company could use the positive press, and this announcement could go a long way toward restoring your credibility among your investors and your customers.
  • Speed up production on Final Fantasy XIII Versus, Dragon Quest X, and all future titles. Waiting five years for a game is really starting to annoy your fans, especially when developers like Bioware and Epic Games can create incredible sequels in half that time period.
  • Work hard to understand next-gen systems. Also do not over-specialize your employees in one specific area. Over-specializing only breeds weakness.
  • Give your younger talent a chance to shine, as they are aware of what modern consumers want from your products. Everyone loves Nomura Tetsuya's work, but it is getting ridiculous that he is still Square Enix's “young talent” when he achieved fame thirteen years ago with Final Fantasy 7. Every gamer remembers Square and Enix's golden years in the 1990s. These golden years were the product of young men with high aspirations. Allow young men's dreams to revive your company.
  • Collaborate with Vanillaware on a 2-D RPG. This will please your hardcore fans, especially if it is a direct sequel to Final Fantasy Tactics. Also try collaborating with a Western developer like Rockstar on a future title, this could avoid another mess like Gun Loco.
  • Pachinko games, cellphone games, and social network games will not save Square Enix, they will only delay the inevitable collapse.
I have poured my heart into each and every suggestion that I have given in this letter. I sincerely hope that Square Enix rebounds and becomes a shining beacon of hope for the Japanese gaming industry. I will continue to support your products and I deeply appreciate you taking the time to read this letter. Please do not take my criticism too harshly as it merely comes from a concerned fan with the best of intentions.

I wish you the best!

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