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Square Enix’s new president plans ‘fundamental review’ of publisher’s business

Wednesday, 3rd April 2013 02:49 GMT By Brenna Hillier

Square Enix’s new president takes up his duties in June, and his first order of business will be to take a good, long look at the publisher to find out why it’s not making money – despite holding some of the most celebrated brands in the industry.

At a financial briefing, as translated by Siliconera, the newly-appointed Yosuke Matsuda told investors he’s keen to assess Square Enix in light of the changing face of the industry.

“After having succeeded the important role as the president, I plan on reviewing all Square Enix duties, business and assets on a zero-based budgeting standpoint. Due to the radical change of environment, I’d like to fundamentally review what works and what doesn’t work for our company, then cast all of our resources towards extending what makes us successful and thoroughly squeezing out what doesn’t,” he said.

“As far as a concrete plan on what to expect from us, I will further explain it on another briefing session in the near future, so I kindly ask for your patience. Thank you for your support.”

This is a little nerve-wracking for traditional triple-A game fans as it has become apparent that Square Enix’s big-budget western games – Tomb Raider, Sleeping Dogs and Hitman: Absolution – have not met expectations, despite warm critical receptions and strong sales. What does make money, according to financial disclosures over the last few years, are domestic-only titles on smartphones and web, something most western fans have little access to or interest in.

Matsuda’s comments suggest square may double down on these new business and let its traditional development plans slide. It’s a very different message from that delivered by former president Yoichi Wada in a 2011 Tokyo Game Show keynote; at the time, the veteran executive said that new businesses were not squeezing out old ones, just expanding opportunities.

But capitalism is dominant and investors no doubt want a slice or six of the enormous new business pie, plus an actual return rather than “extraordinary losses”. Wada, who announced his resignation as president last month, said he’d stay on at Square Enix in an unspecified role, almost as a kind of penance.

“As an employee, I believe it is my duty to help the company and give proper results from it. I will be retiring from the line of management, but I plan to work on site as a way to pay my debt to the company,” he said.

Square Enix has said it doesn’t expect to make money on console games for at least two years, partially due to the generation shift and its heavy investment in next-gen tech such as the Luminous engine.

The publisher is believed to have a large number of unannounced console titles in the works, including a brand new Final Fantasy for PlayStation 4, which will be revealed at E3 2013.

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24 Comments

  1. salarta

    While I’m not trying to cast doubt (at least currently) on what Yoichi Wada gives as his reasons for continuing on at the company in a lesser role, I do feel I need to mention that I’m not sure if he would have many other options in the first place. He was president of the whole company, and after a decade working at Squeenix in that capacity, it’s clear his resignation comes at least in some part from his capabilities being called into question. With his reputation damaged by these recent events, other companies may shrink from hiring him if he wanted to pursue his career elsewhere.

    I wish I could say that these comments from Matsuda could give me hope that all the terrible developments I’ve seen happen at Squeenix would be undone, and the company would steer its way back on the right path. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough faith in the company anymore. They always learn the wrong lessons from mistakes they make, and they never try to do right by their existing IPs and fans when they make a severe misstep. Several of their employees, mostly Toriyama, have openly lied about and misrepresented their creations to try and make people buy them. It’s hard for me to see a future Squeenix where their employees love and respect their IPs and their fans, and where quality is more important than deceiving and manipulating people into buying what are essentially little more than officially sanctioned fangames based on the selfish wet dreams of the people behind them.

    The last time Squaresoft had a financial problem brought about by the same root causes as this time around, they responded by doubling down on the very same things that caused their ruin.

    #1 1 year ago
  2. Zohar

    All SE has to do is stop taking nearly a decade to produce a single game while stringing fans along with empty promises and vaporware. All the while, tripling down on a single entry in the series that most western fans consider to be one of, if not the, worst of them.

    Stop squandering the FF franchise. Produce good games. Give passionate, visionary and creative people the lead on projects and stop relying on FF to be a golden goose that will haul in enough money to prop up an entire company. Fans WILL eventually catch on and stop buying something just because it says “Final Fantasy” on the box.

    #1 Agreed 100%

    #2 1 year ago
  3. ActionGameKing

    I have 3 steps to fix this company’s problems:-

    1.Square Enix, just release FF Versus XIII for PS3. If it isn’t finished, release it as Part 1. It will print paper.

    2.Announce FF7 Remake and actually release it within 2-3 years of announcing. It will print paper.

    3.Announce Kingdom Hearts 3 and actually release it within 2-3 years of announcing. All financial problems solved.

    I cannot believe they’ve fucked up their own brands so much for the entire generation. Is no-one keeping track of how over-budget their games have become? It’s not rocket science, just release the games you announced and stop wasting money. I’ve been waiting for FF:Versus since I was 15…I’m now in my 20′s.. WTF…like…wtf! Sigh….Rant over

    #3 1 year ago
  4. salarta

    @3: I think Versus is going to turn into the new Duke Nukem Forever.

    I used to think that Squeenix did have a plan for remaking FF7, that they would use it as a last resort to revive interest in the company and their products once their soulless whoring and ruination of once great IPs reached the inevitable end point of people no longer caring. But after several years thinking this, I realized it’s far more likely that Squeenix is purposely avoiding ever making a remake, yet continuing to taunt the idea of openness to making one under the right conditions, because there’s too much risk. FF7 is THE Squeenix game. It ascended status from video game to icon, something that people actually look up to, admire, hold sacred.

    The game was an inspiration for a lot of people… so to completely screw THAT up would be guaranteed death of the company. It would break the spell of blind fandom for a lot of people, get them to actually think for five seconds about what they’re buying and why for future purchases. I know from personal experience with FFX-2: once a game breaks you from the spell of blind faith, you become aware of terrible flaws and become less and less willing to accept it when bad things are done to good IPs and characters.

    I think this is also why Wada wanted to turn FF13 into a repeat of FF7′s success. If the company could get FF13 to be as popular and revered as FF7, they’d have two major memorable Final Fantasy IPs to work with, and so they would have the freedom to dick around with FF7 more than they already have.

    #4 1 year ago
  5. redwood

    they ought to make a final fantasy shooter or an FPS.

    #5 1 year ago
  6. dtyk

    1. Don’t spend a decade to make each game
    2. Don’t rush release a game and end up having to remake it after losing consumer confidence
    3. Release new main Kingdom Hearts
    4. ????
    =
    Profit?

    The “need to review” is blowing my common sense

    #6 1 year ago
  7. Clupula

    Seriously, though, remaking FFVII would be the absolute best thing they could possibly do. I know so many younger people who saw Advent Children and loved it, that want to play the original game but don’t want to deal with the graphics of the PS1 original. It’s a no brainer and anyone but Wada would have understood that.

    I miss when the company used to take chances and did awesome things like X-2. I remember all the little boys who never venture out of their mom’s basements getting their panties in a bunch over that one and it made the first Final Fantasy I bought, day one, just to spite them. And it ended up having the absolute best battle system in the entire series.

    Seriously, though, release Versus XIII on PS3 (not PS4), put out a Kingdom Hearts 2.5 Collection with Birth by Sleep, 2, and 3D, announced KH3, and remake FFVII. That is how you make money.

    And make sure that FFXV is exclusive to PS4. That sort of loyalty carries over to sales. I remember during the PS1 days, all a game needed was the Square logo and I’d buy it.

    Oh, and while you’re at it, make PS3 versions of The Third Birthday, Type-0, and Dissidia.

    #7 1 year ago
  8. Clupula

    @5 – Already did. It was called Dirge of Cerberus. It sucked.

    #8 1 year ago
  9. salarta

    @5: That’s basically what The Spirits Within could be if continued as a video game. No need to try to completely reinterpret the series into something it’s not meant to be as the industry has been doing to every IP out there (and which already happened to an extent with FF13, and definitely happened with both FFX-2 and 3rd Birthday). Only downside is that since a The Spirits Within game would have to be a prequel, I can’t imagine Aki Ross managing to play much of a role.

    #9 1 year ago
  10. redwood

    @8 sorry .. let me rephrase “they ought to make a GOOD final fantasy shooter or an FPS with multiplayer” , maybe hire platinum games to make one for ‘em :D

    #10 1 year ago
  11. The_Red

    I think the expected sales for western games like Tomb Raider are like red herring. The biggest failure and the real reason Square was crushed was the fall of FF as a brand.

    FF13 sold decently but it was not good enough for a multiplatform next-gen FF on both PS3 and 360. Fans didn’t really like it and things only got worse with 13-2. To top it off, they RUINED their next, numbered sequel (FF14). It failed as a MMO and it failed as a FF game. The cost of original plus the “Realm Reborn” or something as the relaunch didn’t help and in the end, became the worst FF game in commercial terms.

    That part is kinda like EA. While a lot of things attributed to JR’s departure, it was failure of a super expensive MMO (SW: The Old Republic).

    #11 1 year ago
  12. salarta

    FF13 sold about the same as the new Tomb Raider did, possibly more.

    #12 1 year ago
  13. Clupula

    Actually, FFXIII sold around 9 million something, last time I checked. With about 70% of that on the PS3.

    #13 1 year ago
  14. Ajsman

    Well I’m glad I have my share in their failure. I know at lest 15-20 ppl who didn’t buy Absolution even for 9$ just because I said the game sucks. Its not much, but every bit counts. And I’m proud of it.

    #14 1 year ago
  15. Gheritt White

    ^What a shower of cunts.

    #15 1 year ago
  16. Lengendaryboss

    ^ Wow its so nice too see humanity in all of you, you know not cheapness or pettiness.

    #16 1 year ago
  17. Da Man

    Stop making tasteless bullshit anime.

    Refrain from terrible voiceovers.

    Refrain from turn based combat.

    If only these guys would follow these simple rules, they have to understand that demented hardcore is in the minority.

    #17 1 year ago
  18. Gnosis

    I don’t think that releasing FFVII remake, Versus etc will miraculously make all the problems go away. It’s not that easy. SE’s problem are not bad selling numbers, but bad management. They put way too much money into their games. Versus and the remake will fail in the same way the previous games did, if managed and developed in the same way. I kinda get the feeling that they are not able to find the optimal balance. How much money to put in a game to make it worth it even without astronomical expectations.

    #18 1 year ago
  19. zinc

    Well I don’t think spending 2 years remaking FF7 will help them out right now. What they need to do & will do, is…

    Find Philosophers Stone.

    Make gold & live forever.

    Failing that, I reckon they’ll dump some studios, sell an ip or two & focus on the mobile market :-(

    #19 1 year ago
  20. Deacon

    @18 +1

    SQenix hurrying and pushing out the specific titles that a score of eager ‘once’-fans crave isn’t going to do a god damn thing to turn it around. It would be detrimental if anything. I get so damn tired of all the ‘remake FFVII’ or ‘wheres Versus’ comments on ANY SQenix-related articles… without any of these fuckers really thinking about what that would even take or mean.

    I’m afraid even the wise (and well-versed in SQenix games) Da Man doesn’t really get it. Shocking.

    It’s not that their games are shit of late. Sure, they’re not what they once were. It’s more like #18 said, imo.

    Imagine if out of the blue one day, Sakaguchi came back :)

    #20 1 year ago
  21. Da Man

    That’s right.

    I don’t get how someone as clever and educated as Dickon can enjoy what is essentially a tacky anime for insecure kids. With a pseudointelligent turn-based combat. And an equally tacky 3 second midi-loop by teh Uematsu.

    #21 1 year ago
  22. Gnosis

    @20 Sakaguchi won’t change anything. It’s the same mistaken way of thinking that changing one single person will change the whole company. If anything, he actually has proven that one single name does not stand for a AAA game. Both Lost Odyssey and Blue Dragon were imo rather mediocre. SE needs to change their development strategy to make money.

    #22 1 year ago
  23. Deacon

    Can’t comment on Blue Dragon, but Lost Odyssey is far from mediocre! It’s got more heart and sense than XIII and XIII-2 put together (and I still rather enjoyed those).

    I was sort of joking about Sakaguchi anyway… it fucks me off when people rant about the auto-battles in XIII, but aren’t willing to try or don’t like the more traditional way that Lost Odyssey does it. Just what IS IT you want?!

    #23 1 year ago
  24. OlderGamer

    Imo, Blue Dragon was good too.

    I think what SQE should be doing is focusing on handhelds. Not iOS/Android, just 3DS/Vita. Sell off their western interests. And just supply asian games to an asian market. JPN loves handhelds. Dev costs are less, time to market is less, and I think the return on investment could easily prop them up.

    I know some folks love jRPGs. I used to. I still tinker with them here and there. But DQ can’t compete with the Elder Scrolls games. FF isn’t going to dethrone WoW. At some point, I think they would benift from understanding this. Older NES/SNES, even PSx/PS2 jRPGs didn’t have much in the way of console competition. But today they do. And while the western markets are huge, they are … well, rather western.

    Back in older days, when I was playing Dragon Warrior(DQ) on my NES, I couldn’t really tell that the char had blue hair, was a teenager, he didn’t have a grating voice over, and there was only so much drama that could be packed into a NES Cart. With todays vast tools for developing, the problem to some degree becomes one of culture clash. Alot of jRPGs are so Japaness they turn people off. They just don’t draw gamers the sameway they used to. Plus the gameplay hasn’t evolved much either.

    But SQE doesn’t seem to understand that.

    I think there is a market for these things. But a FF release, in the west, isn’t the big deal it used to be. Skyrim, even Boarderlands are much bigger launches.

    Ofc, SQE is more then just jRPGs these days. And it is hard to call a game that sells a few million a failure. The failure isn’t so much in th egame, I don’t think, but in the managment and biz model side of things that allow for a multi million seller to not make money. Like some of you folks have said.

    #24 1 year ago

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