Square Enix president Yosuke Matsuda has expressed his desire to see the company focusing on core gamers and titles moving forward. He has cited the success of Bravely Default as inspiration for the change, and has suggested that attempts to make Hitman: Absolution more globally appealing is what caused developer IO Interactive to struggle.
Speaking with Nikkei Trendy, Matsuda said, "In the past, when we developed console games with a worldwide premise, we lost our focus, and not only did they end up being games that weren’t for the Japanese, but they ended up being incomplete titles that weren’t even fit for a global audience
“On the other hand, there are games like the JRPG we made for the Japanese audience with the proper elements, Bravely Default, which ended up selling well all around the world.”
The success of Silicon Studio's Bravely Default has inspired Matsuda to look at the core fan base and the appeal of globally-minded releases once more. He went on, "Due to having split [the development mindset] according to regions around the world, we weren’t able to see this clearly up until now, but fans of JRPGs are really spread around the world.
"Through the means of various networks, the latest information that is announced in Japan is instantaneously being spread across fans throughout the world. Whether it’s North America, Europe, or South America. There really isn’t much of a gap [in the relay of information].
“With that in mind, and all of the collective fans, there’s a sense of mass, which loses the image of a niche market. For the new games we’ll be developing from this point on, while this may sound a bit extreme, we’ve been talking about making them as heavy JRPGs. I believe that way, we can better focus on our target, which will also bring better results.”
Matsuda admitted that through 2013, Square Enix released some games that struggled, perhaps as a result of attempts to make them more universally appealing, while turning backs to the core. Hitman: Absolution - he felt - was one of those games.
"The development team for Hitman: Absolution really struggled in this regard," he recalled. "They implemented a vast amount of ‘elements for the mass’ instead of for the core fans, as a way to try getting as many new players possible. It was a strategy to gain mass appeal. However, what makes the Hitman series good is its appeal to core gamers, and many fans felt the lack of focus in that regard, which ended up making it struggle in sales.”
“So, as for the AAA titles we’re currently developing for series, we basically want to go back to their roots and focus on the core audience, while working hard on content that can have fans say things like ‘this is the Hitman, we know’. I believe that is the best way for our development studios to display their strengths.”