Square Enix has declined to bring Final Fantasy XV or Kingdom Hearts III to E3 this year. That isn’t a huge surprise since there is little evidence that either of these games are going as well as the developer says (year after year after year in the case of the former). Also if there is anything to show Square-Enix might wish to do so at the Tokyo Game Show instead.
I think this absence is a mistake. The last three Final Fantasys haven’t exactly been up to snuff so it might help mollify the masses to update them on the progress of FFXV being that it has been in development for 14 years now. The fact that this information won’t be forthcoming at least at an American event leaves us to again wonder what is going on at Square-Enix from a big picture perspective.
Anything with the name Squaresoft on it used to be worth a purchase, but since they merged with Enix and became a bigger publisher than developer we’ve seen some weird moves. It seems as though they made every effort possible to drive their profits down, and indeed the company went heavily into decline during the PS3/360 console generation. What we are left wondering is if the company will be able to somehow turn things around for the new generation.
Final Fantasy degradation aside, I don’t see many smart moves coming out of Square-Enix on any front, the absence at E3 is just a tiny piece of it.
Murdered: Soul Suspect has recently released. It was an ambitious project from Airtight Games that people seem to agree is good but troubled. I would say the same is true of Drakengard 3, an action/RPG. Both of those games hold a 61 Metacritic score and both are published by Square-Enix. Sure every publisher puts out some rough games but folks are looking for consistency. SE’s other properties like Tomb Raider and Deus Ex are currently beyond reproach, but they are also expensive to produce. That leaves us with three main parts to this company: the out of touch developer, the out of touch publisher, and the hands off publisher. The hands off approach is only working for two franchises right now but that is because those developers are already on the ball. A good publisher should keep some quality assurance in the projects they fund so they don’t end up putting their name all over an unfinished product. I’m almost done with Drakengard 3 right now and I can assure you than with another year of development it would have been a real gem. I’m sensing the same is true of Murdered: Soul Suspect.
There was an outcry when Tomb Raider was updated and resold at full cost for the next generation, but in truth it took that to get the game to finally turn a profit. SE was seen often bemoaning the fact that it didn’t sell as much as they’d hoped even though we all knew it did damn well for a reboot. What SE didn’t seem to realize was the cost that goes into the first game is meant to set up a franchise. Can Murdered become a franchise now? I’d be shocked if it did. Drakengard’s cousin Nier could have used a lot of polish as well but it was a great game which we should be enjoying the sequel to by now. And maybe we could be if SE weren’t so…absent.
It isn’t all questionable news surrounding SE though, we have shades of hope now and then. Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD was a triumph and its success might even have reached the people who make games at Square Enix because they did recently admit their western appealing approach might not be working. They even cited Bravely Default as proof, and rightly so.
What it all boils down to is that those of us who were big fans of their work and the work they chose to collaborate on are looking for any reason we can to hope for a legitimate turnaround for the company in this new generation. After meditating on these things though, I can’t say we should yet feel encouraged.