Square Enix, 2015, and a New Era of (Mobile?) Gaming.

There’s something I’ve been personally averting my eyes to. It’s been sitting there in the back of my head, tinkering away. Why am I trying so hard to fight it? You see, I grew up in great era of storytelling and adventure, and there’s a lot of nostalgia value for me in those stories. Console RPGs have all had one thing in common. I sit in front of a TV, controller in hands, completely immersed in my imagination, and the game. You have too, haven’t you? Having experienced countless hours of grinding and saving the world this way, I just thought that the mainstream RPG experience would always be this way, but is that backwards thinking?

There’s a lot of reasons that Square has recently been looking at mobile gaming with a lot more seriousness. In September of 2014 with an interview with Kotaku writer Jason Schreirer, one of Final Fantasy XIV’s directors, Hajime Tabata wrote;

HajimeTabata

There’s probably a cultural explanation for why the Japanese market is shifting toward handheld or smartphone devices. It’s pretty unique to Japan, where everyone is transporting—they have long train rides and bus rides to work, they have time to play handheld devices, or they’re spending more time in their own rooms vs. spending more time in the living room.

There’s this kind of trend to being more accessible. But since I was very young, I’ve played games for long hours, I spent long amounts of time in front of the TV, delving into the games. So I enjoy those types of games, and I naturally want to create those types of games for the current generation and the next generations to come.

So in terms of whether console games will be received moving forward, it’s not to say that I don’t have any concerns at all, but I believe that it’ll really depend on how Final Fantasy XV does. Because I really want more people to enjoy games in the living room, on a big screen. If Final Fantasy XV doesn’t do well, perhaps there’s not much of a future for console games. It kind of really depends on how that goes.

 

A few months later, in March of 2015, Square Enix Holdings published it’s earnings report for Q4, which had a gigantic 49% growth in revenue compared to the year before. They went on to say;

The business environment surrounding the Group is in the midst of major changes, where
smart devices such as smartphones and tablet PCs are spreading rapidly, while the console
game markets in North America and Europe are increasingly competitive and oligopolistic.
In light of such environmental changes, the Group is focusing all efforts on a substantial
earnings improvement through driving reforms of business structure in order to establish
new revenue base.
Square Enix has been publishing a lot of games on Android/iOS platforms lately and apparently they’ve been wildly successful. Recently, even Final Fantasy Tactics became available on the Google Play Store. They have many apps based on their A-List IPs, like The World Ends With You (Solo Remix),  Chrono Trigger, and even my personal favourite Final Fantasy, FFIII. They also have original spin off titles, like Bravely Archive, in the Bravely Default series, and Kingdom Hearts [Chi] is coming soon for Android/iOS as well.

This year, RPG Giant, Square Enix plans to have their very own E3 Press Conference, which is a very surprising first. Square always makes an appearance in some way, generally taking some time out of the big 3’s(Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft) press conferences, because they’ve always made games that have been great reasons to buy consoles. Despite all the hubub about console releases that generally happens at E3, perhaps their mobile revolution is the reason Square has decided to stand on it’s own this year. If Square Enix wanted to have a spot to show off Kingdom Hearts [Chi] and how it integrates with Kingdom Hearts 3, it may be unwelcome during a press conference for Sony or Microsoft, for example. Taking the time and effort to do their own E3 press conference also gives them the freedom and the medium to blow our minds with some surprise announcement. Square Enix posted an E3 Teaser with a remixed version of “Frog’s Theme” from their popular game Chrono Trigger. In the Probably-Not-Gonna-Happen department, the running joke is that a Final Fantasy 7 Remake will be announced, but the joke’s getting a little old since it started back in 2005 with very memorable Final Fantasy 7 Ps3 Tech Demo. More than likely the console games that show up won’t be this, but they’ve already ruled out new footage from FFXV, so aside from Kingdom Hearts 3, Deus Ex, Tomb Raider, and Front Mission, it’s likely we’ll see several mobile games.

 

Taking it back to the original point, what I’ve been feeling from the interviews and news that have come from Square Enix over the past year, are the very same business moves that Hajime Tabata predicted back in September, and yes, it does totally make sense for the company…

It just might take me personally a little bit more effort and thought to get used to this paradigm shift.

I’m sure console RPGs will still exist and be made, but when even the company who published the Final Fantasy series is backing away, I start to wonder what kind of change it will bring to the industry. For better or worse, we will see what the company brings to the table during it’s E3 presentation which you can stream from http://www.youtube.com/SquareEnixPresents on June 16th.

 

Mark Cuerden

Mark Cuerden

Hoy~! If you're reading this, wow! I'm impressed! I suppose you probably would like to know some details about me then? Fuufuufuu, I'll never tell. You'll never find out that I'm a 25 year old video game hobbyist, currently residing in London, Ontario. I'll also never tell you about my passion for video games, coffee, and sushi. Nope. Too bad for you.