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Square Enix President Believes Company Has ‘Lost Focus’

Over the past fiscal year, Square Enix has promised to move away from global publishing in favor of a more regional focus. That doesn’t mean that the company is abandoning global titles, especially in the wake of being surprised by Western sales of a traditional RPG.

Bravely Default released in Europe and North America earlier this year, surpassing 200,000 copies sold in the United States in the first three weeks. According to an interview with Nikkei (translated by Siliconera), Square Enix president Yosuke Matsuda says his company won’t completely abandon global titles, despite stumbles in the past.

“In the past, when we developed console games with a worldwide premise, we lost our focus,” Matsuda says, offering that recent Bravely Default taught the company a valuable lesson. “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,” Matsuda says. In response, Square Enix will be developing more core JRPGs.

Oddly, he goes on to attribute the problems faced by Hitman: Absolution, which sold 3.6 million units in its first four months and was still deemed to be underperforming, to an attempt to serve a global audience. Io Interactive’s most recent Hitman title was well received, but was a departure not because of geography. Rather, its attempts to appeal to a new audience alienated some longtime franchise fans.

The good news for those that have followed Agent 47’s career with great interest? “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,'” Matsuda says. “I believe that is the best way for our development studios to display their strengths.”

[Source: Siliconera, Nikkei]

 

Our Take
The recognition that games can succeed on a global scale shouldn’t be a surprise to Square Enix, especially with regard to Bravely Default (a game that is more Final Fantasy than many recent entries in that series). To equate those challenges (and a need to serve that market) with the problems that faced Hitman: Absolution (reminder: a well-received, strong seller) is folly. Every time I think Square Enix management is taking a step on the path toward organizational realignment, comments like this make me wonder exactly what’s going wrong at headquarters in Japan.

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Square Enix president admits that company ‘lost focus’

In a recent interview with Nikkei Weekly, Square Enix chief Yosuke Matsuda admitted that games developed for ‘mass appeal’ underperformed, while ‘niche’ games like the JRPG Bravely Default flourished. …


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Fullbright Company Makes The Case For Gone Home’s Game Status

Is Gone Home a game? It certainly seemed as though that question was being asked a lot after the Fullbright Company released it last year. The game's designer and writer Steve Gaynor made his case for Gone Home's game status during a GDC panel this morning.

This post contains Gone Home spoilers

He started by showing off a parody trailer for Gun Home DLC, which shows a lot of traditionally "gamey" elements, like firearms and blood.

Gaynor talked about past games he worked on, which he calls "capital g" games, like BioShock 2 and BioShock Infinite. He says it was interesting with Gone Home that it got negative comments saying it's not a game, while also getting game of the year awards from some gaming outlets. He couldn't help but wonder what that means, but he stands by the fact that it is a game. Some of the arguments against its game status are lack of combat, no story branching or player builds, no failstates, and a short run time. Gaynor says that Gone Home subverts expectations that players have grown accustomed to over the years.

These things that seemingly disqualify it as a game are part of games anyway, like variability of player experience, a central focus on player agency, and a spirit of playfulness within its themes. Gaynor says players establish a dialog between themselves and an unpredictable machine, essentially. Player inputs change that conversation every time they play the game. As Gaynor says it can take on a variety of forms. In some games, the relationship is shown in a high level, like Telltale's The Walking Dead games. Player decisions on whether someone lives or dies will be shown in the game. In Minecraft, people play the game by creating and destroying blocks. You can build a cathedral, Gaynor says, while your friend might want to build something else.

Gaynor then brought up Sleep No More, which is an interactive theater experience in New York that takes place in a converted hotel. Participants move freely through the space and can interact with story-building artifacts, or follow actors around as they put on a performance. The static nature of those performances is integral to the show; you can't interact with the actors, but your decisions matter. You can choose to follow actors who separate after a scene, and then see something that's unique to your own session. Your choices created a unique experience, even though it wasn't technically interactive. In a similar way, Gone Home lets players looks in a house, and the player's structure of the experience is unique to the player – even if, as Gaynor says, players can't choose if Mom and Rick have an affair or not.

As another example, Gaynor says a game like Skyrim features combat but also cheese wheels. As he points out, there are a lot of cheese wheels in the game, which serve functional reasons (restoring health or having a monetary value), but players can also choose to find every cheese wheel in the world and fill a house with it. In Gone Home, Gaynor says there's no reason why players need to pick up objects like Kleenex boxes and folders, but players can. He showed several silly pictures where every object in Gone Home's house has been picked up and placed on the floor or in a closet. He also showed a picture where someone has collected a variety of objects that have significance to Sam and Lonnie's relationship and placed them on the staircase in a makeshift shrine.

When players start the game, the house is dark, and players typically turn on the lights as they explore. As Gaynor says, it's a way of tracking your progress. After a while, Fullbright knew that was going to happen, so they acknowledged the behavior by putting a note on a bulletin board to Sam saying she should stop leaving all the lights on. "You're as bad as your sister!" it reads. In another moment, players come upon a journal entry where Sam is talking about her physical relationship with Lonnie. With previous notes, players were free to keep notes open as long as they wanted. This note broke the rules, in that it would automatically close because it was being read by the player (as Sam's sister, Katie), and it was creepy to continue reading.

Gaynor then spoke about how games can reach bigger audiences by pushing definitions of what games are. They're an art form capable of so much, he says, and the industry should continue to challenge itself.

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Activision, Potato-Chip Company Holding New Skylanders Promotion

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If you're older than 18, visit the official site to enter between now and March 21. After registering with the site and selecting your character, you can then choose a name for it and also provide a bit of extra detail – in 200 characters or less.

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Our Take
Each of these characters looks like they'd be a great addition to the next game. Get your pun motors running if you want to win.

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Today, Sega is making good on its desire to preserve Atlus’ culture. Sega is creating two subsidiaries out of its Index Corporation acquisition. One will be called Index Corporation and will handle strategic planning and other solutions work. The other will be a video game company known as Atlus.

Atlus, as an independent entity, was subsumed by Index Corporation when it was bought out in 2007. The Atlus corporate entity was eliminated in 2010, though the brand lived on as part of Index Corporation. The new corporate subsidiaries will be formed on April 1, 2014, the beginning of Sega Sammy's next fiscal year.

[Source: Sega Sammy via Kotaku]

 

Our Take
I take this as a good sign for the continued independence and business strategy that has made Atlus a fan-favorite. I expect that we’ll see more Shin Megami Tensei games and other niche RPGs that wouldn’t otherwise make it to North America. In short, this is good news.

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