Over the last couple of years there’s been an idea in the gaming development industry, amongst the bigger players, that a game needs to hit as many checkpoints as possible in order to appeal to the widest audience. Sometimes that works. Most times, it fails. And that’s something that Square Enix has realised, as they shift focus in their gaming department.
“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,” Square Enix president Yosuke Matsuda said to Nikkei Trendy (Via Siliconera).
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.
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 felt that 2013 was a year where Square Enix really dropped the ball, as they attempted to make several games appealing for as wide an audience as possible, ala the Resident Evil 6 effect as I like to think of it. One game that highlighted this problematic approach? Hitman: Absolution.
“The development team for Hitman: Absolution really struggled in this regard,” Matsuda explained.
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.
As much as I enjoyed Hitman: Absolution, it was a different game, something that core fans did not appreciate. But that’s a solid business strategy from Matsuda. Games don’t need to have GTA V budgets and a sales target in the millions of millions.
As long as you can create something which will stay true to what made a game so popular in the first place, but update it, you’ll build something much better than an endless supply of quick cash in the gaming market. A reputation.
And in today’s turbulent economy, that’s what will keep your company alive.
Last Updated: April 1, 2014