The title of this article is adapted from the classic film Dr Strangelove, a hilarious satire on the cold war. It seemed fitting to use it as sitting here I can’t help but think Square Enix in it’s current form has become a bit of a joke in the eyes of many of it’s fan base. In recent years it seems as though they have hired a very, very smart man to make their business model, just so they could do the exact opposite.
Yesterday a countdown timer that had run for a week reached completion. It was themed in the style of The World Ends With You, a highly regarded and much loved RPG for DS that launched 5 years ago. Despite being the only game in the franchise it has a very loyal and outspoken fan base who are all clamoring for a sequel.
The ravenous lot that are the TWEWY fans poured over every possible detail they could get their hands on, hoping against hope (and previous disappointment from SE) that this would be the sequel they so desired. They had a countdown timer and everything, surely this was something big?! So when the iOS port and remixed soundtrack were leaked, fans were like “What gives, SE?”.
Unfortunately one of the game’s translators, Brian Gay, tweeted that it was #moredripthanleak, suggesting there was more to the countdown than just that. The fans’ hopes were reignited. Only to be let down when the timer reached completion and it was… an iOS port with a remixed soundtrack. For $18 at that! Way above the going rate for iOS games, though SE has always charged a crazy amount for their games. It’s not so much that no one wants an iOS port, I’m sure it will be as fantastic as the original, but it’s the way they treated fans with the announcement that irked people.
While that isn’t the worst thing we’ve ever seen (though judging by the launch trailer which had to have comments and like bar disabled due to the outpouring of vitriol, it could have been) it just highlighted and reinforced the opinion that Square Enix is out of touch with its Western consumers. I can’t speak to how well they’re viewed in their home territory of Japan.
For years fans have been face palming every move SE make while making it clear what it is they are crying out for. Perhaps the most poignant example is the ongoing ‘Lightning’ saga, e.g. the series of Final Fantasy 13 games. Upon it’s release, Final Fantasy 13 met mixed reception. Some liked it, praising it’s stunning visual and gorgeous locales, others bemoaned the linear nature of the gameplay, a far cry from the exploration of the world in previous Final Fantasy titles.
Of course it had it’s fans, but many found the characters to be unengaging or downright annoying or the story boring and poorly told. So when it’s sequel Final Fantasy 13-2 was announced, many were apathetic towards it. In recent years SE have been no strangers to making direct sequels (something they had shied away from in the past). We’ve had Crisis Core, a follow up to FF7, The After Years a follow up to FF4 and of course we had 10-2. The difference? Fans loved those worlds and characters and wanted to spend more time with them.
Flash forward to 13-2. People didn’t like the characters but enjoyed the world, they just wished they’d been able to explore it. Well SE let them do just that, but at the heavy cost of narrative cohesion and you were still dealing with the same characters people were sick of the first time around. So now, with the impending announcement of 13-3 in a couple of days, we will once again be returning to the world of Final Fantasy 13. The fans reaction? ENOUGH FINAL FANTASY 13, GIVE US VERSUS 13! Hopefully they will strike the balance between exploration and decent story this time around.
Of course, according to VGChartz as of 18th August 2012 Final Fantasy 13-2 has sold over 2 million copies. That shows demand and in SE’s current financial state it is more than likely more cost effective to make a direct sequel requiring less work than a full blown new separate entry in the series, probably waiting for a new generation of consoles before appearing. Still, people find it hard to believe we are on the verge of an announcement of 13-3 when Final Fantasy Versus 13 was announced 6 years ago and is still MIA.
Another example? The Kingdom Hearts series is dear to many, heck it’s my girlfriend’s favourite game ever, she’s completed it over 5 times and she barely ever plays games. At this point, we have Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2, as well as Chain of Memories, Birth by Sleep, 358/2 Days, Re:Coded and Dream Drop Distance.
That makes 2 core games with 5 spin offs, with the true 3rd game nowhere in sight. Fans as desperate for a conclusion to the series but Square Enix refuses to give it to them, as long as they can continue to milk the franchise. Even a Kingdom Hearts HD Collection would be an easy port to make them a lot of much needed money with relatively little effort but no announcement so far (I’m aware it’s more than likely on it’s way after the secret message at the end of KH3D: DDD).
So we have them teasing fans with supposed sequels and failing to deliver, them providing unwanted sequels over ones in high demand and refusing to remake games that could certainly help out their financial troubles. The one remake that springs to everyone’s mind immediately is of course the Final Fantasy 7 remake. Championed as one of the greatest RPG’s ever it is a testament to SE’s talent and skill that we hope they will one day exhibit again.
While they have come out and said that a FF7 remake will not happen until one of the new Final Fantasy’s exceeds the quality of these beloved predecessors, it can’t be denied that the demand is there. However they have stated if they were to prioritize revisits old entries over new ones, the brand would be finished. I actually applaud them on this forward thinking move, as it encourages progression over regression, though if Square Enix continue to struggle financially they may be left with no other option.
Even when they came to re-release FF7 on the PC, they botched it. Not only did they choose to release it exclusively through their own store, rather than utilize the huge entrenched user base of Steam, but the launch was hampered by severe DRM issues and glitches that caused them to have to refund all purchasers in their opening weekend, essentially losing a massive money stream.
The worst thing is, I so badly want Square Enix to succeed. I’m by no means saying every move they make is a bad one, just look at Theatrhythm, that game was great! But they just make it so hard when they seemingly ignore what fans, not only that but tease them with what they want, and when they do give us what they want, they botch it. Square Enix we want to love you, so please work with your fans instead of keeping things secret and building up false hope.
I wont dismiss Final Fantasy 13-3 when it’s announced, it has the potential to be fantastic. Final Fantasy 15 may well be amazing (I’m not going to even mention the Final Fantasy 14 fiasco), it certainly looks like it could be from this tech demo.
It sounds like Kingdom Hearts HD is on the way, along with Kingdom Hearts 3 which will definitely help appease fans. This isn’t taking into account all of the games they publish but don’t develop such as Hitman: Absolution.
It sounds like they’re moving in the right direction, but they have a lot of ground to make up with their fans who have been put off by these years of poor judgement. Hopefully in the coming years, they will prove that they deserve their title as one of the best game developers around.