Square-Enix

Dragon Quest XI Announced

DQXI Logo

Square Enix sure knows how to make a splash these days. Dragon Quest XI: In Search of Departed Time was announced today to release on the PS4, the 3DS (New 3DS Exclusive most likely) and… the NX. That’s quite a surprise given that we don’t have a release schedule for the NX yet nor any other game announced to come to it.

Well, not that surprising. Given the sales that the Wii U has achieved during its short life and the anemic support it has had from 3rd party developers.

DQXI Pic

The new Dragon Quest is going to have at least two different stories. One for the PS4 and one for the 3DS, you know like Ni No Kuni. Also like Ni No Kuni, we’ll probably never ever see the 3DS version release in America so don’t get your hopes up. No localization has been announced but I’m guessing the PS4 release will come to our shores and that’s it.

We don’t have much info about the NX version yet but it will like be similar to the PS4 one which features an open world and is being developed on Unreal Engine 4. The 3DS version is less open (DQIX style?), being developed in cooperation with Toy Logic, and will have battles in both 3D and 2D with Sprites.

DQXI Gif

Expect all of this to launch in Japan late 2016 and the PS4 version in America in late 2017.

#CantKillProgress and Deus Ex:Mankind Divided

Over the past several days a twitch channel showed what appeared to be a man in a prison cell and allowed some control over the cameras and a timed viewer choice.  The only tidbits of information we had a was a hash tag to use on twitter and some vague information regarding a new Square Enix reveal.  People were immediately interested, but where I think Square Enix went wrong was the time frame they used for this viral marketing campaign.  By making it last 3 days with timed countdowns to reveals and choices they didn’t give incentive for people to stay watching and focused the entire time, like you would want for the reveal of a major game.  In this case the game in question being the next part of the Deus Ex franchise.  Now I will be honest I did not watch the entire thing, and after I read about the leak confirming it was Deus Ex I stopped watching entirely, partly because I saw a lack of a point.

Now instead of a hash tag about progress the words we care about are “Mankind Divided” from what the developers(Eidos Montreal again) are telling us this game will take place shortly after Human Revolution and we will see the actual flash point of the human vs. augmented revolts.  I personally can’t wait to see this story because as a fan of the series since the original Deus Ex, it will be pretty awesome to see all the events leading up to the creation of the factions from the original game and the causes of the societal tension that was a central theme of the original.  We don’t know for sure if they have made the boss fights any better or if their promises of smarter AI is true or not yet, but from what we’ve seen in the screenshots so far I am already excited for the systems we are seeing being put into place and have a lot of hope for this addition to one of my favorite franchises.

Certain Age Gaming for February 9th, 2014 “Like Putting Out a Fire With Money”

We’re BACK after a short three week break and James and Kody have played some freaking GAMES! Also some non-freaking games. James talks about Payday 2 for about 3 hours and Blackguards for a bit less. Kody blows up about Might and Magic X Legacy and Rocksmith. And they both talk about Wolf Among Us Ep 2 “Smoke and Mirrors”. The news is mostly about how fucked March is going to be for everyone’s wallet. Also Flappy Bird.

If you want to participate in the show, join us at http://www.twitch.tv/certainagegamer on Sundays at 10:00 PM EST.

Certain Age Gaming for February 9th, 2014

CA Gaming final

That’s the Last Time I Give Phil Rogers Advice

Square-Enix is up to their old tricks again.

Weeks after Phil Rogers (CEO of Square-Enix of the Americas) came out spitting fire about wanting to do things different at the aging giant of a company, Darrell Gallagher posted a blog on Gamasutra about the future of the company and what it means to make games in the ever changing gaming industry.

The title asks everyone “How do you tackle industry change?”. Someone’s got to ask the question. The gaming industry is going through what seems like cataclysmic shifts in where the money is coming from. The giants of the past are all scrambling to figure out how to syphon as much money as possible from these shifts and as the head of product development, Darrell Gallagher needs to ask this question. It’s not, however, the only question he asks.

Every day hundreds of talented individuals across our studios come into work with a single question in mind: How do I make the best game possible?

Here we go. Now we’re getting somewhere. Changes, yes… but how can we reconcile these changes while still making the best game possible? That’s where we should be finding answers. Darrell, instead, worries about the changes first.

Overall as a games business – studios and publishing – we have walked away too early from some of the worlds that we have invested so much time and energy in. If we were to ask people that loved our games whether they would enjoy new content or deeper experiences in these digital playgrounds the answer would overwhelmingly be “yes”.

And for me, this is where the future starts. We see the opportunity for some of our games continuing beyond a traditional beginning, middle, and end. We can have them become extendable and more persistent – with an opportunity to build and grow across games. To design in a way to keep our games alive for years instead of weeks. I’m not talking about an MMORPG – although the concept is similar – I’m talking about creating persistent online experiences built on the foundations of the games we are well known for. Now, this doesn’t apply to every game, there is no one solution that works in every case, but as a wider goal it’s certainly something which some of our franchises are incredibly well suited to and something I want to explore further.

In short, he feels like games should be vehicles for persistent worlds.

His solution is to push a paradigm, and then have people make good games around that. Instead of focusing on the games first and then seeing if they fit into his particular idea of where the industry is heading.

Hey, don’t look at me, I tried to give them advice.

Certain Age Gaming for August 4th, 2013 “Japanese Ghosts Love Video Games”

The International 3 is upon us and we try to avoid talking about it. (We fail miserably) We did manage to play a few games as Justin beats Metal Gear Solid 3, James plays Prop Hunt, and Kody talks about the Killzone Mercenary Multiplayer Beta. After that it turns into the Square-Enix hate cast.

Certain Age Gaming for August 4th, 2013

CA Gaming final

An Open Letter to Phil Rogers

Today, Phil Rogers (CEO of Square-Enix US and EU) posted a blog about the future of Square-Enix. You can find it here. At the end of his post, he asked everyone to please reply and leave him feedback.

Please feel free to mail me your feedback. I can’t promise I’ll respond to every mail but you can be sure your concerns will be heard and taken on board.

In the spirit of discussion, I wrote him my thoughts off the top of my head. I’ll go ahead and post it here as well so that people can respond to me in kind.

Español: Esta pequeña imagen, muestra el logot...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mr Rogers,

My name is Kody Robison and I first like to say thanks for the opportunity to give you my thoughts on Square-Enix’s direction in regards to it’s Western publishing and development. Without boring you with too many details that would be insignificant to the real discussion, I’ve been a big fan of both Squaresoft and Enix since the release of ActRaiser. That game had major influences on my development as a fan of Video Games and of all media in general. I speak to you now a full 22 years after the release of that game as a father and an enthusiast. I’m not the CEO of a major brand. Nor do I have the ability to make decisions on a multi-million dollar level that may have ramifications on hundreds of people and their future employment. I do, however, have a lot of opinions on where Video Games are and where they are going.

The recent focus on Mobile Phone development for some of the most storied franchises in gaming history has concerned a great many people. You say in your blog post that you are not abandoning AAA gaming and it’s great to hear that. You say that there is a full slate of games from AAA to mobile to online. My personal concern based on these promises is that you say nothing of anything in between. It seems to me that at todays Square-Enix, there’s not enough room for the types of games that made me become such a fan of the company in the first place. Final Fantasy XV as a huge blockbuster game makes sense. It’s a flagship. You need to lead with your flagships. What about other titles however? Let me pose a question. If you were given the opportunity to publish ActRaiser today, would it happen? I don’t think anyone at Square-Enix would take the risk necessary to greenlight that. Or, an even more scary scenario for me, it would be released as a mobile phone game with social elements and in-app purchases. There is a middle ground, I think, between AAA and mobile phone/social games that Square-Enix has lost sight of. Games that don’t need to sell 4 million units to maintain profitability. Games that build another generation of hardcore fans while simultaneously pleasing those older ones.

Please don’t misunderstand, I happily await the release of Kingdom Hearts III… but at the same time I dread the next announcement of a Final Fantasy styled mobile phone game. Or maybe the announcement of ActRaiser – Farm Edition. The gaming demographic has blown up in just the last 5 years with millions of people realizing that Video Games can not only be a profitable business but also a legitimate entertainment option and hobby. The people joining gaming for the first time have certain expectations that must be met in terms of price and playability and I understand that ceasing development for those people would be akin to burning a giant pile of money. I would just like you to remember that there is a group of people that are not being developed for right now, the people who don’t want a 400 million dollar Chrono Trigger game and would be devastated to see it’s sequel on the iPhone.

Again, I’m not a CEO, just a part of an ever more cynical group of people who fear for the future of some of their most beloved games.

Oh, and I also promised someone to ask you about Final Fantasy Type 0 and the various Dragon Quest games that have not been localized. The audience that I’m talking about above are the same people who would quickly pre-order any announcements of those localizations.

Thank you again for your time,
Kody Robison

Square-Enix Death Throes Now in Chart Form

Square-Enix has released their numbers for the fiscal year 2012 and as predicted it does not look good. Game sales were above last year, but skyrocketing development fueled by ludicrous sales projections caused an overall net loss for the company. Instead of properly assessing the blame and working to fix the issue, it seems they’re refocusing the herculean efforts to destroy the once beloved company by shifting the majority of development to Smart Phones and Tablets.

SQE Chart2

The business environment surrounding the [Square Enix] 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.

In other words, console development and release has proven too ephemeral an opponent to grasp firmly, so they’re moving on to an even more fickle user base. The company’s smartphone efforts have proven vastly more profitable than recent console releases, to be sure. That is because they were actually profitable. At last check their big releases under the Eidos brand (Hitman, Tomb Raider, and Sleeping Dogs) have all failed to turn a profit. Even mainstays like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest are having a hard time selling at the glorious levels seen in the past.

All of this comes on the heels of GungHo posting an operating income of more than 3.75 million a day based almost entirely on a blazingly popular smartphone game called ‘Puzzle and Dragon’. Before the release of the game, which is most basically described as Bejeweled meets Pokemon, Gung Ho was best known as the guys who hosted the servers for Ragnarok Online. That all changed in January of this year when they used the profits from Puzzle and Dragon to buy Grasshopper Games (The developer by games like Lollipop Chainsaw and No More Heroes). Their success doesn’t seem to be slowing down either, so it’s no wonder that Square-Enix looks to their business model for a roadmap to success.

The problem with relying on the smartphone market is the notoriously fickle consumers. Games like Puzzle and Dragons and Angry Birds are the textbook case of lightning in a bottle. Of course, mobile games are often times more profitable than a single console counterpart, but that’s just considering a one to one comparison. It’s much easier to make millions off of a popular console game than it is to make millions off of a smartphone title. As the chart below shows, this doesn’t seem to concern them very much.

SQE Chart1

Doc Brown Explains Squeenix’s New Strategy

To achieve profits of the future, Square is looking toward Efficiencies of the past. A goal that would be impossible given the new generation of console systems if Square was not shifting focus toward a smartphone heavy based portfolio. This is likely to shrink gross profits, but they’re betting that it will increase net profits. All of this remains to be seen of course. Smartphone adoption rates are only going to go up, but the gaming section of the smartphone market is only going to get smaller relative to how big it is today. The gamble is ultimately in their best interest though, as console and core gamers have considered Square a mobile gaming company for some time now.