Love Lost: The decline of my interest in Square-Enix games.
Recently I managed to get a copy of an old favourite, Vagrant Story. Released several years before the Square – Enix merger, it was based on the PS1 and released after the financial success of the Final Fantasy series on the platform.
With its beautiful graphics, intriguing plot, and unique battle system, this game quickly stole my heart. Suffice it to say I was very happy to play it again after so many long years.
Seeing as one of my last articles was based on how I fell in love with what Square soft used to be, it was quite nostalgic to play Vagrant Story again after so many years. Sadly though, another odd thing happened.. I became a little depressed.
It became apparent to me that this game for all its quality, style and overall brilliance was a thing of the past. I knew then that, sadly, the golden age of the Square RPG had passed me by.
Several years later (and several spin offs and sequels/prequels/remakes), it has become quite apparent that Square-Enix is now a company more focused on “Brands” and “Target markets” than creativity and design.
So why is this a bad thing? To explain, by tailoring and targeting a game at a specific group, you limit its design creativity. Complementing my point, a example of this would be the first person survival horror game “Nanashi No Game” .
Rather than releasing this title to western countries based on its involving plot, unique gameplay, or its success in Japan, Square put it to a single focus group….who rejected it. Thusly the game was never released in the west.
(The full depressing story can be found here : http://www.siliconera.com/2011/03/28/nanashi-no-game-was-considered-for-north-america-focus-groups-killed-it/.)
It is true that focus groups are useful in making sure that a product/service finds the right “target market”, and they can be a vital part of the marketing process in making sure said product is a commercial success.
But with a medium such as Gaming, that relies on gameplay experiences and design as a selling tool, this process is not really necessary.
Therefore it is safe to say that when a company like Square-Enix, which had previously built up a massive fan base from the success of its titles based on these aspects, abruptly changes its selling tactics to make sales or even publish a game…. something has gone very wrong.
You really have to ask yourself where is the business sense in alienating an established fan base/target market? Squaresoft became famous from the idea of moving forward and not backward, that games should be innovative and unique to capture the hearts and minds of players and buyers alike. So where is the sense in changing direction so suddenly?
Who really knows? What we have seen from this change is the release of many weak/generic titles and a deluge of mediocre spin-off games, each paling in comparison to what true Square fans had been used to.
It is no surprise then that, of the original fan base/market, there is now only the die-hard fans and JRPG fanatics who remain.
Still, even though it depresses me I do not mourn them anymore.
Back in their prime Square released many great games, games which no amount of sequels or spin-offs can tarnish. The old Squaresoft is gone, and it will never come back, others as well as myself have made their peace with this fact.
We have moved on.