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Square Enix president admits that company 'lost focus'
Square Enix president admits that company 'lost focus'
March 31, 2014 | By Alex Wawro

"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."
- Yosuke Matsuda, president of Square Enix, discusses the company's evolving approach to global game development in an interview with Nikkei Trendy that's been excerpted and translated by Siliconera.

"Who says the JRPG is dead?" was the headline of a story we ran earlier this month highlighting the market performance of Square Enix's 3DS JRPG Bravely Default, which sold over 200,000 units in its first three weeks of sale according to Nintendo.

The implication, of course, was that demand for traditional Japanese RPGs is alive and kicking, and it's an opinion that Square Enix president Yosuke Matsuda seems to share. In a recent interview, Matsuda expressed surprise at the unexpected success of Bravely Default and spoke somewhat candidly about how Square Enix had struggled with developing games for non-Japanese markets.

“If you look back at 2013, we’ve had some home console games made for a global audience that struggled,” Matsuda reportedly told the Nikkei Trendy. “The development team for Hitman: Absolution really struggled in this regard."

"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," continued Matsuda. "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.”

In the context of the full interview, Matsuda seems to be suggesting that Square Enix will be changing how it approaches developing games for a global market, by focusing on making games that appeal to what it believes to be a "niche audience" and trusting that players who appreciate those games will seek them out, rather than attempting to make games that will appeal to a broad audience.

More translated excerpts are available on Siliconera, while the full interview is available in Japanese on the Nikkei Trendy website.

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Lex DeBussy
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Sounds great. I do miss having quality JRPGs on my consoles.

Aiden Eades
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Agreed. It's the problem with a lot of games these days. Alienate the core audience in an attempt to appeal to the masses. End result? Masses don't care because it's still 'niche' and the niche don't care because it's not 'niche' enough.

I hope this leads to more traditional JRPGs on console, getting bored of having to play most of them on 3ds only.

Kaze Kai
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someone should link this to phil fish ;v

Never liked JRPGs personally, they're usually turn-based and have the most convoluted stat systems I know of, plus they're usually much harder, but that's probably why I'm not the target audience. Kinda sucks when a genre you care about ousts you from its target, I feel this way about 3D platformers not being collect-a-thons anymore. :(

Theresa Catalano
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Turn based, interesting stat systems with depth, difficulty... sounds like all good things to me! Guess I'm part of the target audience! And don't forget beautiful art design and amazing soundtracks.

Theresa Catalano
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This is encouraging to hear. I hope that Capcom and Konami wise up and realize the same thing. Instead of trying to appeal to the mass market and "westernize" their games, just go back to making games they personally think are fun, and that they themselves would like to play! That's what being a game developer SHOULD be about!

Ken Love
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"Lost focus?!?"

Uh… I believe it's more along the lines of the "Typical Japanese software publisher in America making typical niche games that only a few people are interested in."

Also.. "Why not let the people that understand or know what sells in these various territories, dictate what gets shipped where and when?"

"Niche games are just that." DO NOT expect BIG returns…. AND… IF your niche game DOES NOT sell well in the various territories outside of Japan, DO NOT blame and layoff the development team because so. It's your own doings.

This pretty much sums-up most, if not all of the Japanese 3rd Party publishers.

"Do your fact checking first, Cretans."

Hugs 'n' Kisses,


Nuttachai Tipprasert
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I don't really understand what you are saying and I don't think it's relevant to the subject either. I don't think Final Fantasy is a niche title, mind you. Previous FF had never been sold less than 4 millions copies. This number is too big to be call 'niche' in my opinion.

And there's the problem. In their latest title, FF XIII, they put too much effort to make the game appeal to wider audiences, which, even the developer themselves didn't sure that those audiences really existed. That leads to the mediocre products that, even had all the sale of three episodes combined, cannot be compared to the sale of FF VII alone! The company just realised that it shouldn't pursue the market that no one even sure it was existed in the first place and it had lessons learned. That's why they considered them self 'Lost Focus'.

Michael Pianta
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These comments are heartening. Dare I hope for a return to the glory days of '97, '98, '99?

evan c
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Yes people likes JRPG's but that's not the only reason why Bravely default did well, Nintendo actually promoted the game like they usually do.

If SquareEnix published it instead it would have probably sold around 50k at best 100k. They'll blame lack of interest in the genre, poor software to hardware ratio, etc. They'll never say "we didn't promote the game enough."

The lesson here SquareEnix and the rest of the industry "learn to sell your game properly"

Gregory Booth
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Phil Who?