The president of Square Enix, Yosuke Matsuda recently talked to Nikkei Trendy about shifting the company’s focus back to heavy JRPGs and their core audiences. This is because the company was surprised by the success of Bravely Default in West because it mainly developed for Japanese audience. In the other hand, Hitman: Absolution, which was meant to appeal for wide global audience, struggled in sales.
More interesting the situation makes the fact Bravely Default was published and released by Nintendo in West. Without them it would have been very unlikely to see Square Enix releasing the game here. But times are changing which makes us wonder: Is Square Enix willing to publish Bravely Second by themselves after seeing the success of the first installment? Will this also encourage them bringing more Japanese audience focused titles in Europe and North America? If we are listening to the president, it sure seems like that!
During the interview, Nikkei asked if Square Enix have any global titles for smartphones in the mix of all their upcoming new games.
“Not just limited to games for smartphone or console, but we do have some global titles lined up,” Matsuda replied. “However, regardless of whether they’re for smartphone or console, there’s a difficult element to developing global titles, so we’ll be making them without focusing too much on the ‘global’ aspect.”
“For example, 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.”
Matsuda continues, “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.” (Over 200 000 copies in North America alone in its first three weeks)
Yosuke Matsuda was also surprised by the fact JRPG fans can be found all over the world and how quickly fansites (That’s us!) report about Japanese announcements. He stated that they have decided to focus more on “heavy JRPGs” in the future.
“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,” emphasizes Matsuda. “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,” continues Matsuda. “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.”
After that, Matsuda talked about global aspects and how they may cause negative results if developers focus too much on reaching a wide global audience. That may lead to mistakes such as ignoring the core audience who they are making the game at the first place. For example, he believes they changed Hitman: Absolution too much in order to make it appeal for many people, and they didn’t pay enough attention to the core of the game, which pleased the fans. This ended up leading struggling sales. Thus Matsuda thinks it would be clever to take games back to their roots and focus on the core audience, the fans.
“If you focus too much on the global aspect, you might lose sight of who you’re actually making the game for,” explains Matsuda. “For example, if you look back at 2013, we’ve had some home console games made for a global audience that struggled.”
“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. 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.”
Thanks to Siliconera for making the original translation.