Following the success of niche titles such as 3DS exclusive Bravely Default, Square Enix president Yosuke Matsuda has outlined the company’s plans to refocus on its core audience and, crucially, the genre it helped define: role-playing games.
In an interview with Japanese magazine Nikkei Trendy (as translated by Siliconera), Matsuda spoke candidly about the publisher’s loss of focus, which he attributes to the mismanagement of global, established titles.
“If you focus too much on the global aspect, you might lose sight of who you’re actually making the game for. For example, if you look back at 2013, we’ve had some home console games made for a global audience that struggled.”
“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.”
Upon release in 2013, Hitman: Absolution was criticised by long-term followers of Agent 47 precisely because IO Interactive’s take on the series deviated from the stealth-based gameplay fans had grown to expect. This diluting effect can also be seen in a more recent Square Enix product, Eidos Montreal’s rebooted Thief, which implemented jarring boss fights that wholly went against the established experience.
“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’.”
The fact that Square Enix’s most recent reboots — particularly Tomb Raider and the aforementioned Thief — have underwhelmed in the sales department has forced the company to reassess its approach. In fact, Matsuda revealed that the publisher is looking to the success of Bravely Default for inspiration; inspiration that will hopefully harken back to the golden days of Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger.
Currently, it’s understood that Square Enix is dividing resources between follow-ups in the Tomb Raider and Deus Ex universe, respectively, as well as working on Final Fantasy XV and the once-ailing Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn.