Square Enix’s Move to the 360, a terrible mistake?
The Future of Eastern Gaming -
Square Enix’s Moves – Now What?
The Great OXCGN Debates
Editors Note: A new section that we are offering here at OXCGN will be our OXCGN Debates based on a hot topic within the industry over the recent month. These will give two views, both for and against the idea, plus an observers point of view.
You’re asked to join in, share your thoughts and enter into the debate, as without them (your thoughts) other gamers will remain silent as well. As a Xbox Community Network Site we want to encourage “community sharing” in the best way we can, and we believe this is one of those ways.
So please do join in, check the Poll out at the end and also drop your comments in; we’d love to hear them. So, with that, let’s move on -and as they say - “without further ado – “
Square Enix is the amalgamation of two very successful companies, both having strong roots in producing top-tier Japanese Role Playing Games. With the gaming industry a different ‘beast’ this generation, Square Enix have to widen their horizons and pursue the Western Markets with an increased emphasis on supporting the Xbox 360. So here it is, the first of many ‘The Great OXCGN Debates‘
• For the Affirmative we have -
©2008 Warren Marshell:
A few days ago OXCGN’s Sutton Dagger brought us the news about Square Enix opening a US Studio to handle development of games into the Western Market and asked me the question – ‘What do you think?‘
For the casual gamer it seems that at the moment (if they are even aware) it would be a stirring of press releases and corporate mumblings, but take a step back for a moment and take a look on how this will impact the consumer themselves. Whether you know Square Enix by title or not, if you have played a few RPG’s chances are you have played one of their games.
They have become the godfather of the Japanese roleplaying industry with acclaimed titles such as the Final Fantasy series, Dragon Quest and Kingdom Hearts but don’t be fooled by the fact that Square Enix has only been dabbling in games since 2002.
This company was a merger between Square Company Ltd and Enix. Both companies on their own were once seen as rivals since their beginnings in the 1980′s with both releasing countless classic RPG’s.
They know the gaming industry, they know the market and most of all they know RPG’s. However for years there has always been the East/West division in gaming.
The cultures, developments, traditions and many other factors all have an influence in the overall game that we play but a move such as this will mean they will be immersing themselves into another country where they can learn from one another, adopt varying styles to try and develop a seamless amalgamation of east meeting west.
A huge task ahead of them but could be a fantastic outcome for us, the gamers.
2008 has already been such a big year for games but has also become such a cut-throat market to stay afloat if you are working on these games behind the scenes. The investment, time and workload needed to make sure they have a stand out title has become so demanding that these developers are having to put it all on the line and hold nothing back.
Holding the licences to some of the most popular games doesn’t always mean smooth sailing for these developers either (take a look at Ensemble Studios & Halo Wars) and it was only a matter of time before drastic changes were going to be made for their survival.
The announcement of the next Final Fantasy installment being released for both the Playstation 3 and the Xbox 360 should have been the first sign of changes to come. They have recognised a larger market of gamers out there that aren’t necessarily going to ‘console lock’ themselves.
Regardless of platform, there is money to be made out there and while many of Novembers releases have paved the way for Christmas sales and kept everyone busy (and their wallets a little lighter!) it’s time to look at the next twelve months and onwards.
There will be a learning curve but essentially it is a move that if approached correctly could see some bigger games coming out, changing RPG’s and other games that we have grown to love.
Sure we will still have our JRPG’s (Japanese Roleplaying Games) but here is an opportunity to amalgamate styles into the one game and even if it only stays afloat for a short period of time I am sure it will deliver something special.
It is a big step for any company such as Square Enix and wont be cheap, however the gamble could really pay off. With all these changes however it is us the gamers that benefit. With the dedication and care that this company usually puts towards its games, they could be sitting on the next evolution of some well known game titles or create a new special series.
The gamer wins either way and I am sure there are many other companies who will be keeping a close watch to see just how well this venture goes. Nobody wants to be left behind in these crucial months once the dust settles and I am sure it is going to lead many developers to start adapting to what was once very foreign to them.
©2008 Warren Marshell:
• For the Negative we have -
by Sutton Dagger
©2008 Steven Sutton:
As a hardcore JRPG fan, I have to lay all my cards on the table. I could sit here and tell you that Square Enix’s support for the Xbox 360 has brought about a wonderful new era in gaming, or that their 360 outings have produced stellar results, but I won’t. I won’t try and convince you otherwise because we both know it’s not true.
Last Remnant is currently in my Xbox and I’m contemplating how the mighty have fallen (stay tuned for the full Last Remnant review coming soon…). There is (in my mind) a prominent reason for this catastrophic change, a focus on the Xbox 360 platform which has resulted in a complete change of mindset, both in the ways games are produced and developed.
The use of the American developed Unreal Engine 3 is a worrying sign and one that seems likely to continue with Square Enix President, Yoichi Wada, claiming it was to “become a cornerstone for [their] worldwide strategy”.
Call me cynical, but do any westerners have an unbreakable affinity to ‘home-grown’ gaming engines; I don’t think so? These Japanese developers have had limited encounters with the Unreal Engine and it becomes apparent in their work.
Slow-down, texture pop-in and other technical mishaps are the bane of any title, so why are Square Enix pursuing the Engine when it obviously isn’t achieving great results. It is because they believe that is what it takes for a game to ‘break down cultural barriers’.
With the use of the Unreal Engine 3 in creating these titles, it seems like this philosophy is extending over to actual gameplay mechanics. What happened to the intense turn-based combat of old, where subtle tactics and forward planning were the cornerstones of any decent JRPG?
Are westerns that daft that we must have limited combat choices and essentially no control over any party members other than the protaganist? The new direction in the core development and gameplay mechanics of Square Enix RPG’s are a worrying sign for JRPG enthusists.
Though my words may be construed that I am echoing the thought that Square Enix shouldn’t be making games for the Xbox 360, that is not the crux of my position. I simply want Square Enix to develop titles that respect the legions of loyal fans that have experienced their games.
We don’t need ‘Western’ style gaming engines or simple mechanics to enjoy our JRPG’s, we need games that push the boundaries and open up different avenues in this ‘genre’ I have come to know and love.
I await Final Fantasy XIII for Square Enix’s redemption…
©2008 Steven Sutton:
• As The Observer:
©2008 Grant Smythe:
One thing that was brought up and rightfully so is Square Enix’s adoption of the Unreal Engine 3 as their “cornerstone” now.
Someone should tell them that the UE3 is now being surpassed by many other great engines that leave it for dead with regards to detail, destructibility, environments, interactivity within those environments, and even versatility.
Codemasters EGO Engine is just brilliant and only getting better, which powers The Colin McRae DiRT series, Racedriver GRiD, and the new Operation Flashpoint 2: Dragon Rising, which is capable of rendering an entire island from satellite maps. DICE’s Frostbite Engine, which was used in Bad Company and *Mirror’s Edge (*ED Note: my bad – thanks to “Fredrik Näslund & ARA for picking that up“. . it was meant to say – “and Mirror’s Edge uses Procedural’s CiyEngine to generate its Cityscapes which), is nothing short of beautiful and solid as a rock.
LucasArts Euphoria and its associated middleware are breaking new ground, and a new guy on the street (literally) is Procedural’s CityEngine which can generate “real world cities” from google-maps within an extremely short period of time, cutting down HUGE amounts of development costs, time, resource spending etc, and allowing the development teams to get on with making games, not the engines to run the games.
Microsoft is of course pushing Epic’s Unreal Engine 3, as it now has extremely close ties with Epic, creators of the Gears franchise. With other developers using the UE3 as well, it helps MS help Epic, and keeps them onside.
So it’s little wonder Square have taken on the UE3 as they are siding with MS and using that as a guide to what Western games and the Western demographic are about.
Perhaps it’s not such a good idea after all, especially considering that Square Enix also acquired Gas Powered Games last week, just two days after it announced they were opening up a new US development studio. So they open a studio and acquire another all within a few days of each other…
So the push really is on to move West, but as pointed out above, at what costs?
©2008 Grant Smythe:
Filed under: 1st Party Titles, Console gaming, Editorial, Xbox 360, Xbox 360 News, Xbox Community Network Tagged: | CityEngine, Codemasters, DICE, EGO, Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy XIII, Forstbite, Ga Powered Games, JRPG, Last Remnant, RPG, Square Enix, Unreal Engine 3