Interview: When East Meets West At Square Enix USA

By Spencer . April 28, 2011 . 2:45pm

Even before the Eidos acquisition, Square Enix took steps to diversify their lineup with games geared for the West. Separately, both Square and Enix made games specifically for the Western market for the Super Nintendo. Enix published the beat ’em up King Arthur & the Knights of Justice and Squaresoft developed Secret of Evermore.

 

A decade later, Square Enix, now a single entity, is tapping into new markets by linking up with developers like Wargaming who created Order of War, a PC strategy game published by Square Enix in 2009, and Gas Powered Games the studio behind Supreme Commander 2. We spoke with Dave Hoffman, Director of Business Development, who leads these inititves at Square Enix USA.

 

orderofwar

 

You’ve been helping Square Enix with Western development with Supreme Commander 2 and now you’re leading Dungeon Siege III.

 

Dave Hoffman, Director of Business Development: Yeah, that’s totally accurate. Our M.O. [modus operandi] so to speak, is to compliment what we’re doing in Japan and what we’ve been successful doing in Japan for several years. Some of our other Western initiatives involved the purchase and integration of Eidos, which has given us a vast amount of studios in EU, also Montreal, and a studio in San Francisco all focused on Western development. So, it’s fantastic.

 

For Dungeon Siege, Square now owns the franchise.

 

That’s correct we purchased that I.P.

 

When you were looking at the sea of available intellectual properties you could have purchased what made Dungeon Siege in particular so attractive Square Enix wanted to acquire it?

 

That’s a good question. We do a lot of analysis whenever we look at acquiring an I.P. or working with… [We swap business cards] …you know I go to your site a lot! You guys always focus on all of our Japan stuff. I’m sorry I didn’t mean to get off the subject of the question, but I go to the site all of the time. A lot of people at Square we love the site and read it all the time.

 

ds3a

 

Thank you! But, going back to Dungeon Siege, I’m sure Square Enix could have acquired another Western RPG series, Dungeon Siege wasn’t the only thing available.

 

You know, Dungeon Siege wasn’t the only thing available, but we have a great working relationship with Gas Powered [Games]. We just wrapped up Supreme Commander 2. We were talking about what else we wanted to do in the West and Gas Powered had a great franchise that had won multiple awards and sold really well in both North America and the EU. It seemed like gamers that had played DS1 [Dungeon Siege] and DS2 loved ’em.

 

We wanted to take a franchise that had a rich history that wasn’t really being utilized right now and re-introduce it to the current consumers through the consoles, which Dungeon Siege hadn’t been on before so there was an untapped audience. Also, there were PC users that loved and respected the franchise.

 

And, to be perfectly frank, I looked at a bunch of genres that were on the consoles. The dungeon crawlers were like whittled down to almost nothing or not even available [on consoles]. It seemed like to me that I and ultimately Square had identified a genre and a market that like the rest of the industry just glossed over. It was a real opportunistic situation. So, I sat down with Chris Taylors and the executives at Gas Powered and we talked about what to do next. What talked about what was available in terms of Dungeon Siege in terms of options. It turns out the I.P. was available and we ultimately decided to purchase it. That was a wise investment in that it would be something we would brand now and come out with a great "AAA" experience and a "AAA" game. You know, we’re looking to continue that as well and build a franchise, build what upon what we’ve done with Dungeon Siege III and what has been done with Dungeon Siege 1 and 2.

 

It’s interesting that you mention underutilized I.P. because Square Enix has a treasure trove, the Mana series, Chrono, and so on. You could have, perhaps, given SaGa to Obsidian since it’s known for player freedom and interconnected stories. Have you thought about dusting off some of your own internal IPs?

 

Yeah, you’re right. We have a lot of I.P.s and let’s just say we had conversations similar to what you’re thinking about. But, one of the things we wanted to do, one of the things that was attractive about the Dungeon Siege I.P. was the fact that it was born and homegrown in North America. It was specifically designed for an North American and European audience. That’s really what we wanted to add to our arsenal.

 

The I.P.s that you’re talking about have global appeal and that’s great. And our teams are very passionate about them. We haven’t been a company to externalize development talent on our own I.P.s. We’ve been more of a company that has added to our I.P.s. We we talked to Obsidian it seemed like a perfect match to add a Western oriented action RPG to compliment what we’re doing in Japan.

 

ds3b 

Speaking of I.P.s. made for the West, there is the Square Enix LA Studio too, but we have not seen anything from them. I remember you were hiring waves of people, so perhaps could you enlighten us about what is going on inside?

 

Yes, you’re right we do have our own internal Los Angeles studio. A lot of talented people that have a wealth of experience are part of it. The head of the studio actually came from Square Enix Japan.

 

I believe he was the director of [Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles:] My Life as a King.

 

Yeah, that’s right. We also recruited some people from various development studios from the West and they’re working hard. I can assure you as time progresses you’ll hear more and more about that, but we’re not ready at this point in time to announce anything. But, they are in there everyday and they are pounding away.

 

[This interview was conducted before Siliconera revealed the existence of Project Dropship, a canceled PSN and Xbox Live Arcade game developed by Square Enix’s Los Angeles studio.]

 

In other words you’re making your own franchise for the West, inside the West?

 

I didn’t necessarily say it’s for the West. It’s for we hope the global community will love it when it’s finished, but it is being made in the West. And it’s our first startup studio out of Los Angeles so we’re really excited about it.

 

Check back tomorrow for the second half where we discuss Square Enix’s plans to expand in the online space and their legacy I.P.s from Japan.


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