Interview: Looking At The Future And Future Of The Past At Square Enix USA

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Yesterday, our interview with Dave Hoffman, Director of Business Development, covered what’s happing now and the steps Square Enix took to expand the company in North America. Today, we’re going to talk about the future and the company’s legacy series from Japan like SaGa.

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Hoffman considered releasing Dungeon Siege III an opportunity since there was a hole in the market; this wave of consoles is light on hack and slash RPGs. Looking beyond, I asked him what he believes the next big market for Square Enix USA is.


Beyond Dungeon Siege III and Supreme Commander 2, what are your other goals for the East meets West part of Square Enix? Where do you think an open market or even a blue ocean lies?


Dave Hoffman, Director of Business Development: I think there has been a lot of titles done, especially out of Western studios, that focus on first person shooters, and third person action games. There are a lot of genres that are tried and true. You know, when you buy a game a lot of times you are buying an upgrade almost to an existing game.


I think a lot of what our industry and Square America is still diligently looking at is the online space and whether that means – you know online is a big word. It’s a big vague word that could mean a lot of things. To some people that means social games on Facebook. Online could mean free to play or how we are working with other companies for digital distribution. It could mean many things, right? It seems like the rest of the industry it seems like, a lot of times I watch these companies, read about them, and talk to individuals in them that are kind of racing towards it and they don’t have plotted course of action. They’re trying to throw stuff to the wall and see what sticks.


Whereas we’re taking a much more strategic and analytical view. What we’re trying to do at Square is we’re trying to figure out what would really be a true gaming experience to the consumers on a broad scale that interfaces in the online community and truly delivers something that has not only success written on it from how many people experience it, but we want to make sure they have a quality experience. We want to make sure they feel something, they are immersed in our worlds, and that they are attached to our stories. We’re excited about the future and I think that is what Square America is taking a magnifying glass to.


Knights of the Crystal, one of Square Enix’s Facebook games, pictured.



This has been an interesting look inside Square America, but I have to ask for my readers since they love the franchises from Square Japan too. Some of them feel disappointed that some of the games they read about aren’t coming over like SaGa, perhaps. And then there are those risky projects like Cross Treasures with Jump. What do you have to say to that group of fans hoping for localized titles?


I mean we get a lot of requests from the community and we take all of the requests very seriously. We really do think about it and figure out what’s feasible and what’s not. For example, we’ve been getting a lot of requests for a long time now to revisit Final Fantasy VII1.


We know people want that and we want to make sure if we take the time to really bring it consoles or to the current systems nowadays that we would have to put in a tremendous amount of effort and take away time from what we’re currently building. It’s a little bit like how can we juggle our assets and how do we stay on track with titles like Versus, for example, or something like that. And how do we look at adding to what the fans want? It’s just a matter of more discussions, internal discussions, and I know that’s not what you guys want to hear.


As far as the way we handle the legacy I.P.s, it’s also very, very team driven. We have certain teams that basically have their plan and have their structure to bringing products to market. And it basically has to fit within that team’s framework. If we’re talking about the SaGa series, for example, then we would be talking and looking at what the bandwidth of that team is? What they are currently able to do? Can they do something that is up to our quality levels and expectations of our consumers? We take everything really, really seriously and that’s why we take awhile to make firm decisions on this stuff. We want to make sure whatever we do we over deliver.


[ 1We brought those requests to Square Enix CEO, Yoichi Wada, and asked him what he thought about a Final Fantasy VII remake. ]


It’s interesting that for Dragon Quest, one of your most prominent legacy I.P.s, it’s pretty much handled by Nintendo outside of Japan. Have you thought about handing, since we mentioned it so many times, SaGa to Xseed since they once had ties with Square?


You know, there are a lot of moving parts inside Square. There are a lot of people responsible for different I.P.s in different territories. To be perfectly honest with you that conversation may or may not have happened. It’s just not my region nor my I.P. so I don’t know, just to be honest with you.


SaGa 2 and SaGa 3 pictured.

saga2 saga3


I appreciate the candor. But, what about the group of gamers that look at Square from the Super Nintendo or perhaps the PsOne days where almost every title was RPG, RPG, and character driven RPG? As a business now, you’re trying to expand and took chances with different genres. A healthy amount of risk is good and you targeted different groups with Mindjack, Supreme Commander 2, and Lord of Arcana. You tried different kinds of games, but what do you have to say to the core fans that crave character driven stories from the heydays when RPGs were booming and first dawned on consoles – the fans that want more games like the ones they grew up with?


You know, I understand. I read your site and I hear first hand a lot of people say, ‘hey, I wish they would go back to being Squaresoft instead of being Square Enix’ or something along those lines. I would just say look, we are continuing to strive for quality. We are continuing to strive for an emotional experience in our products, any one that we bring across.


As you mentioned Spencer, we need to continuously grow and evolve as a company to keep our competitive foothold in the industry. We appreciate the loyalty and we definitely value it beyond anything else. We are really, really thrilled to have our fans and we don’t want to under deliver to them. We want to actually over deliver and we are striving to make that happen.


If I was speaking directly to them, I would say look we have the same feelings that you do. We want to do the quality. We want to make sure that every game is rated very high and gives a great experience without giving that cookie cutter feel as some of our competitors and you know just bear with us. We are working hard every single day and every single night to make that happen. We are doing it to make it happen for those fans.

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