In January, we reported that Final Fantasy XIII composer Masashi Hamauzu was parting ways with Square Enix, following the departures of other members of Square Enix’s inhouse music team. At the time, video games music coverage site Square Enix Music Online stated that more of Square’s composers were to follow suite in the coming months.
Four days ago, SEMO reported Crystal Chronicles composer Kumi Tanioka had announced her departure from the publisher at a festival celebrating 10 years of Final Fantasy XI.
Today, the site has revealed that Square Enix originally made the decision to disband their music team at the end of 2009. Hamauzu and Tanioka’s announcements of departure were in light of this decision — a fact that couldn’t be reported until now. While some members of the team have chosen to retire from the business altogether, others are forming their own studios and pursuing freelance opportunities. Kumi Tanioka and Final Fantasy X composer Junya Nakano, for instance, are now part of video game composition alliance GE-ON-DAN.
Going forward, the company will rely primarily on contracting external composers to work on their projects. Among their contractors for upcoming games are Nobuo Uematsu’s “Smile Please” production company for Final Fantasy XIV, and Yoko Shimomura. While switching over completely to a contract-based business is a first for Square in the music department, chances are there won’t be any noticeable drop-off in quality, given that they are likely to approach these same composers who have years of experience behind them.
Although contractor fees can vary on the basis of a project’s requirements, it is unlikely that the cost of potentially paying a higher fee to composers per-project will offset the resources saved by not having to maintain an internal music studio.