“It’s not us, it’s all of those dirty collusive Western publishers,” Square Enix says in a press release accompanying their dismal financials.
The actual phrase the Japanese publisher uses is “the console game markets in North America and Europe are increasingly competitive and oligopolistic,” implying that a closed Western market and not unrealistic expectations about the performance of AAA titles like “Tomb Raider” and “Hitman: Absolution” are to blame for their financial woes. Sure, competition for the gaming dollar is getting more intense, but that assumes that the only game markets are the casual dollar games and the $60 AAA market, I think, completely ignoring the increasingly neglected middle tier.
As a result, the publisher is focusing its efforts on overhauling how they handle large-scale development while focusing more of their efforts on mobile games.
My worry is that some of the Western developers that Square Enix has picked up over the last console generation–including IO Interactive and Crystal Dynamics–may be seen as liabilities by Square Enix, who’s changed the conversation from “how a publisher blew its wad on an unprofitable MMO” to “how the Western game market won’t support new games.” While not blockbuster status, sales of 3.4 million is nothing to sneeze at for “Tomb Raider,” and with two other high-profile releases made by Western devs for Western gamers–“Sleeping Dogs” and “Hitman: Absolution”–the publisher racked up solid sales and very positive critical notices.
Let’s not forget the huge amount of money and time Square Enix spent in 2012 salvaging “Final Fantasy XIV” with “A Realm Reborn,” dealing with performance issues, bugs, and overall gameplay experience woes for the anticipated MMO followup. The initial development was problematic.
Square Enix joins Capcom in blaming the West for its woes, the latter laying the blame for a rough 2012 in part on shoddy development from their overseas partners.
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