Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Square Enix Wields Its Power.

While the Xbox and GameCube both received at least some support from Final Fantasy developer Square Enix, it’s the PlayStation 2 that laid claim to the big-hitting games such as Final Fantasy X and XII, Dragon Quest VIII and the Kingdom Hearts series.

Square Enix senior VP Michihiro Sasaki told the Wall Street Journal today that his company is certainly going to support the PS3, but it isn’t going to overdo it. "We don't want the PlayStation 3 to be the overwhelming loser, so we want to support them," he said. "But we don't want them to be the overwhelming winner either, so we can't support them too much".

Sasaki’s comments (which were pulled out of context and dropped into the WSJ article) don’t exactly take the humble approach regarding Square Enix’s heavy influence on the popularity of the PlayStation brand. The PS2-exclusive FFXII sold over 1.7 million units for a premium $80 equivalent price tag in the first four days after its Japan launch. Kingdom Hearts’ sales approach 3 million units in North America, and its sequel, released at the end of March in the US, moved over 1 million units in about a month in North America.

Sasaki’s remarks also imply that having heavy Square Enix support is in Sony’s best interest. That's tough to argue against (maybe impossible to argue against). However, it’s also in Square Enix's best interest to spread its support around a bit more evenly in the next generation, especially if the market share will be more evenly split up between the big three console makers, as a few analysts predict. More and more publishers are recognizing that software exclusivity deals aren't going to be as attractive in the next console cycle.

Square Enix has announced upcoming games for all three next generation platforms, including Final Fantasy XIII for PS3, Project Sylpheed for Xbox 360 and Dragon Quest Swords for Wii among a few other titles, including an MMORPG that will appear on PS3, Xbox 360 and Vista PCs [The unnamed MMORPG is reportedly in development for PS3 and Vista, but an Xbox 360 port from the PC version is speculation at this point - Ed]. Still, the big name here has the Roman numeral XIII in it, and right now, that’s just for PS3. It will almost certainly move gobs of Sony's pricey console once the game is launched.

At first glance, Sasaki's words may perk up the ears of Xbox 360 and Wii devotees, who may interpret this as confirmation that Microsoft and Nintendo's machines will get some special Square Enix attention. That may or may not be the case. But judging from the Square Enix lineup right now for the Xbox 360, Wii and PS3, it's clear that the PS3 still is the focus for the publisher.

Even with Sony’s recent slip-ups it’s not hard to imagine that a well-done Final Fantasy XIII would erase any bad memories of the console’s early life. It remains to be seen if Xbox 360 and Wii will receive truly even support from Square Enix in the next-gen or if the two consoles will again garner the lower-profile offerings from the publisher.


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