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Pictured above: Lost Sphear on Switch, Tokyo RPG Factory’s second title

The approach contrasts strongly with that of the Square Enix Collective in Europe. Though the desire to create an agile project-centric team is similar. “The idea of creating a project, putting a flag up and getting people to come in and work on that is something we could have done in the same kind of manner as the Collective in Japan. That option was there. But because that kind of thing is not so established in Japan, it would have been much harder to get people in, which is why we choose a different approach. “The overall objective is pretty much the same: we’re trying to do similar things, but it’s just the environment we’re trying to achieve those things in is different, so we adapted to the environment in a way we felt was best.” And that objective was to create games in a faster, more flexible way, to create games that could make the most of the growing trend for digital distribution in Japan, which was already becoming dominant in the west. GOING GLOBAL Improving Square Enix’s digital sales is something that Matsuda brought up in the company’s recent end of year report. It affects the company in many ways, both giving Tokyo RPG Factory’s titles wide reach, and also allowing more western games into Japan. Looked at either way it’s a powerful force for globalisation in once quite separate gaming markets. “I think that certainly there’s been a desire for different kinds of games and different tastes all around the world, and the change with the hardware and the way games are distributed now means it’s a lot easier to pick up the titles you want to play from wherever they are and I think that’s had an influence,” Matsuda says. “In the past in Japan, you had people who were really interested in western games, and they did exist, but obviously most of these games were only available on PC. So people found it really hard to get hold of them and play them. But that’s now changed and a lot of these games are put onto console.” SUPER SWITCH Another way in which the company is looking to diversify is by embracing the Switch, though with no announcements of western franchises to date. Square Enix is somewhat biding its time when it comes to the platform. “The Switch is a very attractive and important platform for us,” Matsuda says. “As a games company, having that

breadth in our portfolio is very important, with the Switch being such a unique piece of hardware.” In Japan, Square Enix is pleased to see an alternative to the PS4, and one that provides very different opportunities to the market’s dominant device. It also seems a natural home for Tokyo RPG Factory’s undemanding titles, though the studio and its first title came too early for that to be planned. “When we started work on Project Setsuna, the Switch wasn’t even out yet, there was no information about it,” Matsuda continues. “We really set out to make this style of game and to make it on home console. But we didn’t really have any particular ideas about which console we were going to go for in the planning stage.” A happy coincidence then that Setsuna and Lost Sphear are both great fits for the hardware. And other announced titles, such as Dragon Quest 11, will reinforce that longcherished relationship between Square Enix and Nintendo hardware: “For gamers, Nintendo is very closely attached to the JRPG, because so many of them came out back in the Super Nintendo days.” BACK CATALOGUE MODEL Matsuda stated in a recent company report that he’s keen to improve the company’s digital fortunes. On this subject, he reveals a handful of ideas to improve sales and widen its digital offering with updates to classic titles: “The very first of those is to completely renew and overhaul our website. The second one is creating an app to make it easier for [consumers] to get their hands on games. Everyone gets their information through smartphones now, so we created an application to make it even easier for them to know what titles are there to buy.” Square Enix has an enviable back catalogue, which Matsuda is keen to make more of: “One of our other big initiatives is to get as many as our past titles available via digital releases. Among the younger generations of gamers, you’ve got lots of people out there who may have heard of our past titles but have never had an opportunity to play them. “So we think that programme of porting and transferring the older titles over to newer platforms, such as the Switch, is very important. So that people get that awareness of our back catalogue. Just straight ports isn’t cutting it, we need to update those and modernise them to make something that works for modern gamers too.” I Am Setsuna did well as a digital title, Matsuda continues: “Certainly for these kind of smaller titles the percentage on digital is a lot higher.” But physical is very important, he adds: “For people who do want a boxed title, we very much want to provide them with a collector’s edition of the game, and addressing their needs in that way.”

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MCV931 11th December  
MCV931 11th December