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02 June 2011 @ 12:23 pm
Final Fantasy 7  
So there's a rumor going around that Squidix is going to announce a remake of Final Fantasy 7 at E3 this year. That doesn't have much bearing on anything since you can't go a couple weeks anymore without tripping over a rumor, request, petition or speculation about a FF7 remake, however it did get me thinking.

Squidix has fallen on somewhat rough financial times. Nothing like Square right after "Final Fantasy The Spirits Within" and right before the merger with Enix, but they're not doing great either. FF13 had decent sales leavened with a moderate amount of criticism, FF14 completely tanked under a mountain of criticism and Squidix is desperately trying to dig their way out. (And if you haven't been following the situation, that last bit is not in any way an exaggeration. There's pretty much universal acceptance that the FF14 launch was an epic failure, the only question is if they can manage to fix things enough to keep even a modest player base.) In the wake of all that Squidix announced that they're expecting something like a $150 million loss for the fiscal year.

That's factored into the speculation about FF7 remakes a lot. "This is the kind of financial crisis they've been holding the FF7 remake back for! Now they can just cash in on it!"

Now on the other hand, Nintendo is coming out with a new console. They've got wheelbarrows full of money to spend marketing it. How much money would Nintendo have to offer Squidix for them to actually remake FF7, and make it a timed exclusive on the Nintendo Cafe?

A lot of older "hardcore" gamers consider the original Final Fantasy 7 to be the prime event signaling the decline of Nintendo as a "hardcore" gaming company and the rise of Sony. Actually it was a rather singular event in a lot of ways. Final Fantasy was always big in japan of course, but in America it had a much smaller audience. Nintendo losing the franchise to Sony was a big shock to that group of fans, but then Sony really pushed it as the kind of flagship RPG for the PSX, and it really took off. There's a definite discontinuity in the FF fandom between those who were in before FF7 and those who got started with it. (I'm not going to argue there's some kind of merit to one side or another, just that the fandom is aware of the grouping.) So in some ways Nintendo losing Final Fantasy made both the Final Fantasy series and the Playstation big in America. And a lot of "hardcore" gamers feel that Nintendo has been gradually disappointing them more and more ever since. Each console since then has had less "hardcore" games, and less "big" third party games in general. This has reached its current peak with the Wii. Not only has the dearth of third party games continued, but Nintendo's emphasis on trying to capture the "casual" market has left a lot of "hardcore" gamers feeling alienated and making disparaging comments about "waggle" mechanics.

So if Nintendo wanted to recapture the enthusiasm of the "hardcore" market (and marketing research on attach rates seems to indicate that it's a good thing to have a core of "serious" gamers supporting you system even if you've also got a wide pool of "casual" gamers) getting a FF7 exclusive would certainly be a way to do it, especially if they could in some way take credit for convincing Squidix to do it.

Is it going to happen? I seriously doubt it. It would be a brilliant marketing move for Nintendo and would make a lot of money for Squidix (though i'm doubtful about whether they could actually create a good FF7 remake at this point) but i expect both companies are far too proud and stubborn for it to happen. Squidix has been resisting for so long that i doubt they'd capitulate just for the sake of wheelbarrows of money when they're not in truly dire need, and it's entirely possible that Nintendo is still feeling bitter about the original "betrayal" all those years ago. (I know harsh words were exchanged about it for quite awhile afterwards, though i don't know how much Nintendo's internal corporate culture has evolved since then.)

Failing that, i'm not sure if there's any other companies that Nintendo could cut a similar deal with. A company that's popular amongst the "hardcore" and is a major player on other consoles, but isn't big enough in America to write it's own ticket. Perhaps making a big deal with NIS, Atlus, or possibly Level 5? The problem is that the market has gotten so big since the days of the SNES/PSX transition, gamers are a lot more informed than they used to be, and the "hardcore" is no longer as unified as it once was. There are "hardcore" RPGers, "hardcore" FPS gamers, "hardcore" third person action-adventure gamers, "hardcore" strategy gamers, "hardcore" sports gamers, etc. A lot of people belong in more than one category, but there's no category that will cover all or even most gamers. (FPS probably comes closest, as much as it pains me to say so, but that's also the category with the most competition from well established companies and franchises.)

It would certainly fit thematically if Nintendo suddenly announced that Disgaea 5 was going to be a Nintendo Cafe exclusive and made a big advertising push and all of the sudden millions of American games said "OMG! I'd never encountered this strategy RPG thing before, but now i'm totally hooked!" and NIS suddenly became a big name in America, but somehow i don't see that happening :)
 
 
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受け継がれる意志: terra :{seaverse}:doctorskuld on June 2nd, 2011 08:31 pm (UTC)
I think I agree with pretty much every piece of your analysis here, except I feel like you're overestimating how much of a "brilliant market move" it would be for Nintendo to market something like an FF7 remake. I think the fact that the Wii has found incredibly impressive levels of penetration into the casual gamer market is not something that they're eager to change anytime soon. They also pretty much dominate the handheld market as well, so I see the incentive for them to throw large amounts of money at something like an FF7 remake incredibly small and unlikely.

That said, haven't there been rumors of an FF7 remake for the past 10 years now? I don't think Square is gonna do it. Or rather, if it does, before it does an FF6 remake...fuck that shit. >:( I'm boycotting.
DonAithnen: Games: slimedonaithnen on June 2nd, 2011 09:09 pm (UTC)
Well let's be clear, it would definitely be a brilliant marketing move in terms of appealing to the hardcore gamers. The question you're asking is if Nintendo needs or wants to appeal to those gamers.

One thing i mentioned above is the attach rate. Like you said, Nintendo has had a lot of success with attracting casual gamers. However attach rate data seems to indicate that a lot of the casual gamers only pick up a couple games over the life of the console. That's okay (as long as you're selling the hardware at a profit, it wouldn't work so well for Sony or Microsoft) but hardcore gamers usually buy at least a couple games a year. Some of them buy a couple games a month. So hardcore gamers can bring in profit disproportionate to their number compared to casual gamers.

Then there are some factors which i didn't mention above. First, Nintendo already got the casual gamers with the Wii, but how many casual gamers are going to rush out to buy a Wii 2? If they were happy with just a couple games for the Wii and they can still play Wii Sports on the old console, what do they need the new console for? Casual gamers aren't known for their driving need to obtain the latest and greatest like hardcore gamers. Furthermore the big game companies are very concerned about the whole mobile phone/tablet thing. (Iwata addressed that point directly at GDC this year.) Are casual gamers going to want to buy a new console and new games to go with that new console? Or are they going to just want to buy a couple one dollar app games to play on their phone?

I don't think we're going to know the answer to those questions until after the Wii 2 is already out, but that would be a little late for Nintendo to _start_ trying to appeal to alternate audiences. It's pretty much a "keeping all your eggs in one basket" thing.

And i think Nintendo knows this. They made a big point at E3 last year of emphasizing more "hardcore" games and talked about how important such things are. Metroid Other M, the new Donkey Kong, Kirby's Epic Yarn, Kid Icarus, lots of stuff that seemed designed to appeal to older "hardcore" gamers.

And finally, they're not really dominating the handheld market anymore. The DS is still doing well in America, but the PSP surpassed it in Japan awhile ago (mainly due to Monster Hunter i think) and the 3DS is off to an okay but not spectacular start.

So i don't think Nintendo intends to ditch the casual market in favor of the hardcore market, however i do think they want to appeal to both, and there's no reason why they can't. Choosing just one over the other would be potentially risky and would just be leaving potential money on the table. Helping to fund an FF7 game would certainly be expensive, but i think the article i linked yesterday said they spent about $200 million promoting the Wii, so...

But all in all it doesn't really matter how awesome or effective an idea it would be. As we both said Squidix has been resisting a FF& remake forever, and i really don't expect them to capitulate on the matter anytime soon.
Laura Parkinson: OneWingstormfeather on June 2nd, 2011 10:18 pm (UTC)
Mmm, nice icon! Seph...i...roth... *happy place*

Ahem, anyhow. I'm not sure if I feel better or worse about not playing FFXIV beyond the first month or so, knowing it ended up tanking. On the one hand, one more loyal customer would help them out that little bit more. On the other hand, hey, at least it's not like I'm missing much!

Of course, I'm leaning much more toward the latter, since if they wanted the extra loyal customers, they shouldn't have screwed up their game so badly, and actually released something a) fun, b) less bug-riddled, and c) with at least a SOMEWHAT tolerable UI. The game had some good points, and I was gung-ho at first, but it wasn't enough in the end to keep me going past all the problems.

That, and it'd have been nice if they'd either basically done FFXI version 2 but Much More Kickass and Updated, or done something completely different, not this wishy-washy in-between crap. :p
DonAithnen: Games: Sephirothdonaithnen on June 2nd, 2011 11:06 pm (UTC)
Yay! I'll have to use it more often :)

Well, it's tanked in the sense that just about everyone feels the same way as you. Squidix has apologized multiple times, and in December instead of extending the free trial period a few months for the third(?) time, they just said "we'll let you know when we actually think it's worth paying for." They got rid of the previous director (producer? whatever) and replaced him with someone else and have been working full time on trying to "fix" it.

So they've pretty much admitted that it's a total disaster, but they _think_ they can eventually get it to a point where it will be worth paying for, or at least that's what they're publicly saying.