Japanese publisher Square Enix could be on board as a developer for Microsoft's next console, according to company president Yoichi Wada, who says the next-generation Xbox "would fully deserve consideration."
Speaking with US website GameSpot, Wada referred to an "evolution in the thinking" at Microsoft and said that his company - which makes the enormously popular Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest titles, as well as Disney crossover franchise Kingdom Hearts and the recently launched Fullmetal Alchemist series - would consider working on Xbox 2.
Explaining Square Enix' decision not to develop on the Xbox platform, Wada pulled no punches - saying that "there is no reason for us to allocate development staff for Xbox when we can have PS2."
"When you look at the Xbox from the standpoint of a standalone game console, it's not different from the PS2," he stated. "But when you look at it from the installed base perspective, there is a big difference."
Wada was also critical of Microsoft's approach to online gaming, although he lauded the company for focusing on this area - unsurprisingly so, since Square Enix itself has committed strongly to the online gaming market and has enjoyed significant success with its Final Fantasy XI online RPG.
"Xbox pursued network gaming, and that is a fine idea," he said. "I would evaluate that to be good. However, the attempt was to create a closed network in a closed environment. That is completely contrary to our concept of networked business."
Square Enix, of course, isn't the only company which found Microsoft's approach to online gaming not to be to its taste. Electronic Arts also fell out with the Redmond-based giant over the terms of the Xbox Live service - and the dispute between the two was only settled earlier this week, when EA announced that it would bring its titles to Xbox Live later this year.
It's not clear what concessions Microsoft made to EA in return for that support, but reading between the lines of Wada's comments, it seems likely that these concessions could be integrated into the standard terms of the online service on Xbox 2 - marking the "evolution in the thinking" to which Wada referred, and making the Xbox into a much more attractive platform for companies such as EA and Square Enix.
Support from Square Enix could be crucial to Xbox 2 - at present, Xbox is the only gaming platform not supported in some way by the Japanese giant, whose business is primarily focused on PlayStation 2 but also includes development for GameCube, Game Boy Advance, PlayStation Portable, Nintendo DS, PCs and mobile phone platforms.