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Square Enix looks to grow online business

Japan's biggest independent publisher looks to the future.

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

In its first major business strategy conference since the company was formed out of a merger earlier this year, Square Enix has announced ambitious plans to double its sales within a timescale of three to four years.

The company, which was yesterday revealed to be the largest independent publisher in Japan in the first half of this year - and second only to Nintendo by a small margin in the overall stakes - hopes to achieve much of this growth in overseas territories and in the burgeoning online games market.

In the year ended March 31, Square Enix reported sales of some 62 billion Yen (€466 million); the company plans to hit an annual sales target of 120 billion Yen (€901 million) in a timeframe of "about three to four years", according to president Yoichi Wada. This would make Square Enix into one of the largest publishers in the world, and put it into the very exclusive club of publishers with over $1 billion turnover.

Online games form a key part of Square Enix' strategy to reach this goal, and the company hopes that online titles will account for 25 per cent of that 120 billion Yen target. This year, online gaming revenues for the company are expected to hit 10.1 billion Yen (€76 million), representing 16 per cent of overall turnover.

The online section of the company is still making heavy losses, but Final Fantasy XI is still counted as a significant success, with 250,000 registered users and 100,000 players using the system simultaneously. "Taking games online is not easy," Wada-san told the conference, but he believes that Square Enix has a major advantage in this sector due to its headstart over its rivals. "We want to build on our experiences up until now and establish a bigger presence online."

There was good news for European gamers at the conference as well, with Wada-san reiterating the company's determination to focus more strongly on this territory in future. Many more titles will be localised into European languages in future, although no exact details of which titles this covers at present were mentioned. Wada-san did say, however, that he believes that the market potential of Europe exceeds that of even Japan, and described success in overseas markets as "a matter of life and death" for the publisher.

In terms of new software in development, it's obvious that Square's focus remains strongly on the PlayStation 2. As expected, Final Fantasy XII was officially confirmed at the conference and will be released before the end of the current financial year next March. Also due for release on PS2 within that period is Drag-on Dragoon, All-Star Professional Wrestling III, Hanjuku Hero VS 3D, Final Fantasy XI and its add-on disc in overseas markets, and three currently unannounced games.

Support for other platforms remains thin on the ground - Crystal Chronicle is the only title currently bound for the GameCube, while the GBA is getting a version of Legend of Mana and one other currently unannounced title. Two PSone titles, of all things, are also in development (no details as yet), but the Xbox is still off the menu for the company - no Square Enix titles are bound for Microsoft's console this year.

As for other titles in development, Dragon Quest VIII is now definitely not appearing in the current financial year, but should appear early in the next one instead. The company also has high hopes for this title in the USA, not least because of the newfound overseas popularity of character designer Akira Toriyama's other famous creation, Dragonball.

Kingdom Hearts 2, meanwhile, continues to be the subject of licensing discussions with Disney, but given the success of the previous title (the Final Mix edition alone sold over 400,000 copies in Japan) it seems likely that a sequel will be confirmed in the near future.

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