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Surprise Bravely Default success sparks Square Enix rethink

"If you focus too much on the global aspect, you might lose sight of who you're actually making the game for."

The success of superb Japanese role-playing game Bravely Default has sparked a rethink at publisher Square Enix.

In an interview with Nikkei Trendy (translated by Siliconera), Square Enix president admitted the company had "lost its focus" when trying to make its home console games for a global audience.

This, Matsuda admitted, had resulted in lower than expected sales - a well-documented issue for the publisher.

But the success of Bravely Default has shown that what is considered a niche, Japanese-focused game can enjoy international success, and so Square Enix is rethinking how it's making future games, such as the next Hitman title.

"If you focus too much on the global aspect, you might lose sight of who you're actually making the game for," Matsuda said.

"For example, if you look back at 2013, we've had some home console games made for a global audience that struggled."

Matsuda referenced IO Interactive's Hitman: Absolution, which some criticised for deviating too far from the core stealth-based Hitman gameplay of previous titles.

"The development team for Hitman: Absolution really struggled in this regard," he said. "They implemented a vast amount of 'elements for the mass' instead of for the core fans, as a way to try getting as many new players possible.

"It was a strategy to gain mass appeal. However, what makes the Hitman series good is its appeal to core gamers, and many fans felt the lack of focus in that regard, which ended up making it struggle in sales.

"So, as for the AAA titles we're currently developing for series, we basically want to go back to their roots and focus on the core audience, while working hard on content that can have fans say things like 'this is the Hitman we know'. I believe that is the best way for our development studios to display their strengths."

Matsuda's comments echo those IO issued when it revealed it was working on the next Hitman game for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One back in January.

Then, in an open letter to Hitman fans, the studio said we'd see Agent 47 "stalking his prey across the world" with the support of his long-term handler Diana Burnwood and the whole of the ICA. The game revolves around the "core Hitman fantasy", the studio said, and is built on the Glacier 2 game engine, using "the best parts and what we have learnt through Hitman: Absolution and drawing inspiration from past titles like Contracts and Blood Money".

Square Enix has undergone a reboot of sorts following its last financial year, which saw a catastrophic loss of 13.7bn yen (around £83m). At the end of the current financial year ending March 2014, it expects to see a profit of up to 6bn yen (around £36m), in part fuelled by money made from subscriptions to MMO Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn.

"For example, in the past, when we developed console games with a worldwide premise, we lost our focus, and not only did they end up being games that weren't for the Japanese, but they ended up being incomplete titles that weren't even fit for a global audience," Matsuda admitted.

"On the other hand, there are games like the JRPG we made for the Japanese audience with the proper elements, Bravely Default, which ended up selling well all around the world."

Square Enix has new games in the Tomb Raider, Deus Ex and Hitman series in development, as well as Final Fantasy 15 and ongoing work on Final Fantasy 14.

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