Bravely Default Sales Success Causes Square Enix to Rethink Development Strategy for Games Like Hitman Absolution
Bravely Default, a Japanese RPG for the 3DS, has been a surprise sales success, moving 200,000 units to consumers in its first three weeks on the market in the US. For a game in a niche genre in the US on a handheld platform, these numbers are quite good, especially because they were unexpected. The surprise success has sparked a rethink at publisher Square Enix, which has had trouble with sales recently.
"If you focus too much on the global aspect, you might lose sight of who you're actually making the game for," Square Enix president Yosuke Matsuda stated. "For example, if you look back at 2013, we've had some home console games made for a global audience that struggled."
In the last financial year, the famed Japanese developer and publisher saw a loss of 13.7bn yen, or roughly USD 125.7m, and is planning a strategy change to turn a profit this year. The fiscal year ends this month, so we should be hearing if they hit their goal soon, but they are aiming to make a $58m profit.
Hitman in particular has suffered as they tried to tune the game towards a more global audience, but lost some of what made it special in the process.
"The development team for Hitman: Absolution really struggled [in regard to sales]," Matsuda 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."
Bravely Default reminded Square Enix that a title can achieve commercial success without straying too far from what made it good in the first place.
"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'," Matsuda said. "I believe that is the best way for our development studios to display their strengths."
"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. 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," he finished.