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A love letter to Nintendo and Square-Enix
by Alan Youngblood on 07/12/11 03:02:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Dearest Nintendo and Square-Enix,

 

NES adAh, I remember fondly the days of my first home console, the NES. There were many great Japanese games we enjoyed together. Among these were JRPGs, the main reason I fell in love with games in the first place and decided to be a game developer. For me it was not until Super Mario RPG and Final Fantasy VII that I really got into the genre, but I've loved many JRPGs from 1985-2000.

 

Letter from the PrincessBut lately things feel different. You say you still love me, but when we're together I feel like you care more about someone else. Reggie proclaimed from the mountaintops of E3 that WiiU will definitely be appreciated by core gamers and make up for what the Wii lacked so much. And it's ok, I know both of you have tried with games like Metroid Prime 3, Final Fantasy XII&XIII, Sin&Punishment 2, and so on. However, Nintendo, the way you have handled operation rainfall—the desperate plea of your few remaining old fans to localize Xenoblade, Last Story, and Pandora Tower to North America—has not only left us sad, but questioning where your heart lies.

 

In marketing you have what is called a “target demographic.” This is basically just the type of person that you want to reach with your products. I know you know this. What I don't know is who your target demographic is anymore. Nintendo and SqEnix(Japan)--- you seem to be confused with who you are selling. I understand that I was once a pre-teen/teenager when I first fell in love with your JRPG games. But I'm not anymore. And the teens of this day are looking for different things than we were back then. So it's difficult to tell you to move on and to find a new lover, because I'm worried that will not happen and we'll both end up lonely. Nintendo, we paid your bills when the rest of the world shunned you in the N64 and Gamecube era. Just because the people that were once in your demographic are now in a new one, does not mean you should leave us. Especially not if we are still loyal fans. At this point, to show you true love, we will let you leave us if you find someone else that makes you happy. But let's also make this clear: be honest. Do not say you care about the core and do nothing for us. Do not say thanks for enthusiasm for operation rainfall, but we will not release the games in NA. The big take-away from this letter is that when marketing these days, one must be honest about everything instead of two-facing it. There's still time to save face, Reggie, please come out with an honest press release. People may still hate you for shunning their interests, but they will forgive you and move on if you are honest and say that you are marketing your products to someone else now, like soccer moms, for instance. You respect people more with actions than with words, and moreover with your intent. In America, our great recession has caused a some to be bankrupt, but exposed many to be morally bankrupt. People are buying values and ideas these days not just products. Sell hope or honesty with what you sell and you'll be much better for it.

XenobladeNow, SqEnix, you seem to have driven off the great game makers that Nintendo of America is also shunning. Why does Sakaguchi-san not want to work with you anymore? The Xeno- games have migrated to Monolith from Squaresoft where they started with my all time favorite, Xenogears. See Xenoblade image <---to the side. Why would you deny us this Nintendo of America?

For your main series, SqEnix, you seem to be favor androgynous emo kid characters that appeal to a limited audience. Also, you seem to have traded exploration for a linear story. I appreciate the willingness to try new things, but stick to the essence of what works with 

LS Vs FF13

Final Fantasy each time. This is called marketing to “personas.” You could think of it like Bartle's player types. If a game appeals mostly to one type, like say explorers, then the next game in the series should still appeal to explorers not achievers. My guess is that you are making games that appeal to a small niche demographic in Japan without regard for playing type. This is totally ok, but make it another game instead of your main series. Final Fantasy has an audience that is more than just Hikikomori people in Japan. There's a wide reach of Final Fantasy fans here in the US where I live. I know men and women, young and old, hipsters, manly-men, shy people, outgoing people that have all been into Final Fantasy at one point. Like I told Nintendo, you do not need to cover all the bases. One big easy way to fail is to try to please everyone. But it stands to reason that you may want to make the Final Fantasy games appeal to more of the existing fan-base if your goal is to make such grand productions that are big international successes. XIII may have sold well, but it also may have cost you fans.

 

Thank you, but our princess is in another castle

As my last plea to you two companies that I have loved dearly in the past: know your audience(and target them with your intentions), be honest with them, and treat your products like an investment in future customers. That's what this whole fan thing is all about. Investing in the satisfaction of customers so they come back for more. There's nothing new business wise about that, but too many companies have forgotten it.



Thank you, but your fans are with a different company.

-Alan

 

PS I have enclosed a Power Up of Knowledge with this message that will help you on your journey.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

So what's next for JRPGs? Japanese seem to recognize the problems with their beloved genre of games, but have yet to really do anything about it. My guess is that it will be others that revive this genre. After all, the fans have not really found another place to go that will keep them forever. With more attractive JRPGs out there, gaijin (non-Japanese) will flock to gaijin-made games. And I wouldn't be surprised if Japanese gamers did so too.

 

My company's main game series “Saturday Morning RPG” seeks to revitalize the JRPG genre. Some aspects of our game that should appeal to the new JRPG audience are our references to retro real-world nostalgia and fresh environments. Our games have a goofy tongue-in-cheek humor to keep things from being dull. We are planning a multi-platform release and bite-size episodes that have interwoven story but allow people to jump in at anytime and carry over gameplay progress.

 

It would be rather pretentious of me to say that Saturday Morning RPG will be the savior of the JRPG. Ultimately, it is up to the fans of the genre to decide that. I personally feel that it will take more than one company to do it. For what it's worth, I'll do my part. But don't take my word for it, see for yourself:

SMRPG ScreenShothttp://www.facebook.com/mightyrabbitstudios
(Click “like” if you like what you see)

http://www.mightyrabbitstudios.com/

SMRPG trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tgJ-xdxPpZ8


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Comments


William Collins
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You have my sword, Sir Youngblood. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a Japanese resurgence/renaissance with the pending release of the Wii U as its catalyst. Major hardware releases seem like the perfect time to introduce new IP or long awaited sequels to existing ones. Nintendo's supposed desire to replicate the SNES in its prime brought back memories of Chrono Trigger, Secret of Evermore, Super Mario RPG, DKC series, Killer Instinct, etc. If the first year of the Wii U doesn't look like the last year of the SNES software-wise I will be very disappointed.



Also, do you think part of their decision not to release Xenoblade and Last Story is because it'd steal away some of the attention Zelda will be getting from RPG fans this year?

Bryan Taylor
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Of all the gaming systems i've ever owned, i've played my Wii the least... and by a great expansive divide. Realizing this, I shall mourn until the day comes that I can trust Nintendo with my money once again.



I fear that day may never come though. The target market of the modern day N has shifted to a crowd of people who care not about gaming brand loyalty. Many of them honestly think Nintendo is the device name and Wii is the company name. Good luck relying on them for future profits Nintendo... I hope you live long enough to learn your lesson from this. If you don't, then have the good grace to go out like Sega and spread your historic goodness to other vendors.



Friends don't let friends kill Mario...

Kamruz Moslemi
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Cheezus crakers, play more games on portables man, and I'd rather Square-Enix just do what they like, which has always been their way, without any fan input rather than seeing them pander to any set demographic, the entitled western gamers and their juvenile obsession with being mature in particular. There is enough of that garbage going around in western games already, I take your emo kid stereotype and raise you a squad of macho grit. Watching the Versus XIII trailer is about the most excited I have ever been for a RPG and I take it regardless of what the protagonist character model looks like, because at the end of the day that jumble of polygons has no effect on my enjoyment of a videogame, I reserve that role for gameplay.



Operation Rainfall might have been a failure but those games are being localized for a European release, so just import them and hack your Wii so that it can play games from other regions, it is easy and takes 10 minutes I hear. If you really love the Xeno series that much then doing that small an effort should be nothing. Your beef should be with NoA, not Nitendo in general because it was NoJ that funded those games making their existence a possibility, NoA just doesnt want to localize them.



Funnily enough I finally grabbed Sin and Punishment 2 from my backlog the other day and it is the best game that I have played all year, by a wide margin, I adore Nintendo for funding that Japanese treasure, among other things. That, Donkey Kong Country and about a dozen other Wii games have convinced me that the Wii is as good a core system as the Gamecube was in hindsight. I have no sore feelings towards Nintendo or Square, they've both been very good to me on home systems as well handhelds this generation.

Aaron Truehitt
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Without any fan input huh...Have you not kept up with FFXIV?

Kamruz Moslemi
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Aaron, no, multiplayer games don't really interest me. But from what I have gathered most of their problems stem from farming out development to some Chinese developers who delivered a jumbled mess, but did it on schedule and the people in charge of the project... well, SE has had some management issues for the last 10 years, we all know that much.



Andrew, no, on home consoles they have not, but I know the reason why and therefore I cannot blame them too much. You do know about the Crystal Tools engine not being in a serviceable state until sometimes in 2008, right? Toriyama has gone on record in interviews to state that fact and how that led to the delay of all projects that relied on it, E.G all of Square's current gen efforts.



But they have all of their ducks in a row now as you can see from FFXIII-2 being ready to go later this year at such a timely manner.

Alan Youngblood
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@Kamruz: I actually do play a lot of portable RPGs these days. I really like what SqEnix has done there. Things like The World Ends With You and Crisis Core are amazing games.

And yes, my beef is mainly with NoA, rather than Nintendo over all or the Japanese HQ.



@William: That is possible that they are holding out for Zelda, although kind of silly/stupid. Zelda has not released yet for the Wii (I realize the timing might coincide too close after them dragging their feet though). Even if they did release at the same time, it might actually help the games rather than hurt them.



@Bryan: Yeah, it's sad. There are some people like Kamruz that still support the companies, but there's a lot of us that are "breaking up" with them to extend my tongue-in cheek metaphor. Someone will fill this market gap, I guess I'm just telling Nintendo and SqEnix to do there part since they have a lot of long time fans. @Kamruz, I wasn't suggesting they pander to lots of people, but more or less find their ideal customer and appeal to them with focus. I'm ok with Final Fantasy games trying new things, but you can't really call it the same thing if it's a completely different game. @Bryan I think you have told me before that FF13 was basically a different game that got branded with FF logo. Whether others agree/disagree, just you bringing that up says that they've lost their direction. The Spirits Within was a cool film, but a terrible business venture that has set Square on a downward spiral.

Kamruz Moslemi
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Alan, Final Fantasy is not a series to be target focused at anyone because it is a mainstream property, just take a gander at the sales numbers for FFXIII. It is a lot like Dragon Quest in that regard. Also Final Fantasy is just a name of a series of games that share a few themes among them at a very vague level, I don't think it would serve Square well to peg Final Fantasy into a box and regard anything outside of that as not belonging. FFXII and FFXIII might have been different from FFX but they were still Final Fantasy to me and their being different made me like them even more.



For people who want their series to provide a very narrow experience that never changes Square has Dragon's Quest. Just look at the uproar that took place when Horii wanted to make DQIX have realtime combat.



I hope that sort of thing never happens to the FF series for that would be the death of the series for all but a tiny niche of players who have a very fixed idea about what is proper and what certainly is not.



Talking to fans of SE properties is always a chilling experience, I'd hate to think what the actual developers are going through.

Aaron Truehitt
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I just don't see them saling because the "core" gamers are a very small minority on the Wii. These games would do a lot better on the PS3, especially if they turn out to be very high quality titles. So, I see why NoA wouldn't do it. It's sad, but it is what it is. I put the blame on this fact though. Developers shoot aroudn consoles to much. Main series get thrown around on each platform, causing gamers to have to split their funds for each platform they gone on. It's just plain silly.

Daniel Balmert
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It wouldn't make sense at all from a marketing perspective. If you are honest, you only lose potential customers. You don't stand to gain anything that you weren't already gaining by making casual games for soccer moms while some hardcore gamers get duped into buying it because of the Nintendo logo.



I for one wouldn't give them my business based on, "Oh, he's being honest now. Sure I'll buy the next Zumba Dance Party. He deserves my money."



Their games need to appeal to a broad enough audience to make back the crap-ton of money they spend on their blockbusters. You might as well write a letter to Steven Spielberg asking the same thing: "You used to make ET, now you make films that aren't really classic or targeted at me. Just be honest and tell me you don't make movies for me."



The article is a veiled passive aggressive ultimatum sprinkled with flakes of self promotion. I too hate Square/Nintendo's new direction(s), so I stopped buying their games. There's hardly room for this much brand loyalty in an industry that changes rapidly every ~3 years.



The people who made the games you love either no longer work or aren't with the same team/company. You put way too much stock in the brand rather than the individual "team magic" that really creates classic awesome games.

Alan Youngblood
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Daniel, while I firmly disagree (and that's ok if you continue to disagree with me) marketing truth and honesty is always better than promising things that are not real. The internet is way too good at sniffing out un-genuine things and that lowers appeal and value for most customers. It's just like you calling me out (see what I did there?)



I'll admit this came out more passive aggressive than funny like I intended. And yes there is self promotion, but it's honest. I did not tell you what to think, I told you what to think about. You are welcomed to decide you don't like our game. You'll do that anyways whether I give you permission or not, so it's better to be encouraging of free choice. You are right that the people who made the games I loved have moved on to new companies and such. It just doesn't make sense that these companies are hearing people, giving lip-service and ignoring them. Likely we are all getting to where you are with not buying and ignoring them. I'll be there shortly.



People historically will trust brands a lot but now marketing is definitely shifting to trusting actual people. Like fan loyalty to Sakaguchi-San following him to Mistwalker instead of sticking with SqEnix. I really hope that some of the Japanese business folks read over this (not sure why they would want to read English, but that's beside the point). It's sort of a "hey, I've always respected you but you are making a mistake and I wish you'd wake up" kind of tough-love.



Sadly the great-recession has given far too many people to make excuses while they make really poor business decisions.



People can see the essence of what something is. If the original visionary didn't make it, it's not worth as much. You can get around that problem by creating new visionaries like Western branch of [now] SqEnix is doing in Montreal with Deus Ex: HR. I just feel as the Japan businesses are stymying the Japanese creators. To succeed now one must have both working collaboratively together from the start.


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