News: No Phoenix Down for Wada

Yoichi Wada SLIDER

“Wada you mean I’m fired?”

Yoichi Wada Steps Down As Square Enix President

This week a veil of terror and misery has lifted from the Japanese software development industry, and yet the ramifications of this past week still fail to seem real. Square Enix president pariah, Yoichi Wada, has been forced to step down off the back of a stunning yearly loss, predicated upon the weak sales of console software. Square Enix had previously forecast themselves as making a thirty-seven million dollar profit, following on from a sixty-four million dollar profit during the previous fiscal year – yet they have this week been forced to downgrade their financial outlook to a $138,000,000 loss.

Square Enix had previously forecast the sale of 14.9 million units of console software, yet only ended up selling 8.75 million games. This is not surprising considering that their only major console releases for the period were: Tomb Raider, Hitman: Absolution, and Sleeping Dogs. It is currently unknown whether the titles in question were expected to cover the losses generated by the Japanese arm of Square Enix, or whether they actually drove some of the company’s losses themselves – but either way, they have been labelled by Square Enix as failures. Tomb Raider sold 3.4 million copies, Hitman: Absolution sold 3.6 million copies, and Sleeping Dogs sold 1.75 million copies.

It is clear that each of these products uniformly sold to the absolute upper-limits of any sound-minded estimation that could have been made of their potential, so it is quite difficult to understand the basis upon which Square Enix made their original predictions. One rather hopes that the real reason for this sharp decline is the ongoing development of Final Fantasy XIV, because otherwise it is evidence of some truly stunning incompetence, and betrays a publisher that is unable to live within its means.

Supposing for the minute that the games in question actually drove Square Enix’s losses, then it is quite difficult to imagine how that could have happened – though one imagines that inflated marketing budgets may have had something to do with it. At what point does having Lara Croft’s visage splashed across the side of the bus transcend indulgence, and become sheer lunacy? One would hate to think that the real reason for the West missing out on Final Fantasy: Type-0 and Bravely Default was that Square Enix were unwilling to commit to their imagined marketing costs.

Square Enix has revealed this week that they have sold a swathe of their free-to-play games to the well-capitalised start-up company, Sleepy Giant Entertainment, though it is uncertain whether this marks the end of their involvement in this form of software production, or whether they have simply divested themselves of their free-to-play portfolio to inject some liquidity into the company. It may be tempting to think of the ouster of Yoichi Wada as an opportunity for the company to return to form, yet one would do well to temper their expectations. A company culture, once trampled, is a difficult thing to repair, and we may even now be witnessing Square Enix’s descent into a death-roll.

Wii U Console + U Mad

Remember Reggie’s claims of a console for core gamers?

No Unreal Engine 4 or Frostbite 3 For Wii U

More bad news for Nintendo’s modest, little console, the Wii U, this week, as the developers of the game engines which will power the next generation of gaming scoffed at the suggestion that their middleware be ported to Wii U. Earlier in the week DICE executive producer, Patrick Bach, shot down the possibility of Frostbite 3 appearing on Wii U, stating:

“The biggest problem we have right now is we don’t want to back down from what we see as our low spec machines. We right now don’t have support for the Wii U in the Frostbite engine. The reason for that is it takes development time. We could probably make a Wii U game in theory. But to make the most out of the Wii U, that’s a different game because of the different peripherals. We want to utilize all the power of each console. It’s about, where do you put your focus? And the Wii U is not a part of our focus right now.”

Similarly, GDC saw Mark Rein host a Q&A in relation to Epic’s new engine: Unreal Engine 4. When asked whether Unreal Engine 4 would be supporting the Wii U, Rein’s initial response was to laugh derisively, causing the rest of the room to respond in kind. Levity expended, Rein clarified:

“I just laugh at the question… Unreal Engine 4, we’re not Playstation 3, Xbox 360, or Wii U. It’s next-gen technology. That’s what we’re aiming for.”

The week’s events have not only confirmed that the CryEngine 3 is set to be the only high profile next-gen capable engine to support the Wii U, but also that Wii U third party support will at best mirror the Wii, and at worst the Game Cube [if that]. Wii U owners have been foolishly clinging to the magical assumption that games intended for the PS4 and Durango will somehow be able to scale down to the Wii U, well, let us put paid to that wrong-headed notion. This week it has been confirmed that the engine which will in all probability be the most popular middleware of the eighth console generation will not support Wii U, while also discovering that the engine powering most [if not all] next-gen EA titles will not be compatible with Wii U. It is looking increasingly likely that any third party software released for the Wii U will have to be designed specifically for the system, as most middleware ecosystems simply will not bridge the generational divide. It is perhaps not surprising that Nintendo were so quick to support Unity; the engine powering most Kickstarter projects.

Metal Gear Solid Five Trailer Screenshot

Would that Hollywood would just stay out of my damn games.

No Place For Hayter?

This week’s GDC was also an occasion for Hideo Kojima to open up about the Metal Gear projects that he has in the pipeline. It was revealed that the previously announced Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes is but a mere prologue to the next Metal Gear proper, and that the next Metal Gear proper is set to be the previously announced The Phantom Pain – now relegated as the subtitle of Metal Gear Solid V.

Fanbase trolling is nothing new for Kojima, but there are starker changes afoot which look to turn the franchise on its head. The Metal Gear Solid V games will mark the first time that the series has used an open-world game design. This is a drastic departure for the series, but also one which makes a lot of sense given the type of games that the Metal Gear team are known for creating – provided that the larger environments do not compromise the quality of the games, of course.

Kojima also released some far less welcome news however, and that was that series mainstay, David Hayter, was not offered the opportunity to reprise the role of Snake. There is presently a lot of chatter online suggesting that cardboard personality, Kiefer Sutherland, has been roped in to play both Snake and series newcomer Ismael. If true, then it is both terrible and infuriating that Kojima would opt to replace iconic voice talent simply to tap into Sutherland’s faded Hollywood street cred. Kojima rationalises the decision as such:

“I can say, yes, it will be a new person. I can’t say who it is yet. What we’re trying to accomplish here is recreate the Metal Gear series. It’s a new type of Metal Gear game, and we want to have this reflected in the voice actor as well.”

Kojima’s talk of renewal might play well to the layman, but it is also a lie. The Japanese actor for Snake is set to reprise his role, making this a Hayter-specific decision. Thus, it would seem most intuitive to suggest that the iconic Western voice of Snake has been junked in favour of the thin veneer of Hollywood glitz, and worse than that, Kojima will probably be applauded for this move based on no other reason than that of name recognition.

29 comments on “News: No Phoenix Down for Wada”

  1. I am very much in two minds about Ground Zeroes and The Phantom Pain. On one hand I really want to hate the projects for ditching Hayter [for what I assume are very poor reasons], but on the other hand the trailer was fairly mind-blowing… :/

  2. Man, when I heard that Hayter wasn’t returning it broke my heart. His voice and coy self-awareness is one of the many things that made the Metal Gear Solid series for me.

    That being said, I hope he finds continued good work as a screenwriter in the comics-movie-genre-friendly environment of the last few years (and which he, in no small part, helped create).

  3. I wonder if it comes too late for the company? I fear that it may be so…

  4. I consider this a good omen. Every time Square found themselves on Death’s door we always got a magnificent Final Fantasy did we not? Only when the company got too big for it’s britches did we start to see this divergence into uncharted markets while alienating most of their fan base. Maybe Final Fantasy 15. The True “Final Fantasy” or is it the savior of the company once again?

  5. Or they might just push for further Westernisation and bigger marketing budgets…

    You have to remember that this isn’t Squaresoft anymore.

  6. I sometimes hold the same hopes for Nintendo that Korusi does for SE. And as Julian notes, it could be that they take the wrong “lessons” from their failure.

  7. Nintendo sucks with hardware, but at least they can still make a good game replete with that Nintendo magic….

    I wish the same could be said of Square Enix.

  8. The last time that I felt that old Squaresoft magic was when playing Crisis Core – but even then it was only a faint echo of the real thing…

  9. That’s even more cynical than what I was saying. Meanwhile it’s not like Squaresoft Merged with some evil conglomerate that shovels out the same thing with a new number on it every year. (EA) While it hasn’t recaptured that magic that I think it had in the classic eras I do think that Square-Enix can still make good games… They just need a direction change and maybe a few new bright faces to tell them they are doing it wrong.

  10. No, it only merged with the evil conglomerate that had it shovel out a $65 tablet game where you win by rubbing your finger up and down the screen… One of the most disgusting games ever created…

    Nothing to worry about I would imagine.

  11. @SN: “only a faint echo of the real thing” describes Square Enix to Squaresoft perfectly.

    For example: What I loved about Chrono Trigger had nothing to do with pushing graphical boundaries, or a tragic or emotional story, or a lot of flashy cutscenes, or badass dialogue, or anything that Square Enix is prepared to put out anymore. Rather it was fun, cute, quirky, and above all heartfelt. They cannot make a game like that ever again. If someone in the company decided that they needed to make a heartfelt game, they would produce something with the appearance of which – a simulacrum of heartfeltedness – that to anyone with a lot of sense and who could recognize the real thing in itself, would realize it’s just shite.

    Maybe they can make a very good Final Fantasy XV, but it will have as much to do with the games I loved that any other company could create. Honestly, I hope they stop. I’m finished with them anyways. We’re a lucky generation of people to have all that we’ve had from them growing up. Great memories for fond farewells. Maybe it’s hard to move on because we’ve never really said goodbye…

  12. Chrono Trigger was emotional [insofar as it was] because of the fact that the characters were LIKEABLE – and that is precisely what Square Enix has forgotten how to do….

    Moreover, pretty much this for all eternity:

    “If someone in the company decided that they needed to make a heartfelt game, they would produce something with the appearance of which – a simulacrum of heartfeltedness – that to anyone with a lot of sense and who could recognize the real thing in itself, would realize it’s just shite.”

    The one thing that I am wary against is that it may only take an imitation of emotion in order to stoke up a fanboy frenzy back towards the series, owing to the fact that the people craving a genuine Final Fantasy title are, at the moment, quite starved.

  13. I remain hopeful. Squaresoft was a wonderful company, Enix was a wonderful company… If everything that made them good is really gone then why do we keep buying Kingdom Hearts games? (Sadly the best thing they are still producing.)

    Seriously though; where is KH 3?

  14. I ask myself the same question, since I haven’t really enjoyed a KH game since no. 2.

    But of course we keep buying these games because we are human, and thus stupid…

  15. What blasphemy speak you? (excluding 358/2 Days and Coded) Every Kingdom Hearts game has been bliss. I suppose we can agree to disagree though.

  16. Rubbish. The series has become long in the tooth, and the stories increasingly silly and senseless without being charming.

  17. I imagine that part of it is the lack of Donald and Goofy as comic foils.

  18. I definitely agree with that last point, Julian. Replaying the first one about a year ago made me realize that.

  19. I never realised how much they contributed to the tone, and made Sora’s writing seem more sensible by comparison.

    I thought it a damn shame that they were not sidekicks in KH3D.

  20. Yeah… you guys don’t see the same story I do… hehe. I mean the story has shifted away from being away the Disney characters and is now more about Sora and Riku. It’s a very deep story really… Though I would agree that these side stories are nothing in comparison to the main series.

  21. This week the phrase ‘very deep’ has taken on a whole new meaning within an English language context.

    Very deep: Some confused wank about shadowy organisations, wherein the villains are without motive, and the poorly realised setting is without a strongly established set of rules to underpin its internal reality.

  22. Kingdom Hearts has a very deep story the same way the Saw movies had a deep story.

  23. Bah- you guys just don’t see the suggested undertones.

    Granted it’s not quite as messed up as finding out that you weren’t chasing Sephiroth in FF7 for the entire first disk but it’s pretty close.

  24. We seem to have missed the subtle nuance of Kingdom Hearts, James.

    LAUGHING OUT LOUD!

  25. Square Enix is circled half the way to the center of a whirlpool. The new guy (forgot his name already) will either slowly steer the ship back out of there or dive, mast first, into the abyss. Which will it be? Find out on an all new episode of SilconNooZ!

  26. @Julian I must have missed it because I was too busy trying to understand all of the forced plot points to connect each game.

  27. Yeah, I haven’t soured on KH quite in the same way that Julian has, but it’s certainly not subtle. That’s not to say that it doesn’t deal with some interesting and sometimes complex themes (albeit in overt ways), but Gyme is definitely right in the way the games are making larger stretches to make sure each title fits into the mythology. KH3DS was the worst culprit, I feel. I could suspend disbelief pretty far before and I even dug the Birth by Sleep backstory that Julian hates so much, but KH3DS tries to make every previous game part of a giant master plan (a plan that is stupid in its own right) but when it’s foiled, Xehnaort (sic) or Xemnas or whomever the fuck is in charge of Evil Drama Team Central just shrugs his shoulders as if foiling everything he’s ever worked for is somehow also part of his evil plan. Fuck the fuck off.

  28. I think that I could probably forgive the KH storylines for a lot so long as they had Donald and Goofy in tow to inject charm and levity – but without them I have no option but to focus all my attention on the creaky plot.

    I’ll still get KH3, and hope that it will be good. But I think I’m done with the spin-offs, especially if they lack Donald and Goofy.

    The problem for me is that hack and slash action RPGs really don’t interest me in their mechanics, so unless they suck me in with their worlds and stories then the games feel very sterile to me.

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