Square Enix President Reflects On 2003
12.27.03 - 10:06 PM

In an interview conducted by Mainichi Interactive, Square Enix president Youichi Wada talked about his company's current condition following the merger between Square and Enix on April 1st. When quizzed about its current condition and performance since the merger, the Tokyo University graduate and former Nomura Securities manager seemed content. Due to the merger, the content portfolio now includes not only game software, but also magazines, manga, anime, networking and mobile operations. While the pace of business operations in Japan was exceptionally fast, the merger-related (positive) results on the expansion of the company's overseas operations were very big in nature as well.

As the former Square part of the company was managing Final Fantasy XI, Wada emphasized a point he had repeatedly stated in previous interviews: A changing business model for the game industry. To be competitive in this new environment, Square Enix had to embrace a new business model, seeing that for instance online games require involvement in various businesses, including, among others, hardware and networks (in contrast to a more first party centered model in the past). If Square Enix was only chasing after the next generation of hardware, it would not survive in Wada's eyes. While the market for online games in Japan was still pretty small, PlayOnline alone has 450,000 users. Hence in a few years, one might refer to this year as the birth year of online gaming. Apart from online game however, he is also aiming at an online platform offering interactive content such as auctions.

Asked about a new project developed by the "dream team" (as the cooperation between Dragon Quest producer Yuuji Horii and character designer Akira Toriyama, with Hironobu Sakaguchi and a development team including Yoshinori Kitase, Takashi Tokita, Masato Katou, Nobuo Uematsu and Yasunori Mitsuda, on Chrono Trigger is often referred to), Wada mentioned that years ago, such a phrase meant the cooperation between Sakaguchi and Horii, the respective masterminds of Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. However, nowadays just having exceptional developers lined up is not enough to develop an interesting game. Without a point-in-time plan, technical verifications and assumptions regarding user environments, such as hardware or networks, it would be impossible to come up with new, interesting software. From that perspective, Square Enix as a whole was a dream team created by the merger, which the 44-year old president likened to a chemical change. As he emphasized already in previous interviews, it was important for Square Enix to develop new titles apart from its two long-running flagship series.

Asked about the release dates of Final Fantasy XII and Dragon Quest VIII, Wada admitted the issue was causing a headache for him. With the delay of Final Fantasy XII to a release during fiscal year 2004/2005, the company has to find a way to make sure it does not create an in-houe competition and end up a situation, where one game is eating up the sales of the other. Asked for his goals in 2004, he mentioned the continuing expansion in overseas markets (North America, Europe and Asia) as well as the inclusion of manga, mobile businesses and events into Square Enix's plans. In the long run, he would like to transform the company into a "Disney of the 21st century", capable of creating new content which relies on technologies such as digital and networks.

Chris Winkler