Pre-E3: Square Enix Meets the Press
05.18.05 - 5:17 PM

Following Square Enix's press conference on Monday, the company held a Q&A session with members of the press yesterday. Just like during the conference, president Youichi Wada and executive director and producer Shinji Hashimoto were present to answer the various questions fielded by the attending journalists.

Asked about the recently announced Xbox 360 version of Final Fantasy XI, Wada explained that the experience of playing the MMORPG on the new console will be the same as on PlayStation 2 and PC, since users of all three platforms will be able to play together in one world. Wada would not confirm whether Square Enix was working on other Xbox 360 projects, saying only that at the current stage the company was merely looking into porting over other PlayOnline titles. He however emphasized Square Enix's willingness to increase the number of Xbox 360 titles in the future. He also said that currently there were no plans to bring Final Fantasy XI to a fourth platform, but said he wanted to study the environment of other platforms as well.

Regarding World of Mana, which was announced on Monday, he asked for some more patience, as the project was still in its planning stages. While World of Mana will basically be a game project, it seems Square Enix aims to apply its Polymorphic Content strategy to World of Mana as well.

As far as Final Fantasy XII is concerned, he apologized to American fans for the lack of a playable demo, repeating Monday's announcement of a playable demo being shown at a private event in Japan in late July. When somebody in the audience mentioned that American anime fans would actually prefer Japanese voice acting and English subtitles, Wada jokingly replied, it would have been better if his company had listened to American fans. He explained such a localization model would significantly reduce development costs. He also acknowledged that he had been under the impression that if the game was not released with English voice acting in place, it would not sell, and said he would consider the proposal.

Furthermore, Wada was asked which next generation platform might become the home of Square Enix's two flagship series Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. No direct answer was given, but the explanation that apart from the raw specifications, other considerations such as game design would also have to be covered during the decision making process.

In response to a question regarding the anime-style movie of Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII shown at the press conference, producer Shinji Hashimoto explained the purpose of the footage was merely to give the audience a first look at the PlayStation Portable game's world. The actual in-game visuals would feature a different look.

While Wada again expressed Square Enix's intention to bring mobile games like Before Crisis: Final Fantasy VII to North America, he also acknowledged the problems of this enterprise, citing the technology gap between Japanese and North American cellphones. The question whether Japanese and American users could play against each other, also would require support from the various cellphone network providers.

Asked about his impressions of the three next generation consoles, Wada stated that all three would feature significant capabilities. Referring to the Final Fantasy VII technical demo he showed off at the presentation of Sony Computer Entertainment's PlayStation 3, he mentioned it would be possible to develop games featuring visuals like the ones shown in the demo, running in real-time on PlayStation 3. Similar to his statement on Monday, the Square Enix president reiterated his intention to look at not only the hardware, but also the services that come with it. This generation of hardware would be the age of middleware and engine providers. By resorting to middleware and graphics engines (such as Epic's Unreal Engine 3), development costs could be reduced.

Chris Winkler