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Sep 14, 2011
Nintendo Guru

I'd say the root cause is the destruction of the company's system of check of balances due various factors from ballooning budgets to a lack of upward mobility for younger talent to take on leadership roles. It's the same thing that's happened to many developers who were once top of the industry, such as Origin Systems, iD Software, and Lionhead. Sometimes, technology and consumer tastes change and developers who don't adapt fall off the top. You can look at Naughty Dog as a successful example in that they transitioned from making platformers for children on the PS1 to creating action-platformers for teenagers on the PS2 to story-driven action games for adults who have children on the PS3/4. You can also see this in Blizzard Entertainment in that they're transitioning from solely releasing mega-AAA games to including smaller, service based games aimed at adolescents n their catalog.

If there was one key factor, I'd say it was the departure of series creator Hironobu Sakaguchi. He was the connective tissue that held everything together between creative and business. After stepping down as director, he served a similar role to Sid Meier in that he would let younger talent be hands-on with the series he created. They allowed young talent to cut while Sakaguchi could serve as a soundboard for advice and create a sense of tradition for the series. It was a good system in that you had multiple teams having their own take on the series in quick succession. This allowed the series to be competitive and keep up with trends.

Sakaguchi was active in keeping the company competitive and with industry trends. He poached Yasumi Matsuno from Quest due to his experience in making strategy RPGs. He pushed to make FFXI an online game due to playing Ultima Online while in Hawaii. He helped Tetsuya Nomura become director of the Kingdom Hearts series. He wasn't successful with everything he did but he made sure their games were competitive and young talent was given opportunities to prove themselves.

There hasn't been someone to bridge the divide between business, technology, and creative in console game development. On the brighter side, they company is doing well as a mobile/MMO publisher. They'll survive even if Final Fantasy is no longer a premier console RPG.

Clarste posted:

Yeah, the "inmates running the asylum" seems to be a general problem across the entertainment industry. When writers whose total life experience can be summed up as "played a lot of video games" try to tell a story, they really have nothing to add and they tend to end up making shallower copies of what they grew up with. And the generation after that might be even worse, since they'll be copying the copies.

Not to say there isn't any good writing anymore, but Square-Enix seems to be pretty bad at managing their flagship series, which has continuously gone overbudget, delayed, and FF14 1.0.

I don't think any other publisher would allow game development to go off-track as much as Square-Enix. Rockstar Games had Leslie Benzies come in whenever things got out of hand. Sony Santa Monica shutdown a new IP that didn't come together in order to work on a new God of War game for the PS4. When Bioshock Infinite was repeatedly delayed, Rod Fergusson was brought in as a hatchet man to get the game out. Even then, the studio was shutdown despite Bioshock Infinite going on to sell over ten million copies. Most publically traded publishers usually have someone step in at the first sign of trouble.


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