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A love letter to Nintendo and Square-Enix
A love letter to Nintendo and Square-Enix that reads more like a "Dear John" letter. I cover the issues of honesty and focus in marketing and designing JRPGs to appeal to new (changed) audiences.
July 12, 2011
7 Min Read
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.
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:
(Click “like” if you like what you see)
SMRPG trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tgJ-xdxPpZ8
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