Every year, many major game developers release an end of the year report that gives investors and fans an idea of how well the company is doing in addition to their plans for the upcoming year. Square Enix’s 2014 annual report is both optimistic and likely to displease many long-time fans.

“For the fiscal year ended March 2014, we actively reformed our development policy and organization system,” said Square Enix president Yosuke Matsuda, “focusing on our European and North American studios, and simultaneously worked on earnings recovery through our existing lineup. Sales of console game titles, including Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster, Thief (Europe and North America only) and Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition, were better than our original plan.”

Matsuda greatly emphasized the importance of MMORPGs when in relation to Square Enix’s recent success. Games like Final Fantasy XIV, Dragon Quest X, and Final Fantasy XI (now in its 13th year) all generate “a solid revenue base”.

Square Enix’s future will essentially be split into three major sections, according to Matsuda. The first will be long-term and large-scale development for high-definition titles, but with a focus on different pricing and free-to-play models. Matsuda adds “One major approach we are currently taking is to apply variable pricing models, such as F2P (free to play) games, to the HD games area. We are already introducing such models and have achieved success in several cases. Matsuda continues, “The list of titles that have been announced is still limited at present, but we will be introducing new HD game titles featuring variable pricing models.” SE cites structural flaws with the current disk-based distribution model as a big reason for these changes.

The second area of focus for Square Enix will be the mobile and phone game market. “While our Japanese studios have been taking a lead in this area, Square Enix Montréal, a studio specializing in game development for smart devices, launched a game called Hitman GO in April, which was highly acclaimed around the world. It hasn’t proved to be a major hit yet, but I think it is a significant achievement in that the originality of its gameplay and art style won high praise.”

Square Enix’s third area will be “developing project portfolios based on local requirements.” Matsuda mentions “The series of activities in the games business process—procure funding, prepare the development environment, develop games, distribute and sell the finished games—has previously been possible only for major publishers with large-scale funding. However, the shift to ‘open source, low-cost game development tools,’ ‘fundraising through crowd funding’ and ‘direct sales via download’ have created an ecosystem in which large-scale funding is no longer necessary.”

What does all of Square Enix’s annual report mean? I see it as both good and bad for gamers. The emphasis on mobile games may be popular in Japan and other Asian markets, but Americans and Europeans have been clamoring for more console games and big titles. Even with Final Fantasy XV and Type-0 coming soon, there have been plenty of great titles in Japan but no hints on them being localized in Western cultures, such as FF Explorers and more. Focusing on mobile games will likely be a good move for Japan which has a solid demand for it, but will do little for America as many of the games never even make it to the West. Square Enix mentioning HD titles does sound hopeful, as generally that means console games or at least remasters. Final Fantasy X HD was a good success for them across the globe, so it’s possible that we’ll finally see Final Fantasy XII become their next HD remaster.

I’m skeptical to see what Square Enix mean by “developing portfolios based on local requirements”, as most Square Enix games are enjoyed by all cultures (or would be at least), with American fans petitioning them to bring over Japanese exclusives. I’d like to believe that it means these games will come over to America, but with more focus on localization and translation, but that remains to be seen. Free-to-play models have been getting mixed reviews, with some people loving the chance to play a game for free, while others calling it a lazy tactic or a “cash cow”.

Square Enix has been much more transparent lately, so it’s possible that fans around the world will be receiving more direct information, such as ports, release dates, and previews for games over the next year. The near- constant feed of FFXV news makes me hopeful for SE’s future, and that maybe they’re finally acknowledging what fans want.

Photo Credit: JullanBleecker