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Square Enix: Kickstarter the way forward in customer interaction

Square Enix: Kickstarter the way forward in customer interaction

Mon 27 May 2013 8:31pm GMT / 4:31pm EDT / 1:31pm PDT
BusinessPublishing

Square Enix wants to get customers involved in game development earlier

During the publisher's earnings call two weeks ago, Square Enix senior executive managing director Yosuke Matsuda said that new platforms like Kickstarter and Steam Greenlight are the way forward in increasing customer engagement.

"There is a crowdfunding website called Kickstarter, which does not only serve as a method of financing for developers, but I believe should also be seen as a way to unite marketing and development together by allowing us to interact with customers while a game is in development," said Matsuda in a transcript of the earnings call conference.

"Valve's Steam Greenlight and Early Access, are also very interesting, in that they raise the frequency by which we interact with customers, increasing their engagement and reflecting customer needs. We are also looking at what initiatives are possible from this perspective. What should we present to our customers before a game is finished, how can our customers enjoy this, and how do we connect this to profitability, is something we are thinking about implementing, and which can improve our asset turnover in the process."

Matsuda said that Square Enix's current development practices leave customers in the dark too long, with all investment recovered during a relatively short launch period.

"One could go as far as to say that in today's times, making customers wait for years with little to no information is being dishonest to them. We're no longer in an age where customers are left in the dark until a product is completed. We need to shift to a business model where we frequently interact with our customers for our products that are in‐development and/or prior to being sold, have our customers understand games under development, and finally make sure we develop games that meet their expectations," he added.

9 Comments

Interesting to hear that Squeenix is considering such alternatives

Posted:A year ago

#1

Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development

880 1,291 1.5
Popular Comment
How exactly does kickstarter get the public more involved in a game's development cycle?

This is just a big corporate seeing an angle that better favours indies and cramming on. Can't see it any other way. Free advertising is not what KS is meant to be, and I hope the people running it put a stop to multimillion dollar companies using KS for "other".

Posted:A year ago

#2

Chris Murphy Community & Live Manager, Ubisoft

46 17 0.4
How exactly does kickstarter get the public more involved in a game's development cycle?
Kickstarter, and more specifically Greenlight, open up new avenues through which discourse can be fostered from a much earlier point in the game's development cycle. While you could argue that these publishers/devs could simply do this on their forums/social media channels if they so wished, Kickstarter and Greenlight provide environments in which many of the users have already been taught what is and isn't suitable for discussion, and how best to articulate their opinions. I suppose the possibility to fund on Kickstarter, and virally market via both platforms is just a small positive too :P.

The problem is...is that making any real use of this feedback mechanism will require a great deal of time and energy to be put into keeping the community engaged, on topic, and helpful; not to mention the need to filter through a great of unsuitable posts. On top of that, development of the game will have to be incredibly agile, with the need to take stock and reassess prioritization on a much more regular basis. This is not going to work with traditional big pub turnaround times. Additionally...marketing departments are going to have a stroke if you tell them that you want to openly discuss the KSPs of a title years ahead of its launch date.

The most I would realistically see coming from this from a development point of view, is maybe one or two half features, that are "neat" but by no means massive money makers. It just seems to me like it would require a monumental shift in perspective from any of the big pubs to follow this route with any real vigor.

Sadly, the way I could possibly see them using these platforms is basically by providing minimal info, minimal encouragement of engagement, and simply using them to gauge interest in a prospective title, partially fund it, and benefit from a considerable viral marketing boost as a result.

Obviously with dev costs of AAA games spiraling, companies want to do everything in their power to ensure that their games are "sure bets", I'm just not convinced that they're capable of utilising these platforms to do that. Not only that, but with gamers wanting to believe in the absolute best possible outcome for a project, using these platforms could backfire in a big with when the games finally release and don't quite meet those unrealistic expectations; the end result being that many backers are left feeling betrayed and cheated.

I do wonder though...would large pubs be able to use Greenlight? Depending on how they want to run with it, I could imagine Valve forbidding that kind of activity.

Anyway....I've got to agree with Paul....this seems like corporate trying to placate investors. I'll be mightily surprised (and somewhat impressed) if anything really comes of this.

Posted:A year ago

#3

Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys!

2,193 1,170 0.5
Popular Comment
This will be a disaster, a s there are way too many Square Enix fans who have no idea that making a game isn't as simple as sticking everything THEY want to see in a game, shaking well for a few months and shipping it out.

Anyway, I find this amusing because back in the 90's, fans actually liked being surprised by a new Squaresoft project. Well, we never got a LOT of great games localized (see their Super Famicom output), but still, for those who imported, it was great to open up a magazine and see something fresh and interesting.

Times have changed and now it seems that the element of actual surprise is gone completely in some cases...

Posted:A year ago

#4

Isaac Kirby Studying Computer Games Development, University of Central Lancashire

40 37 0.9
Well, good luck Square-Enix. As well intentioned as this may be, it seems doomed.
I'd be on board if the company suggesting it wasn't the current leader in the Vapourware championships with Final Fantasy Versus XIII. (Announced E3 '06, 7 years ago now!)
They need better project management, not customer feedback. A single voice of direction form the clouds, not a squalling mass of input from consumers.

Posted:A year ago

#5
Perhaps a good global Square Enix IP steering committee if one has not been established already

Posted:A year ago

#6

Barrie Tingle Live Producer, Maxis

381 180 0.5
As Chris Murphy mentioned, publishers/devs could do this directly through their own channels using your Community Managers but going through your own channel doesn't generate a headline like "Square Enix hits Kickstarter with new FF game" or similar. I guess this is where Marketing side comes into his presentation.

Posted:A year ago

#7

Christopher Bowen Editor in Chief, Gaming Bus

448 695 1.6
If any company can get away with using Greenlight as another form of VC funding, it's Squeenix. No company has more dedicated fans of their properties, despite being roundly abused over the years.

Posted:A year ago

#8

Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys!

2,193 1,170 0.5
@Christopher: Hmmm... maybe an original Greenlight game IP, but it most likely won't be DRM-free elsewhere like some FF fans on gog.com love to gripe about ever since FFVII PC went up for sale. Granted, that had issues of its own, but I'm betting the first project that gets begged for is a FFVII remake. Or a new Kingdom Hearts game. Or both at the same time.

Eh, we'll see - if anything, any sort of funded project will make the core fans prove they can put up or shut up and the constant whiners fade away because they've got nothing but easy access to the internet, a big mouth and some lousy opinions they like to think are facts...

Posted:A year ago

#9

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