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Square Enix: Hitman lost players by seeking mass appeal

Yosuke Matsuda pledges to concentrate on core audience for future AAA releases

Square Enix president Yosuke Matsuda has pledged to take the company "back to [its] roots" in AAA development.

In an interview with Nikkei Trendy, translated by Siliconera, Matsuda lamented a loss of focus in Square Enix's products, all in the name of reaching a global audience.

"If you focus too much on the global aspect, you might lose sight of who you're actually making the game for," he said, referring to the company's 2013 release slate, which included IO Interactive's Hitman: Absolution.

"The development team for Hitman: Absolution really struggled in this regard. They implemented a vast amount of 'elements for the mass' instead of for the core fans, as a way to try getting as many new players possible. It was a strategy to gain mass appeal.

"However, what makes the Hitman series good is its appeal to core gamers, and many fans felt the lack of focus in that regard, which ended up making it struggle in sales."

Matsuda offered Bravely Default on the 3DS as an example of a game that was made for a specific audience in Japan, but went on to sell in countries all over the world. This sort of thinking will inform Square Enix's AAA strategy from now on.

"For the new games we'll be developing from this point on, while this may sound a bit extreme, we've been talking about making them as heavy JRPGs. I believe that way, we can better focus on our target, which will also bring better results."

Matsuda has spoken about ringing in the changes at Square Enix ever since he took over from Yoichi Wada in March 2013. In April, he promised to "fundamentally review" the way the entire company worked and the sort projects it developed. By October, he was describing an "urgent need for reform" within the company.

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Matthew Handrahan


Matthew Handrahan joined GamesIndustry in 2011, bringing long-form feature-writing experience to the team as well as a deep understanding of the video game development business. He previously spent more than five years at award-winning magazine gamesTM.