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Final Fantasy XII- Lighting Return, New Hope for Square Enix?

Final Fantasy is a series of Japanese Role Playing game (J-RPG) released/developed by square enix. Final Fantasy series is known for its innovations in gameplay, astounding visual and great storylines. This series has been commercially and critically success in the market, it was awarded a star on the Walk of Game in 2006, and holds seven Guinness World Records in the Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition 2008, which include the "Most Games in an RPG Series" (13 main titles, seven enhanced titles, and 32 spin-off titles), the "Longest Development Period" (the production of Final Fantasy XII took five years), and the "Fastest-Selling Console RPG in a Single Day" (Final Fantasy X)[1]. From its annual reports, we can see that square enix had been a roller coaster on its sales, decline in 2009, increase in 2010 and decrease in 2011 and 2012. For upcoming years, square enix predict it sales will be increasing from 127.896 million yen (2012) to 165.000 million yen or $1.77 million, (expect from 100% sales, 52% of the sales came from digital game selling, and about 40-50% of game selling came from Final Fantasy series) and the sales target for final fantasy series is approximately about $0.55 million, The question is will it succeed? Exhibit 1: Square Enix Financial record [2] (taken from Square Enix annual report)

Market Trends Now, lets start with the analysis of the trends of gaming industry. Overall gaming industry has been growing significantly from 2003 to 2013 from $22 billion to $76.1 billion (the data can be seen at Exhibit 2) Market size from 2003 to 2013 in $billions [3]

The increase of the market size in the game industry definitely gives an opportunity for the game developer to increase its revenue. From the data given, overall in US, Canada, China, South Korea, Japan,

Western Europe, India, Brazil and Russia game market is growing, however, in the percentage of the growing market in game industry implies that the grows of the market share is not the same in every country (see Exhibit 3)

Exhibit 3: Geographic Share of the markets [3]

So we know that the overall market in the game industry is still growing, the question is does the grows of the market size will increases square Enix sales? well, we still far from answering that question, so for now lets see what is square enix target market, and how does it grows. Final Fantasy Target market Square Enix mainly target RPG player that around teen to mature age (from its ESRB, mainly T or M), and mainly targets Japanese people can be seen from the sales information in its annual reports: Sales information by geographical area: 2011 sales o Japan: 104.663 mill yen o North America: 10.639 mill yen o Europe: 8.723 mill yen o Asia: 1.273 mill yen 2012 sales o Japan: 101.686 o North America: 10.614 o Europe: 13.180 o Asia: 2.415 So it safe to assume the most selling of final fantasy is comes from japan, and targets primarily J-RPG player. But not limited in japan, there are very wide communities of final fantasy-lovers and RPG-lovers outside japan that can also be targeted by square enix. And it should be noted that significant portion of the sales usually comes from people that already playing the series.

Japan Market Mostly of Square Enix sales is came from japan, there are a several characteristic of game features preference of this region, first is art Japanese people prefer Japanese arts which is usually characterized by large eyes, small noses, a larger portion of head (example at exhibit 4 and 5) Exhibit 4: Example of Japanese Anime Style (from Tamako Market Kyoto Animation)

Exhibit 5: Example of Japanese CG Art (Final Fantasy wing of goddess)

Usually a Japanese game is emphasizing its storyline, a good theme and plotline in the story is required. Because of that visual novel (a game genre) is one of most favored genre in japan. They dont mind a linier plotline and storyline as long its offer a good story. A good and dynamic battle system and side quests are important too, Japanese people is more attracted to a game that have unique gameplay and battle system. Final Fantasy, Tales series, Persona series and atelier series might be fulfill all these requirement. North America Market People in North America has its own view in the RPG game, many of the gamer in this region expect a good RPG games have a key feature of freedom of exploration, dynamic gameplay, immersive action

and nonlinear storyline. The example of the successful game that released in North America is Skyrim, Oblivion, which is receiving award of the best RPG games of the year 2011, and 2012 (Skyrim), and 2008 (Oblivion) which both are released by Bethesda. They provide a great amount of freedom, and nonlinear storyline. They need good graphic, but it doesnt necessarily a good looking character, but it must be cool. Exhibit 6: example of western RPG graphic (TES V Skyrim)

Emerging of Mobile Apps and MMORPG The emerging mobile technology such as smartphones and tablets create a new demand for gaming industry a very large amount of mini games, mobile apps are being sold. And the demand is keep growing. Too meet this demand Square Enix has launched Final Fantasy the warrior of light, final fantasy II, and III into appstores at 2010. The development of internet user around the world causes the increasing demands of online game, the most favored genre of online games is MMORPG or Massively multiplayer online role-playing game. At first square enix develop FFXI at 2003 to catch this opportunity, but recent rapid development of MMORPG makes Square Enix thinks that FFXI isnt enough. So square enix launched FFXIV at 2011 however regardless a very interesting game concepts, many reviewer criticized this series as the worst Final Fantasy ever, this critic mainly because of the systems that mostly bugged and considered as immature series at its development. Square Enix stops the game, and now they still perfecting it to rerelease at middle 2013 The Competitors There are some other games that have the same category and target the same segment but a bit different features with Final Fantasy series such as Persona, Tales Series, and TES series for the western region of competition. Each of those competitors compels different needs for the segment. Tales series compel with bright storyline and its linier battle system, persona with its visual novel-like social link

system, Atelier Series with its cute graphics and storyline, and skyrim with its degree of freedom to explore and radiant quest. Each of them has very unique features, but the problem is, the nature of competition of game industry its a bit different compare to other industry such as mobile phones and electronic devices. A game that have the same or similar features is usually supports each other. Example: Assuming Kingdom of Amalur and Fable have a similar features, a person who buys fable and like it will have a big probability to buy Kingdom of Amalur. This topic is still needs more research. Reception of the few Recent Final fantasy When you consider the constant tension, fast pace and high reward of the Final Fantasy XIII battle system, it's easy to see why this game is fun to play. It's also constantly satisfying, as players can sink collectively earned experience points into the Crystarium system, which is like a very pretty version of the Sphere Grid from Final Fantasy X. Or, for those unfamiliar with the series, it's basically the way you choose your skills and level up your character. I got a huge sense of satisfaction from manually leveling up each character's roles in this manner. IGN review on Final Fantasy XIII A bigger issue for me was the glaring lack of Final Fantasy's trademark mini-games. While VII had the Gold Saucer, VIII had Triple Triad and X had Blitzball (to name a few), Final Fantasy XIII doesn't really have much to do outside of battle-oriented side missions. IGN Review on Final Fantasy XIII Also troubling is the lack of a New Game + option, which is usually common in RPGs. Although you can save a cleared game file and then continue playing after defeating the final boss, players are unable to go back and re-experience the early sections of the game without starting from scratch. IGN Review on Final Fantasy XIII On short- gameplay wise FFXIII battle system is fun and engaging, character development is dynamic, but it lacks of exploration and minigames, and some of other reviewer complaining about linearity of this games, lack of variation of features like world-map, town exploration, and interaction. Still this games is generally well-received as famitsu gives ratings 39/40. FFXIII sold 1.7 million copies for the PlayStation 3 in Japan by the end of 2009. Square Enix had anticipated high initial sales for the game and shipped close to two million units for its launch. The game sold more than one million copies in North America in its release month. Because the sales is very promising square enix released FFXIII-2 at the end of 2011 for japan, and 2012 for US markets. Initially FFXIII-2 have a good feedback from its fan, they says gameplay is more dynamic than XIII, more explorations, and more interactions however after two or three month it released, square enix received a much complain about FFXIII-2 storyline which some fans consider it as a crappy endings the story was insubstantial, which he found particularly disappointing as most Final Fantasy games focused heavily on their story Clements at Final Fantasy XIII-2 IGN review. Some of fans is disappointed to the point of wont buying the next series of FFXIII lighting returns

Concept of Final Fantasy XIII - Lightning Returns Hoping to redeem image of FFXIII series in the eyes of fans, Square Enix decided to release FFXIIILighting returns, with enhanced storylines, and more dynamic gameplay, in its trailer FFXIII-LR also offer town exploration and some other exploration. With the new concept of action based ATB (Attack Time Battle) system they hope to gain more players that previously not playing Final Fantasy series. From the reception of the trailers, some fan thinks it is an interesting concept, but some of other commented the new system doesnt comply the previous image of final fantasy which is more wellknown for its party turn-based ATB system. The trailers still gets various response from the fans, some say they will like it and some other say they did not like it.

Market Potential for Lightning Return Three is not much to be said about the Market potential of Square Enix as it has been mentioned implicitly by explanation above. Square Enix potential consist of J-RPG players, including Square Enix community and fan-base, and small portion of North America market. J-RPG players has proportion of 26% of entire RPG market which largely dominated by few countries including Japan, Philippine, Korea, Thailand, and other Asian Countries. As for North America, it can be potential as the Lightning Returns will offers semi-action based gameplay which is also appeals North America Market. Lightning Returns Target Market may be looks promising, however there also competition to consider. Lightning Returns will competing against Tales of Xillia 2 in Japan and will be competing against Skyrim in North America Market. In order to win competition, Square Enix should keep it promises of deep storyline as the basics of previous Final Fantasy Era as well as exploiting its superior graphics and new gameplay in its advertising. At last, lets hope that Lightning Returns will not be a disappointment especially in the storyline.

Conclusion Overall, game industries is still expanding, and final fantasy target market is expanding. Final Fantasy XII - Lightning returns offers more dynamics battle system, more exploration, good graphical animation, and deeper storyline as it will be a closure to XIII series. But the competition with other J-RPG developers is still tight which is from the new action oriented ATB, people still trust more at linier Battle system of Tales Series, and TES series offers more degree of exploration. But the fact that FFXIII Lightning Returns have superior graphical features and darker storyline compare the tales series, and offers a closure and deeper story than previous FFXIII will be the point of differentiation with Tales Series and TES series. For that reasons I think there are still chances of the concept of FFXIII-Lightning returns to get a place in the mind of the J-RPG players.
Sources: [1] Craig Glenday, ed. (March 11, 2008). "Record Breaking Games: Role-Playing Games". Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition 2008. Guinness World Records. Guinness. pp. 156167. ISBN 978-1-904994-21-3. [2] Sq enix Annual Reorts 2012 [3]taken from: