Square says Japanese market no longer sufficient to sustain them

There is a lot to unpack here, notably the difference between SquareEnix the developer and SquareEnix the publisher. However one thing is universal - maybe if they stop making stupid, stupid decisions it will help? The NFT thing is the biggest example, but there are tons of other decisions that SquareEnix makes that leads to higher expenditures, gets wrapped up in needless nonsense, and just plain costs sales.

For instance, crappy translation / localization. Some Japanese games release in the West with JP audio and a decent translation for the subtittles, whereas others lack original JP audio entirely and/or text is "over-localized" and loses its uniqueness, context and meaning. I know its an older title now but the Final Fantasy IV (3D remake - originally released for Nintendo DS then ported to Android and eventually PC ) version on Steam continues to lack JP audio/voice + ENG subs; I had to make a mod to restore it (though I found someone else had already completed a similar project) despite the fact the audio is right there in the same game files! Another issue is contract exclusivity, when PC players may feel like second class players in the first place having to wait months after a console release, and especially on PC through the unfortunate likes of the Epic Store. SE caused several of their big recent releases to fumble by releasing them first o Epic Store, including Final Fantasy VII Remake, The World Ends with You Neo, and biggest of all the Kingdom Hearts games. Kingdom Hearts is a great example for the stupidity of Square Enix. This is a semi-niche series with VERY devoted fans plus accessibility to the larger populace if exposed (its basically a merger of Tetsuya Nomura's custom Final Fantasy + Disney characters), which has never come to PC before. They released it exclusively on Epic Store and priced it insanely - They sold 4 game packages, 3 which were the canon/core game saga (1.5+2.5 Final Remix, 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue, 3 + ReMind expansion) and Melody of Memory which is a music game inspired by the KH saga and the (pretty excellent overall) Final Fantasy Theatre Rhythm Curtain Call music game. The 3 core games were $50, $60, $60 so $170 for them all, when by comparison the Playstation 4 "complete collection" that contains basically the same games is at most $99 but has gone on sale for $50 or less at the time of the Epic Store PC launch!. This was offputting to say the least, and between the ghastly pricing and and the Epic exclusivity - which STILL has not come to Steam by the way suggesting a possible year of exclusivity - they basically flubbed the PC launch of what was a long awaited and admired series of titles; they'd repeat the pricing and exclusivity mistakes in the future with others. The World Ends With You NEO exemplifies another issue with Square Enix - sequel/series foolishness. While I'm glad that NEO came to Steam eventually (after foolish EGS exclusivity), its a sequel that - while not necessarily requiring, heavily references the original game; a game that originally launched on Nintendo DS, came to Android/iOS, and eventually to Switch with the Switch version having the most additional content. Had they ported the Switch version of the original TWEWY Final Remix to PC via Steam in advance of NEO's arrival, they could have had more sales! There are some other cases of this as well; I'm glad they brought Bravely Default II to Steam but they probably would have even more interest if they brought the prior Bravely Default and Bravely Second End Layer in remastered ports as well. This also brings me to another foul up, lack of advertising especially when it comes to PC titles. Especially when a title is to release on PC and it is either after the consoles, had exclusivity on Epic and finally came properly to Steam etc.. SE does a poor job of letting players know its launching/has launched. After doing one or more of the above stupid decisions, Square Enix often decides to conclude that (PC especially) players didn't like the game enough, weren't going to buy etc... instead of realizing it may have been their poor decisions leading to lower sales, thus being less likely to do the kind of things that will improve their sales in the future! While this isn't anything new for the major AAA publishing industry that seemingly never take responsibility for development or publishing errors in a way that ends up benefiting the customers, SE seems to have a longer history than some in investing in making the same mistakes / not learning than others like SEGA, Capcom, Bandai Namco, or even Tecmo Koei which seem to be making some better decisions especially where PC is concerned.

As far as the "Japan vs the Global Market" issue, at its base this wasn't unexpected. Given the size of AAA publishing and developing as well as other factors such as competitors, the increased complexity in global releases of modern titles and the like, as well as domestic demographic elements, it isn't a surprise that SE knows that it cannot pretend it is the 80s/90s and confidently know that the domestic JP sales will be enough to sustain with the global release only icing on the cake. The concern however is what SE will DO with this information that will either benefit both the company and the playerbase and/or shoot itself in the foot. If they can manage to embrace the more technical elements of global development and releases like PC support via Steam (and others if they wish, without contract exclusivity), parity releases, etc... that's great. However, one major concern is that "we are going to be more aware of selling globally" may impact development with a "We'll start designing for what we think global audiences want or, more cynically, what we think we can monetize them acceptably" which can turn into a disaster. I don't want to see more battlepass-heavy, FOMO laden, live service + microtransaction obfuscation monetization garbage. I don't want to see them pushing "western focused" titles and failing to support the Japanese titles they are good at designing and backing through publishing. I don't want to see them begin to censor content or let certain over-sensitivities impact development for fear not that their audience won't care for it, but rather that a loud subsection of social media in the West will decide something is problematic and bring bad PR. Many of the titles that SE develops or publishes, from the bigger names to the more niche, are appreciated because they are inspired by the Japanese cultural and design aesthetic; fans worldwide come for this! This is a proper way to engage with the global market, knowing that there are fans all over that like what you make, rather than change what makes your titles desirable in the first place!

SquareEnix has made some frustratingly bad decisions chasing trends and making stupid choices, but when they make a high quality title, price it reasonably, and release it to players who want it they can do very well. Lets hope they figure this out , but I am concerned to say the least about how they'll proceed.

P.S. - I'm so fucking sick of how Final Fantasy XIV , the MMO that is one of the most successful of SE's projects consistently, is apparently forced to host not only monthly subscriptions and account services, but a huge catalog of expensive a la carte cosmetics/item mall. This also impacts development, such as holiday specific cosmetics not being available when the holiday "comes round again" in game to encourage purchase instead! It used to not be this way, early during A Realm Reborn when the only items for sale were cheap off-season holiday items (available in game if you were willing to wait until its next arrival) and Japan only / physical fan fest related items/promos that were inaccessible otherwise. I'm unsure of the truth of it or if they were just a sycophant, but someone told me FFXIV "had to" have an item mall full of exclusive $18-25 outfits, $25-40 mounts, $5-10 pets, $7 emotes and much more because SquareEnix basically takes all the other income from the game including subscriptions, so their development and upkeep suppposedly depends a lot on the item mall. Regardless, that's just not bloody acceptable - I'd easily pay a larger subscription if it meant all the present and future item mall items were included. SE's vampiric grip on the title to make up for their other ill advised decisions is frustrating to current and past players alike, asked to keep opening their wallet for things that should be included in their subscription!