Sony’s Selling All of its Square Enix Shares to Return to Profitability
But, hey, the PlayStation 4 is still killing it
Japanese juggernaut Sony, most famous for the globally known PlayStation brand — and for also making, I don’t know, headphones and a few movies now and again — is dumping its entire financial stake out of publisher Square Enix.
Sony holds 9.52 million shares in Square Enix, a sensual tryst that began in the early 2000’s. Once upon a time ago, before the word “timed” preceded “exclusivity,” Square’s Final Fantasy brand was nearly synonymous with PlayStation, especially helping Sony claim the dominance in Japanese households it still enjoys to this very day.
Sony’s equity is priced at ¥4.8 billion yen, or $47 million. The deal is expected to be closed as soon as tomorrow. The decision is the next of several moves the company has made to return itself to profitability. Since 2014 began, Sony has laid off thousands of workers, sold two corporate offices, and has even axed its PC division.
On the upside, the Sony PlayStation 4 has reveled in sales success, having sold 7 million units worldwide since launch, surpassing its next-gen competition, the Xbox One, by a slim margin. As an aside, I am currently a happy member of that 7 million club and I sing my PS4 into a gentle sleep, nightly.
Final Fantasy XV - TGS Trailer
Does returning Final Fantasy to its former throne mean ditching its turn-based legacy? The few glimpses we’ve gotten into the reformulated Versus XIII — now promoted to a main series title — has been stupidly impressive.
Final Fantasy always had a breathtaking scope about it, but the view just went panoramic. It’s like Square Enix finally decided to let the player take part in all the meticulously crafted action set pieces from its cutscenes. But will hardcore fans accept their fabled JRPG’s transition into Action RPG?
We got a ways to go before that answer emerges. Until then…I’m gonna watch this trailer again.
So something rather intriguing happened this week. It would appear this new fangled “next-gen” officially kicked off. Well, unless you count the Wii U next-gen, which you’re completely allowed to (inversely, I get to call you wrong). That’s right, Sony finally ripped off the wraps on the PlayStation 4. Fast, socially integrated, the ability to stream games, two separate cup-holders — Sony’s future proofing their brand and the attempt is, surprisingly, not a laughable disaster.
You can find my initial reaction to the hardware’s specs hereabouts, but we’re dialing back the technophilia today and also focusing on something more important than even a brand new, highfalutin’, Facebookin’ console: the games.
Hit the jump to check out what’s in store for gamers next generation; a generation right around the corner. Oh, and welcome back to the Roundup.
Lightning Returns "Unique Enough" to Drop the XIII-3 Name
A branching of stories within the Final Fantasy games — referred to as the ‘Lightning Saga’ — comes to a close next year, forming the franchise’s first full-fledged trilogy. Despite beginning with Final Fantasy XIII and carrying on to, naturally, Final Fantasy XIII-2, the final chapter shutting the curtains on this saga forgoes the logical, if unimaginative, next step numbering of XIII-3.
Given that Final Fantasy: Lightning Returns is projected for the tail end of 2013, I’d expect even the shittiest basement dwelling ad agency to go nuts with the coincidence and drill XIII-3 in ‘13 squarely into gamer’s heads. But in explaining why Lightning Returns shirks the numbering scheme in an interview with 4gamer, the game’s creators have shared insights on just how different of a beast this finale is from previous entries.
Yoshinori Kitase, the game’s producer, says the game is, put simply, a “new experience.” Calling it XIII-3 would already put the incorrect suggestion into fans’ minds that this sequel’s gameplay launches off of XIII-2's conceits. Motomu Toriyama, tasked with directorial duties, breaks down each installment as such: the original XIII, at its foundation, was story driven, while XIII-2 opted for a more player driven approach. Lightning Returns revolves around the notion that the game is “world driven,” where the world environment runs in real-time, “24 hours a day” and is dramatically “changing and shifting” whether the player is there to experience it or not.
This design element both instills a sense of urgency in players to seek out events and happenings before they play out without them while also promoting serious amounts of replay value, where going about subsequent playthroughs differently rewards you with new content each time. Slaying monsters or performing miracles (whatever the hell that means; slaying monsters sounds tiring as it is) impacts the flow of time — which is constantly ticking down till doomsday — by either speeding it up or slowing it down. This mechanic plays into the “risk versus reward” nature of the game.
Every little shred of information I hear about this game — and we’re talking very little shreds considering the game’s August announcement — absolutely fascinates me. There was a time in my gaming life when a Final Fantasy release meant that nothing besides a Squaresoft emblazoned disc would be spinning in my drive for weeks straight. XIII brought with it a decidedly mixed era for the franchise, but from what I’m hearing, Lightning’s Saga is attempting to end on a high note.
Square Enix Announces Lightning Returns for 2013
The Final Fantasy XIII saga is coming to a close next year and Lightning is back as your sole character in this third and final entry. Set hundreds of years after the events of XIII-2, Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII pits our titular heroine in the middle of a new world called Novus Partus — a locale said to contrast against the previous two installments’ gloss and sheen, opting for a more mechanical, gothic backdrop.
Following the darker shift in atmosphere, Lightning races against an in-game clock counting down to the end of the world — a mere thirteen days after you begin the adventure. Gameplay makes use of this Majora’s Mask staple in such instances as being able to barter a re-do of a failed battle for a chunk of your precious time. Similarly, more powerful attacks can be traded for shaved time. Also markedly changed is the combat system, now retooled with a heavier emphasis on controlling Lightning in real-time. Not only will players be tasked with managing Lightning’s movement and attacks, but blocking has been added to her skill set, forcing players to perfect their timing and keep a keener eye on enemies.
Despite its high points (and its signature, unparallelled visuals), the XIII branch of the Final Fantasy vine has found ways to disappoint the ten-year-old kid inside of me that first discovered these spectacular worlds back in the PS1 days. Yet these early, broad ideas stemming forth have reignited my interest. This “XIII-3" may not be out to satisfy the level-grinding me from my formative RPGin’ years, but it doesn’t have to. It’s playing to its own strengths, and what I’m hearing sounds pretty damn intriguing for a Final Fantasy game.
While Lightning Returns just began life at the beginning of August, Square still projects a 2013 release for the game on both the PS3 and Xbox 360.
Final Fantasy XIV is ‘A Realm Reborn’
If you’re one of the few participants to jump onto Square Enix’s second MMO within the Final Fantasy series when it released way back in September of 2010, you may have noticed something awfully suspicious: the game sucked.
Final Fantasy XIV sucked so much that it even derailed the PS3 port’s release from March of 2011 to “eventually” (“eventually” in this case meaning “when the game stops being terrible”). Looking to rectify the product’s wrongdoings — and recapture some of the surprise success that made fellow MMO FFXI the most profitable title in the franchise — Square promised a full-on restructuring of the game, tentatively called 2.0.
Now, the efforts behind 2.0 have come to be, rebranded as Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. The update is a massive undertaking that, to name a few fixes, alters the battle regimen, introduces a new map system, adds new client software, and includes an additional graphics engine. A Realm Reborn marks a very apparent shift for FFXIV; so much so that it almost seems like a different game altogether, one certainly more suited for the Final Fantasy name.
Alpha testing for A Realm Reborn is scheduled for September with a not-quite-solid Winter release in mind for the final build. And, Sony fans, I know you’ve been waiting patiently and politely through this article so here’s your feel good of the day: Square Enix has remarked that that FFXIV port sitting on the back burner will drop for the PS3 sometime after the PC version’s humungous update, and it will certainly reflect all of the additions A Realm Reborn claims stake to.
Ah, Versus XIII isn’t dead, XIV Online will stop sucking soon…Things are looking up, Final Fantasy fans — Hmm? You want them to remake VII? Listen, fixing a crappy game is already like moving a mountain. Remaking one of the most critically acclaimed games of all time, a title so revered that many already consider it to be perfect? Bigger mountain.
Final Fantasy Versus XIII: Totally Not Cancelled
The bitter stew that is internet rage hit boiling point when Kotaku reported that an anonymous source tipped them off about Versus XIII being shit-canned. The continued absence of the title from several major gaming expos paired with a — so far — six year development span was enough to convince the press and fans alike that the rumor was true.
But who better to squash a vicious, nearly sentient rumor than Square Enix, the game’s publisher and financer? The company’s president, Yoichi Wada, took to Twitter (a veritable spring of information for people that are quick to fire “tl;dr” at anything and everything), and outright confirmed Versus XIII was alive, kicking, and well into production. “Just a minute ago, the regular Versus meeting ended. If you saw the presentation of the city, it’d knock you off your feet,” Tweets Wada, after laughing off the damnable rumor.
Well, this series certainly dodged a bullet. If you’re a casual spectator and are curious, mayhaps even confused, as to why you heard a dull roar the moment this very spin-offy sounding title flashed a red warning light, then I’ll try to be brief: Final Fantasy Versus XIII has smacked of ambition the moment it was announced. Straying away from the more traditional aspects you’d find in this RPG franchise, Versus roots its gameplay in a freer, more realistic style that harkens to Kingdom Hearts to a degree but draws inspiration from other titles like Mass Effect both graphically and in how you interact with the world and its inhabitants.
And unlike its forefathers, Versus looks to put unprecedented control (for an RPG) right in your hands. Battles unfold in real-time and don’t take place in confined spaces — you’ll fight in the streets, on rooftops, anywhere you can get hit. Plus, the whole package — or what we’ve briefly seen of it — is visually astounding, evoking comparisons to Square’s CG films more so than any of games carrying the XIII moniker. It’s a major shift in direction and a bold gamble for a series that has grown especially stale this generation.
Square Enix swears they have something special cooking for September 1st’s Final Fantasy 25th Anniversary presentation. Even if a bare minimum is shown or announced there, new rumors have it that the Tokyo Game Show exhibition taking place at the end of that month may be our first satisfying Versus blowout. Time will tell. I’m simply stoked this project isn’t dead.
The Red Herb Roundup - 7/22/12
Sweet Zeus, it’s been awhile since I’ve done one of these. If you’re unfamiliar with why I’m listing vidja game happenings the week over, it’s because these be the stories that caught my eye but failed to pull my hands towards the keyboard. The Roundup was supposed to be a safety net to catch my lazy bones and get me a-finger tappin’ but its temporary decommission proved my lethargy had reached new, possibly dangerous levels.
But today, friends, to fuck with that noise. Knowing that you guys are just out there eating gaming news without a single side of sarcasm is…it just…it basically gives me thought-hemorrhoids. And with that, welcome back to the Roundup:
- Resident Evil: Damnation, an original CG movie that fits snugly into the games’ canon, is releasing on Blu-Ray and not-Blu-Ray on September 25th. Unlike the RE films you may be accustomed to, Damnation probably won’t feature brief Jovovich nudity (but don’t rule it out).
- A valiant and anonymous soul working at NASA has decided to laser engrave an image of Portal 2's Wheatley on this panel which will be launched into space and sent to live its days on the International Space Station. As Wheatley puts it, he’ll be “In spaaaaaaace!” Someone please remind me why NASA’s budget was cut.
- After six long years in tumultuous development, rumblings strongly suggest Final Fantasy Versus XIII has been shit-canned by Square Enix. Sources say Square isn’t keen on outwardly admitting they sunk Versus XIII in order to protect their stock. This having been the only FF to get me excited about the franchise in about, oh say, six years, I’ve scheduled at least one proper afternoon to scream my guts out.
- However, Square has promised September 1st will house some sort of presentation celebrating the series’ 25th anniversary. Specifically, they have an announcement pertaining to the Fabula Nova Crystallis segment of games in which anything branded with the number XIII belongs to. Best case scenario, Versus XIII has been pushed to next-gen consoles; worst case, a tired coroner out there has to explain to my loved ones how a person is able to scream his organs out of his body.
- EA’s marketing department admitted co-op was introduced into Dead Space 3 because their research found that consumers thought the first two games were too scary. Rightfully so, of course, but if that’s your major complaint, are you sure horror games are for you, pal? Personally, I like my survival horror scare factor right in between “Loud, persistent man-sobbing” and “I’ve filled my pants.”
- Capcom Vancouver, the dev behind Dead Rising 2 and all pertaining to it, has laid off 7% of its staff, amounting to 20 employees total. Interestingly enough, it doesn’t sound as if Capcom is simply tightening its belt, claiming the firings came about from “periodic assessment.” The studio’s even scouting for new talent, leaving us to wonder what sort of project they’re switching up their staff in preparation for. Dead Rising 3, anyone?
- The Elder Scrolls Online might make it console-side after all. Zenimax isn’t actively flogging team members in order to crank one out, but if truly worthy, the next generation of systems may be able to contain the MMO’s beastliness. We’ll just file this one under “Shit That Probably Won’t Happen” right next to a Diablo III port to spare us from future heartbreak.
- Battlefield 4's existence was accidentally outed by EA in a listing that promotes the fact you’ll get your hands on a beta with purchase of Medal of Honor: Warfighter's Limited Edition. How soon will BF4 come out? Given that the beta is planned to launch in the Fall of 2013, I’d say chances of “soon” are FUBAR.