By now you’ll no doubt have heard the news that, in an effort to lift its profits and minimise loss, Sony Computer Entertainment has sold off its shares in game publisher Square Enix, producers of Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts among many others. The 9,52 million shares (approximately 8.2% of Square’s shares, making them one of the company’s largest shareholders) amount to somewhere in the region of US$46.9-million.
What many don’t realise is that Square Enix Holdings isn’t just a developer and publisher in its own right, but is also the holding company for a number of other well-known subsidiaries, such as Eidos Interactive (Tomb Raider, Hitman, Deus Ex), Square Enix Europe (Final Fantasy, Sleeping Dogs as well as a role in the aforementioned Eidos games), and Taito.
Sony is therefore getting rid of a massive shareholding in a company that has interests in multiple award-winning franchises. Whether or not this is a good move remains to be seen, however in the meantime we’re going to take a quick trip down memory lane as we look at some of the best games that have come out of Square Enix in recent years, and while we hopefully won’t see a downturn in quality or quantity from them, Sony might be kicking themselves in the near future.
First up, a franchise that was both developed and published by Square Enix – it’s essentially the game for which they are most well known – Final Fantasy.
Although the game has gone through many iterations on a variety of platforms, and some have been better received than others, overall the game has a large core group of fans and the series has done exceptionally well, always notable for its characters and its musical score.
Final Fantasy XIII, released in 2010 on PS3 and Xbox (2009 in Japan), received outstandingly positive reviews, with the sequel Final Fantasy XIII-2 receiving also mostly positive reviews. Final Fantasy XIV, released on PC in 2010 received abysmal reviews in comparison. In 2013 however, Square Enix released Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, a remake of the original game on PS3 (PS4 in 2014) and Windows, and the reviews have by contrast been positive and notably different to the original release of the game.
Although the developer is Crystal Dynamics, Square Enix are the publisher responsible for the latest reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise (2013) – you know, the game that basically got people interested in Lara Croft again.
This latest version of the game emphasises the origins of the protagonist of the series, Lara Croft. It traces her origins as a newcomer to the archaeology field, before she became the legend that we know from the other games, revealing her as vulnerable and unsure of herself as she starts along the path towards strong character development.
The gameplay, story and graphics are all excellent and this was a masterful stroke in reinventing the franchise and rekindling the love for Lara Croft.
Although Deus Ex is part of a long-standing, classic franchise, a new game was released in 2011 with Deus Ex: Human Revolution, developed by Eidos Montreal and published by Square Enix. The cyberpunk-themed franchise has garnered many loyal supporters over the years, and Human Revolution was no exception.
It was developed as a prequel to the original game, set in 2027, 25 years before Deus Ex. The protagonist Adam Jensen, is required to undergo extensive surgery after a terrorist attack, that essentially turns him into a cyborg.
Hitman: Absolution, developed by IO Interactive and published by Square Enix, is the fifth in the Hitman franchise and was released in 2012. It follows Agent 47 once again as his handler goes rogue and 47 is caught up in the mess of a sabotage attempt that could expose the entire agency.
Much like the usual games, it’s a stealth based escapade, requiring you to infiltrate a variety of locations and assassinate targets without being caught. Although some of the gameplay mechanic has been altered from previous (more successful) Hitman games, in essence the principle remains the same. Although the game received mixed reviews, overall it was considered quite successful albeit not quite up to the standard of some of the previous Hitman games.
Plans for a sixth game in the series (possibly entitled Hitman: Profession), is currently under development by IO Interactive.
Sleeping Dogs, developed by United Front Games and Square ENix London, and published by Square Enix, is a 2012 action adventure game in much the same vein as Grand Theft Auto. It began development as True Crime 3: Hong Kong, before being cancelled by Activision Blizzard and bought by Square Enix, with no connection to the True Crime series.
Sleeping Dogs was in fact a sleeper hit of sorts. On release it received rave reviews and it was undoubtedly the surprise release of the year. In October 2013, it was confirmed that a sequel to the game is in development, also published by Square Enix.
Where to from here? With titles like these it certainly doesn’t look as if Square Enix is going anywhere, and although Sony was their third largest shareholder, the shares have been sold to global financial company SMBC Nikko Securities.
Sony has been trying to increasingly streamline their assets, and although the profit from their sale will be almost $47 million, it’s only a small dent in their estimated losses from 2013 of US$1.1 billion.
Luckily it’s unlikely that Square Enix will move away from the PlayStation brand any time soon, despite Sony’s withdrawal as a shareholder, so you’ll still have awesome franchises such as these to look forward to in the near future.
Image via GameWallpapers