Anyway, I’ve had a couple of days to think about it, so I’d like to share my thoughts on the matter.
First, the facts:
Enix and Square are merging. Square stock will be bought out for Enix stock at 0.81 Square per 1 Enix. The Square president will be head of Square Enix, the Enix board remains in place, they’ll move into Enix headquarters in Shibuya.
All currently announced releases will go on as scheduled. A FF/DW merger may be in the offing, but no definite plans, and probably only as a side release. No personnel will be let go.
Squaresoft is: Final Fantasy, Chrono, Xeno, SaGa, Mana and assorted other titles.
Enix is: Dragon Quest/Warrior, Soul Blazer series, 7th Saga, Actraiser, Tri-Ace (Star Ocean, Valkyrie Profile), and a lot of stuff that never made it outside Japan. Enix also has a deal with GameArts on co-developing the Grandia series.
Sony, one of Square’s major stockholders, will have it’s shares diluted to 8% of Square/Enix.
Namco, another game company also has some stock in both Square and Enix, and is the publisher of Xenogears’ prequel, Xenosaga.
Square also has a US publishing deal with EA, set to expire at the end of the year. (This last tidbit may not mean anything…)
Square also recently acquired the Quest team (responsible for Tactics Ogre series) and the rights to the Ogre Battle franchise.
Okay, what can we see?
First off, Enix will be in control, at least at first. Although the Square guy will be Pres, the Pres can always be overridden by the board, and the Enix board will remain in place until they hold a stockholder election thingy, whatever that’s called. You might think this is bad “Oh no, Enix is in control, that means FF is doomed!” Of course not. They’re not stupid. The fact is that Enix being in control of the company’s vision and direction makes more sense in light of Square and Enix’s overlapping powers. Square develops most of it’s products in-house, while Enix publishes a lot of products from other developers like Tri-Ace and Gamearts. Therefore, it makes more sense for Enix to be in control of administrative/business stuff, leaving Square staff to focus on what they do best — game development.
But what does this mean to us as gamers? In the immediate future, nothing really. All the currently announced projects are unaffected: we’ll still get FFXI, FFXII, FF:Crystal Chronicle, FFTA, Unlimited Saga, etc. The only thing I’ve found people to be questioning on message boards is whether FF1-2 (which still doesn’t have a definite announcement of a US release) will have an English version. This is a possible concern, as Enix didn’t even bother to release an English version of their own DW4. Who knows, maybe we’ll get a collection of DW4 and FF1-2? 😛 (Addendum: FF1-2 has been announced for US release.)
But after the immediate future, what then? Square Enix will almost
certainly continue the Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior lines. The future for the Chrono series also seems bright, as the original Chrono Trigger was a collaboration between Square and some of Enix’s creative staff. Stuff from Tri-Ace and GameArts will probably go on as before, seeing as these development studios are mostly independent of Enix anyway. And if we’re lucky, we’ll get another Soul Blazer trilogy.
What I worry about are Square’s “secondary” RPG series: SaGa and Mana. Now that Square Enix will have two “big” series under it’s roof, will they still have time to develop these still-young series?
Although not really related to the merger, things also look bright for fans of FFTactics. Aside from the upcoming FFTA, Square’s acquisition of Quest and the Ogre Battle franchise means we’ll probably see more FFT/TacticsOgre type games coming from them. Combined with the unique gameplay perspective of Tri-Ace, who knows what interesting games will come out?
I’ve been looking around on message boards after the news came out, and it seems a lot of people are worried about how Enix might screw up Final Fantasy, or Square screw up Dragon Warrior or anything like that. To this, again I say: They’re not stupid. FF and DW, although they have the same roots, are completely different series now, and their different styles again reflect how Square and Enix can complement each other’s strengths. Well, I guess DW will benefit the most, as it’s sorely lacking in FFs specialty: really good graphics.
Another concern that has been raised has been the possibility of a monopoly in RPG games. With this merger, a lot of the big RPG names are now under one roof. Won’t the lesser competition cause more lackluster RPGs to be put out? Maybe, but I doubt it. Square Enix still can’t afford to let up on the quality, as there are still a good number of other good up-and-coming series out there: Suikoden (Konami), Wild Arms (Sony?), Tales (Namco) and Breath of Fire (Capcom) all still have quite some following and good potential. In fact the above titles will probably slug it out for the Number 2 Console RPG Developer slot…
All in all, the opinions I’ve read on the web are mixed: some are good, some are bad. My own personal take is that it’s good; mergers generally mean two companies wanting to capitalize on each other’s strengths, not share each other’s weaknesses. Let’s just wait and see, and hope for the best. 😛