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E3 2017
Image: Naples Herald

Square Enix and E3: A Shaky Relationship

Following another uneventful Square Enix E3 Showcase , Doublejump dives into the company’s troubled history at the big event

Yet another E3 has come and gone, with all of its surprising announcements – and those less surprising – fresh in our minds to digest and anticipate right up until we get our hands on them. Now that it is all over, we are free to discuss what went right and wrong, with each person sharing their individual thoughts but also a few common themes popping up in between most people that attended either physically or via live stream. As with every year, we can only hope that the companies that presented over the course of the week will use this feedback in a productive way in order to improve in the future.

Unfortunately, for every company that rifles through the feedback and learns from its mistakes, there’s one that simply does. Once again, Square Enix has managed to bring itself down to the level of even the most negatively popular game developers (I never said EA) by putting out the most unnecessary, hasty and sloppy showcase there ever was.

Having announced its “big show” about a month before E3, a lot of people were actually pleasantly surprised that Square Enix would be making a return to the event. It made sense, though, considering the laundry list of announced – and unannounced – titles that the Japanese giant had to talk about:  Shadow Of The Tomb Raider, Dragon Quest XI, Just Cause 4, Kingdom Hearts III, Octopath Traveler, new DLC for Final Fantasy XV, a new patch for Final Fantasy XIV, Life Is Strange 2, The World Ends With You: Final Remix, Left Alive and plenty more. People were also silently holding out hope that they might learn more about Final Fantasy XV producer Hajime Tabata’s next game, the Avengers project announced last year and, of course, the Final Fantasy VII Remake. That’s a whole hell of a lot of ammunition to hold a blockbuster of a conference, but that wasn’t to be.

The showcase started off quite strongly, displaying about 10 minutes of gameplay and a nice story trailer of Shadow Of The Tomb Raider; after that, though, it was a mess of rushed out trailers and information that had been announced during Microsoft’s press conference the day before. More annoying than that, however, is the fact that the entire event lasted a grand total of 25 minutes, leaving us wondering why the company even held a showcase in the first place if it was just going to rehash what it had shown during Microsoft’s event.

Sure, the games the company showed are promising – it’s not just Kingdom Hearts, either; almost all of its new titles have evolved into franchises with their own following at this point – but people were expecting that “wow” factor, like Microsoft had with Cyberpunk 2077 or Bethesda with The Elder Scrolls VI. Even if it’s not a game that will be out tomorrow, we still want to get a glimpse, just so that we know that the titles are even still in development.

The result of this, of course, is Square Enix’s showcase being described as a joke and Final Fantasy VII Remake as “vaporware”. Unfortunately, when you delve into the company’s history at E3, this recent disappointment is just another addition to a long, sad list of public relations blunders. Just last year, for instance, during the annual “Square Enix Presents” program, we got to sit through one of the most awkward interviews (if it can even be described as such) in recent memory – if not history – featuring Final Fantasy brand manager Shinji Hashimoto.

In what was supposed to be a discussion concerning the future of Square Enix’s flagship franchise during its 30th anniversary, the community representatives conducting the interview saw fit to ask such questions as “what is Final Fantasy?” and “have you played Final Fantasy?” In my humble opinion, that speaks for itself.

The awkwardness begins at 33:33; watch it at your own risk!

Going even further back, though, we uncover even more disappointments and PR mishaps.. The fact that Final Fantasy VII RemakeThat particular saga was so ridiculous and so protracted that it became a meme within the games industry, caused the company to restructure itself and move producers around (Tabata took Versus XIII over, releasing it soon after as Final Fantasy XV and leaving Tetsuya Nomura to focus on Kingdom Hearts III), and caused damage to its reputation that lingers to this very day.

In 2013, Square Enix decided that it was so excited to be able to re-reveal both Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts III – and also the re-release that saved Final Fantasy XIV – to the world that it wanted to hold a press conference (the last one since this year’s return). Despite its incredible potential, however, terrible camera placement and poor translations filled with awkward silences resulted in an event of such poor quality that it could hardly be described as a professional event befitting a company of Square Enix’s stature and collective talent.

Such professionalism… Wow!

In 2015, Square Enix’s biggest announcement was Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, a port of a title that had been available in Japan for four years already, but with updated graphics. The only reason this game sold, of course, was the Final Fantasy XV demo, Episode Duscae, that came with it.

It’s difficult not feel constant disappointment when it comes to Square Enix, especially when it’s able to lie so easily to its fans. Last November, during an interview on the EDAMAME Arcade Channel, Shinji Hashimoto promised that “2018 [was] going to be a big year” for the Final Fantasy, but it was barely present at E3. It is very hard at this point for people not to look at both Hashimoto and Square Enix as a whole and feel betrayed. Hopefully, not only for their sake but for the franchise and its fans’ sake as well, there’s something more to show before the year is over so that they can prove everyone wrong.

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