The year is 2006. Final Fantasy fans are on the edge of their seats after seeing an amazing looking trailer for the upcoming Final Fantasy Versus-XIII. They patiently wait for more news that doesn’t come.
Fast-forward to 2013. Finally, there is more news about the mysterious game that casual fans had forgotten. But now he’s been rebranded as Final Fantasy XV and looks even better. But it will still be three more years before the game actually releases in 2016, ten years after its first conceptual trailer and announcement. And it still had the biggest launch in the history of the series, selling enough copies worldwide in the first 24 hours to break even on how much it cost to make. What company was responsible for all of this?
Even if you’ve never played them, most gamers know the series Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, and Dragon Quest. Can you name which company is behind these international hits? That’s right - Square Enix. Square Enix is one of the best-known names in the role-playing game world today. It’s a Japanese company based in Shinjuku, Tokyo, though they have since expanded globally to have international headquarters outside of Japan as well. Their long history has earned them respect in the gaming industry in Japan as well as abroad, and they continue to put out successful games. Whether it’s a new part of their famous series or a standalone title, people always wait with anticipation for new role-playing games with the Square Enix name.
So where did this massive Japanese company come from? How did it get to be the international success that it is today? Whether you’re a fan of the games that Square Enix has made or just a gamer that likes learning some gaming history, you’ve come to the right place. Like all companies, Square Enix started small and local. Only through its impressive storytelling and ability to capture the hearts of millions of people around the world - and maintain an incredibly loyal fanbase through the company’s ups and downs - was it able to become what it is today.
After all, not all game companies can delay the same game for ten years and still have gamers hanging on every trailer and bit of gossip, and still release a successful game in the end that leaves few disappointed. But somehow Square Enix can and has - and people keep coming back for more. So how did the company reach this stage? Read on to find out more about the History of Square Enix.
From Competitors to Partners
Square Enix did not start out as one company under this name. Actually, it started as two separate ones. Enix began on September 22nd, 1975 as a company that published games mostly made by other developers. It had a large team. At this time, Enix was most famous for publishing Dragon Quest in 1986 for the Famicom. Enix continued to publish games for both Sony and Nintendo, which helped the company expand and grow as its stocks continued to rise. By 1999, Enix was considered a large and successful game company based on its stocks, and it was doing very well for itself independently.
Meanwhile, Square was Enix’s largest competitor. A much younger company, Square had humble beginnings as a PC software developer in 1986 by a single man, Masafumi Miyamoto. He had big dreams of a larger team to work on projects though, and tried to pursue them. After releasing several unsuccessful games in its first years, finally, Square was inspired by the success of Dragon Quest and created Final Fantasy in 1987. With its success, Final Fantasy became Square’s main franchise. It also led to the development of other successful RPGs by Square, including Chrono Trigger, Xenogears, Kingdom Hearts and more.
In 2000, Enix and Square began to consider merging into one company. But Square had recently released the movie Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, which was a massive failure and made Enix reluctant to join them. But with the great success of both Final Fantasy X and Kingdom Hearts, which put Square at the most profit it had ever had, the merging talks proceeded. Finally on November 25th, 2002, Enix and Square announced that they would go forth with the merge. Both companies were at their height, and it seemed like the best timing to work together at long last. On April 1st, 2003, Square Enix was finally created.
With Square’s president Yoichi Wada as the new president and Enix’s president Kenji Honda as the Vice President, Square Enix pushed into the future. And they have never looked back! This historic merging has just paved the way for the future of Square Enix.
The Modern Company
The modern company everyone knows as Square Enix is actually two divisions called Square Enix Holdings. Co. Ltd., the name it took in October 2008. While developing and producing video games remains the company’s main role, it’s also taken ownership of a few other things as well. The video game distribution side of the company and the corporate business side are now separated, allowing them both to operate efficiently. For example, Square Enix now also owns and operates the Japanese arcade company Taito, most famous for Space Invaders.
Square Enix has continued to expand its products to more platforms and demographics. Since 2007, they have founded and owned Square Enix MobileStudio to capitalise on the ever-expanding on the mobile game industry. It has also created other studios to work on specific games, such as Tokyo RPG Factory for Project Setsuna and Studio Istolia for Project Prelude Rune. All of this has been done to accommodate the massive growth of the company and help it to produce more games, and of course to earn more revenue by creating its own subsidiary companies rather than working through a middle-man.
In 2003, Square Enix has been split into eight developing departments to handle all the different games the company produces. The most significant of these departments is the 1st Production Department, which was formed in 2010 and lasted until 2013. It was responsible for everything connected to Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts. Since 2013, Square Enix has been split again into 12 business divisions to continue to handle the company’s rate of growth.
Square Enix has since been producing polymorphic content, meaning that they produce games for lots of different systems rather than restricting themselves to only one company. This business model all started with the popular manga Fullmetal Alchemist, which was produced by Square Enix. It was a manga, two anime series, two movies, and several video games. Final Fantasy VII is another example, with several independent console games, a handheld game, a mobile game, an anime series, and a movie. The latest has been the Fabula Nova Crystallis Final Fantasy series which is currently ongoing after beginning in 2016. This business model has been a key part of Square Enix’s success by capitalising on something popular and making it accessible to lots of different people. And it also makes for very devoted fans!
An International Name
Square Enix has grown a lot since it was just two independent Japanese companies. With games like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, it’s become an international name in the gaming world. The company has continued to gain influence and recognition across the world especially since the 2003 merger, which allowed it to grow and gain new subsidiary companies and branches. In 2005, Square Enix China was launched to reach the People’s Republic of China. That was just the beginning though; since then, Square Enix Europe, Montreal, and an expanded Square Enix America are in operation.
Besides its own subsidiary companies, Square Enix also works with many Western companies to publish their interests in Asia. For example, Square Enix is behind publishing Ubisoft titles in Japan, like the hugely successful Assassin’s Creed series. It has also made merchandise for companies it doesn’t own, such as Mass Effect and Halo, more very famous titles. These partnerships are a two-way street and also allow Square Enix to promote itself in the West. It works abroad with companies like Viz Media and Funimation Entertainment to publish its manga and anime like Fullmetal Alchemist and Soul Eater.
In 2009, Square Enix purchased the company Eidos and has been using it to publish games in Europe along with Square Enix Europe. Amongst the better-known titles, it has published are Tomb Raider, Hitman, and Deus Ex. Whereas the company might be best known for its Japanese role-playing games, it certainly isn’t limited to only them. Square Enix is much bigger than just Final Fantasy. While that series may have helped it get its foot in the door of the Western gaming world, Square Enix has since thrown that door wide open and continues to expand each year.
From two small companies to one giant international one, Square Enix has grown a lot over the past almost 40 years. The world of video games has changed, and Square Enix has changed along with it. Appealing to the changes in demographics while still holding the hearts of lifelong fans is the balance that Square Enix has managed to find. And branching into other businesses and companies have helped always keep them going and sponsoring their next big projects. The business side of video games is always a bit hard to predict since at any time an anticipated game could be a flop - or a timeless classic. But it’s safe to say Square Enix is likely to be around to a while longer. And still producing amazing stories for gamers to really lose themselves in all around the globe!
What Square Enix title is your favourite? What about the company do you like the most? Are there any other studios or companies you would like to learn more about in a similar article? Please drop us a comment below!