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Square Enix announced today that they are "withdrawing" from IO Interactive, the gaming studio most recently working on the Hitman franchise, at the end of the conglomerate's current fiscal year on March 31, 2018. This withdrawal appears to be taking the place of a divestment from the developer, and not a winding down and closing of their studios in Denmark; however, should Square Enix and IO not find a new investor in that time, it seems more than possible that the studio would in fact need to close.
IO Interactive have been the sole developers of main-series Hitman games since the origin of the franchise. However, due to Eidos' purchase of IO and Square Enix' subsequent purchase of Eidos, the Hitman IP appears to belong to Square Enix at this time. It's not yet known what would occur with this IP in the case of a transfer of investment; my suspicions would be that it would be allowed to stay with IO if a new investor is found, or kept by Square Enix if one is not. Neither Square Enix nor IO Interactive have put forth any further details at this time.
Square Enix is expecting to take a single-time loss of roughly $43 million to divest from IO Interactive, which is obviously a very large number even for a company of their size. This appears to be an acceptable loss for the company, who commented that they are using the opportunity to "[focus] our resources and energies on key franchises and studios," which likely means reinvestment in Japanese studios and possibly Eidos Montreal? It's hard to tell where all they have active things ramping up these days.
With the upcoming release of the Final Fantasy XII remake, subtitled "The Zodiac Age," coming this summer, it's not too much of a surprise that Square Enix are planning livestreams in the run-up to release. The first (and only scheduled, so far) of these streams is coming up on April 26, at 8pm local, which translates to 7am on the 26th for the American Eastern time zone.
The stream will be used to "introduce" the game, but will also include some of the Japanese voice cast for discussions, and some conversation about the development of the original game - as well as, surely, some of the development for the remake. The stream will be played live on Square Enix' YouTube and NicoNico Live channels. As it is a livestream, I doubt that there will be English subtitling done for us here, but if you're a big XII fan you might at least get to enjoy some new visuals from the game.
As an aside, the PlayStation demo kiosk at my local GameStop was running Zodiac Age as a demo when I was there last week. I didn't get to see much of what was going on with it, because my five-year-old decided that she needed to run the demo and not me, but at least it's out there for you folks to check out as you wish too!
Earlier today, Square Enix put on a launch event for Dragon Quest XI's release in Japan. The main point of the event was to announce the release date in Japan as July 29th of this year, but as normal for these kinds of events, Squenix also detailed the release packages available for preorder, including bonuses.
A couple pre-order bonuses are pieces of gear; one vest increases post-battle XP and the other increases post-battle Gold earnings. It's not clear from Siliconera's reporting if these are going to be both available to a single purchase, or a single version of the game, or anything like that. The more interesting bundle, though, is the cross-platform bundle. In a first for Square Enix, and possibly for any game I can think of on any platform, the company will offer a bundle that includes both the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo 3DS versions of the games in a single package. Gamers who pick that set up for roughly $136 will get both games in the classic "hollowed-out-book-hiding-place" boxes, and a (faux) sword in a display case. For anyone who wants both platforms, this is actually a great deal, as the two separately will cost nearly the same. None of this includes anything for the Switch version, which will not be release-ready for the same release window.
Now, I'm burying the lede here, as I often do, but my favorite news around this event is that third-party hardware maker Hori is making a Dragon Quest-themed controller for PlayStation 4, too. It's a slime. And it looks completely uncomfortable to use, and generally ridiculous. And it has to have its own stand to sit in when you're not using it, because all of the controls are on the slime's butt. Do slimes have butts? Anyway, apparently they made a similar one (in both regular and metal variants) for the PlayStation 2, and they sold well enough for them to want to do it again, at the price of over $90. Wow.
Square Enix announced today that MMORPG Final Fantasy XIV will, as of now, be free for all trial accounts up until level 35. This lifting of restriction will apply to any trial account, whether it's created now or dates back to day one; even expired trials will be unlocked for players. This means, Gematsu reports, that characters left on expired accounts can be picked up right where left off, and all accounts can do all of the gameplay available to any other account at or below level 35, including various jobs, the first 10 levels of Deep Dungeon, Golden Saucer, and other unique features.
The trial can be downloaded from PlayStation stores in North America and Europe as before, or from the XIV website for PC gamers. The restriction has been lifted serverside, it would appear, so users who already have the game client should need only to start it up and download any lingering updates to pick the game up again.
Special editions were announced as well, with the collector's edition containing a few trading cards, mini-busts of the Judge Magisters, and a steelbook with the game and soundtrack. A separate steelbook edition, with just the game, will also be available for the July 11 launch.
And, as a special surprise at the end, World of Final Fantasy popped up to show off Balthier as a new DLC character coming soon!
Hat tip for these snapshots and the video to our man on the ground in Boston. Hopefully we can see more later this weekend!
Are you itching for more Final Fantasy-related news coming straight from the company's head honchos? Or better yet, will you happen to be in Boston from March 10th-12th for PAX East? Then you are in luck! Square Enix has revealed their lineup and panel discussion details to whet your appetite and maybe answer a few questions you've wondered about.
No convention is complete without a showcase of playable games, and they are certainly bringing a handful for players to get their mitts on. Here is what they plan to show at their booth:
- Deus Ex: Mankind Divided – A Criminal Past DLC (PS4, Xbox One, PC)
- Dragon Quest Heroes II (PS4, PC)
- Final Fantasy: Brave Exvius (iOS, Android)
- Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age (PS4)
- Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward (PS4, PC, Mac)
- Final Fantasy XV – Episode Gladiolus DLC (PS4, XBO)
- Flame x Blaze (iOS, Android)
- I Am Setsuna (Switch)
- Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 Remix (PS4)
- Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8: Final Chapter Prologue (PS4)
- Kingdom Hearts: Unchained Chi (iOS, Android)
- NieR: Automata (PS4, PC)
- Ride 2 (PS4, XBO, PC)
If that's not enough, Square Enix will also hold one panel during each of the three days during PAX East to discuss their current & near-future launches. Here is what they have:
Friday, March 10th, 1:30-2:30pm
Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age Panel - Discussion on the upcoming game release on July 11th, 2017. Game director Takashi Katano and producer Hiroaki Kato to attend.
Saturday, March 11th, 12:00pm-1:00pm
Final Fantasy XIV Community Q&A Panel - Interested in following the latest content and possible changes? Director Naoki Yoshida is present to hear player questions & feedback.
Sunday, March 12th, 10:30am-11:30am
NieR: Automata x Final Fantasy XV Panel - The first half focuses on NieR: Automata and a discussion with director Yoko Taro, with the second half featuring a first look at FFXV's brand spanking new DLC, Episode Gladiolus, for fans who are looking for even more character development.
And with any good convention setup, there will be plenty of prizes, posters and fun game-related trinkets to entice you to stop by!
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