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News from Japan

Square Enix Partner with Tencent


Square Enix
Announced today, Square Enix is joining with Chinese conglomerate Tencent for a new "strategic alliance" for game development. It appears that the main thrust of this new alliance is the formation of a new joint venture company that will be used to develop new AAA tiles for both new IPs and also around the licensing of existing IPs. Square Enix Holdings' president, Yosuke Matsuda, was quoted as saying that the alliance will be a boost for diversifying content offerings and getting to a wider customer base.

For those unfamiliar with Tencent, they are a massive, publicly-traded conglomerate out of Shenzhen, China, with holdings in tons of tech-related industries. With regards to gaming, they are majority owners of Riot Games (League of Legends) and Supercell (Clash of Clans), and own stakes in Activision Blizzard, Epic, Ubisoft, Paradox, and several other smaller game companies.

There's a lot not said in the announcement, which is not surprising given the fact that it's a brand-new concept today. However, based on what we know right now, I think we can safely make a couple of assumptions. First, it doesn't seem like this will change too much in Square Enix' core business. Flagship franchises currently managed by the main Squenix offices will likely remain the same, since the new company is exactly that - new and separate. Second, this will likely impact Asian markets first, given the fact that the new partnership is between a Japanese and a Chinese company (no word yet on where the new company will be headquartered). Third, there's a pretty good chance that there might be some bizarre concepts using Final Fantasy characters and settings showing up in the future.

Source: Siliconera, Wikipedia
Posted in: News from Japan

Original Phantasy Star Coming for Switch with Upgrades


Back in April, Sega (apparently, I clearly missed it) announced some re-releases of some very old games as digital downloads for Switch. Among them are the first Sonic the Hedgehog game, but more interestingly for RPG players, the first Phantasy Star game is coming too. It's a heavily-upgraded version for Switch, as well; the game is adding automapping for its dungeons, a bestiary, a full list of equipment from the game's menus, and a reduced-difficulty mode.

It's coming out in Japan next month and will be 925 yen, a little over eight dollars. The game's been announced for the West, too, but with no release date or confirmed price point (though you can probably expect about ten dollars). I never got to play any of the Phantasy Star series growing up, and I don't yet have a Switch, but this looks like a pretty nice package. Good for Sega for freshening things up!

Source: Kotaku, Sega Ages | Phantasy Star
Posted in: News from Japan

Studio Istolia Looks for New Team in Tokyo


Square Enix
It seems like far more recently than February of 2017 that Square Enix announced the creation of their new development shop Studio Istolia, but the timestamps don't lie. We haven't heard much about the new studio or its first project, "Project Prelude Rune," in the intervening time, but this week there was finally an update to the company's official website.

The update consisted of a new piece of concept art, showing a village perched above a lake in a soft-focused, dreamlike forest setting, but also a number of job openings for their Tokyo office. The jobs are fairly typical for a game development project, including concept art, technical art, map designers, user interface designers, planners and programmers, but the list does imply that the company is not planning on shifting workers from other studios to this new one and is instead mainly aiming for outside hires.

There's still no news about what Prelude Rune might be in terms of a game genre, or when or on what platforms we might see it. But that's not surprising given that they are still clearly ramping up the team's headcount. More news is sure to follow, though I would have to assume that it won't be this calendar year.

Source: Gematsu
Posted in: News from Japan

Kingdom Hearts III Release Date Announced


Kingdom Hearts
The Pre-E3 Kingdom Hearts Orchestra World Tour concert in Los Angeles was last night, after which Square Enix announced that Kingdom Hearts III finally had a release date. Unfortunately for CoN readers looking to get the game under their Christmas tree or other denominational holiday apparatus, that date is not going to be in 2018. However, it won't be that much more of a wait - Asia will get the game on January 25 for both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and North America and Europe will get it on January 29.

The announcement was shown in a new trailer exclusive to the concert, of which the highlight clearly must be Sora cooking with Remy from Pixar's Ratatouille. Tetsuya Nomura tweeted after the announcement that there would be more information and more trailers at E3 on the show floor; I expect that this new trailer will be among them.

Source: Gematsu
Posted in: News from Japan

Square Enix Spin Up New Internal Studio


Square Enix
Square Enix have this week announced the creation of a new internal studio for games development in Tokyo. Called "Luminous Productions" in a likely nod to the Luminous Engine used to power Final Fantasy XV, the new studio will be run by Square Enix Chief Operating Officer Hajime Tabata and will be a wholly-owned subsidiary of the mothership. Based on the press release, the new studio will be focused on AAA-tier games, with the implication that the studio will be targeted towards new intellectual properties.

That said, the seed of the studio appears to be the "creative team behind Final Fantasy XV," so there remains the possibility that this studio may be tasked with future Final Fantasy games; they're certainly looking for fresh blood as well, as they have nearly thirty job listings on their new website. All that information makes it impossible to predict what sorts of projects they may undertake until a planned announcement later this year, but current evidence certainly seems to say they're looking for home runs.

Source: Gematsu
Posted in: News from Japan

Square Enix Hiring for Final Fantasy VII Remake in Tokyo


Final Fantasy VII
A job posting appeared on Friday from Square Enix, looking for "core members" of the Final Fantasy VII Remake project. It appears that this specific listing is for a level planner, laying out areas in the Remake world using Unreal Engine 4. The listing also mentions potential roles for battle planners, designers, and engineers (in this context, likely game developers), with some of those roles coming from inside Square Enix and others being outside hires.

Part of this news was new to me in the case that the development of the game was previously being done outside of Square Enix, by a company called CyberConnect. Now it appears that headquarters has fully assimilated the project, hence the need for some hiring and organizational shifting to accommodate the work.

This news is also a bit illuminating as a look inside the company's practices that I personally haven't seen before. At least for this role, they are not looking for a minimum level of experience, implying that the hiring will be done based mainly on prior portfolio. The salary starts at about USD $34,000 a year, with no upper bound mentioned; that would seem to me like they're willing to bring in a very junior person for this specific role if necessary. I don't know what game devs typically make in Japan, but I do know that you wouldn't get much of a developer here in the States for that money. They also promise a forty-hour work week, which I would find a little difficult to believe in this industry and on a game of this importance.

The other big conclusion you can draw from this is probably a bit more sad - if they're just now bringing the work in house and are hiring for roles like these currently, that would probably indicate that there hasn't been much progress in development yet. I wouldn't hold my breath to see much new this year, though the late-year Tokyo Game Show might be an option.

Source: Siliconera, Kotaku
Posted in: News from Japan

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