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News from August 2018

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

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

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

Final Fantasy XIV Smartphone Companion App Launches


A Realm Reborn
For gamers out there still enjoying Final Fantasy XIV, Square Enix has just released a long-awaited companion app to streamline the gameplay experience. It's available free for both iOS and Android, and provides an app interface to a number of useful features, enough so that it's hard to pick out which might be the best. Players with active subscriptions can chat with other players from the app, organize event reminders and send invites to friends to help plan raids or general gameplay sessions, organize their inventory, and even buy and sell items in the open market and submit bug reports.

Of course, these features are useful mainly to active players, which is why an active subscription is required. However, if your subscription lapses, the app will keep your chat in storage for up to 30 days while you potentially reactivate. Very cool!

Source: Final Fantasy XIV Official Site

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