A few days ago, to fans’ joy, Square-Enix announced that Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD Remix will be released in Europe and North America this September. An amalgamation of Kingdom Hearts Final Mix, Re:Chain of Memories, and the theater mode from 358/2 Days, the collection has been eagerly anticipated by a ton of fans (myself included). While it’s a stinging reminder that Kingdom Hearts 3 isn’t in the works yet, it’s a nice way to hold fans over after KH3D last year.
But I fear that Square-Enix may be shooting itself in the foot. If we examine the other games that Square is expected to release over the next 6-9 months, we find that it’s actually a cluttered schedule.
What else is in the works? Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII. Final Fantasy X HD. The relaunch of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. And, of course, there’s the upcoming announcement about Versus XIII, and potential news of Type-0.
All in all, 3-4 solid games are expected to be released in a 6-month period, and there are demands for more information about 2 others. Does this really make sense for Square?
Traditional industry logic says that there can be one major game released per month, with the exception of the free-for-all holiday season. Hence why Super Smash Bros Brawl was released in March 2008, and Mario Kart Wii was released in April. It takes time for consumers to get bored with a product, for them to have played it enough that they’re ready for something new. Consumers tend to play mainly one game at a time.
But consider this: FF XIV will be released in August. Kingdom Hearts 1.5 is slated for September. And, Lightning Returns is listed for the Fall. (October-December window). Most retailers list FFX HD for Dec. 31, meaning that it’s close, but no definite dates are available. Is Square really allowing enough time in-between releases?
Sure, XIV is an MMORPG, and thus a distinct genre from the rest. Yes, KH 1.5 is an HD collection, and thus not the same as a full-blown release like Lightning Returns. But Square seems to be setting itself up for disappointment, especially if its sales expectations are as unrealistic as the ones for Tomb Raider, Sleeping Dogs, and Hitman Absolution. While this may make sense for the Japanese market (Kingdom Hearts 1.5 is already released there, so there’s more spacing between XIV and XIII-3), this seems foolhardy for the North American and European markets.
Especially concerning is the fact that there’s going to be a jRPG avalanche this summer. Shin Megami Tensei IV, Tales of Xillia, Etrian Odyssey IV, Rune Factory 4, and Valhalla Knights 3 are all scheduled for release in the summer, and they’re all great jRPGs in popular franchises. When combined with the non-jRPG releases for Killer is Dead, Mario Golf: World Tour, Muramasa: Rebirth, Pikmin 3, Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, and Animal Crossing: New Leaf, this is a potential setup for oversaturation in the market, and Square-Enix, with its heavy summer/fall line-up, seems poised to be hard hit.
This is all speculation, but it’s a distinct possibility. Again, the Japanese market will be fine – many of these games will have already been released in Japan, making for a lighter Fall lineup there. But for Europe? North America? Australia? Videogames this summer will rival the Hollywood box office for the sheer number of blockbusters they’re trying to pour out, at least on the 3DS, Vita, and PS3.
Square has been having financial troubles, which may explain its eagerness to pour out seemingly-certain hits. But unless the videogame consumers market suddenly expands, some of these titles’ publishers are going to be disappointed. And it’s possible that Square, with its release at the tail-end of this storm, could be the major loser.
If Versus XIII gets released, though, I’d still buy it Day 1.