From a qualitative standpoint, Square Enix has had a subtle but sterling run of game releases recently. Sleeping Dogs proved a uniquely entertaining Hong Kong crime thriller last August; Agent 47 sleuthed his way back to gaming prominence in November’s Hitman: Absolution; and just this month, Lara Croft was breathtakingly reborn in the most stunning and seminal Tomb Raider adventure to date.
But capturing appeal can be as vital as capturing acclaim. Unfortunately for the publisher, the former hasn’t gone according to plan.
In what it’s calling an “extraordinary loss,” Square Enix revealed in an earnings statement today that it grossly overestimated net profits for its fiscal year ending in March 2013, and that its finances, in reality, are deeply in the red. As a result, longtime president Yoichi Wada has been shown the door, replaced by Yosuke Matsuda, and Square Enix has committed ¥ 10 billion to initiating “major reforms and restructuring [efforts]” throughout its business.
A second report released by the company highlights the main culprit: sales of Western games.
Square anticipated selling 14.9 million retail games in North America and Europe between September 2012 and the end of March 2013. Within that period, however, Sleeping Dogs sold 1.75 million units, Hitman: Absolution garrotted 3.6 million, and Tomb Raider accounted for 3.8 million — each worldwide! Adding up to 8.75 million sales (and again, worldwide), and comprising Square’s only significant September-March releases for North American and European audiences, the dissonance between prediction and fruition is “extraordinary” in every sense of the word.
While Square Enix didn’t specify how it plans to “reform” and “restructure” several facets of its operation — what could it mean for current franchises? How might it shape plans for the next generation? — Tomb Raider, with its stellar reviews and new steadfast narrative template, will almost surely play a role. Hopefully that starts with changing the game’s recently announced DLC agenda.
During a recent AMA session on Reddit, Tomb Raider global brand director Karl Stewart declared that all forthcoming Tomb Raider DLC will be “based around the Multiplayer experience for now.” While “for now,” clearly, lends itself to a future addendum, the general impression was that Square Enix and developer Crystal Dynamics were committing to a component that, as far as our review felt, contributes little to Tomb Raider’s rich single-player experience; poor controls, sloppy design and uninspired customization options made it a veritable non-factor.
Refreshingly, though, Siloconera reported this week that Square Enix Europe filed a trademark for an entity named “Tomb Raider: Reflections.” It’s impossible to say what the name could mean but it sounds deep, it sounds… epilogical, like the kind of story-based experience Lara needs after battering through her stormy crucible on the island of Yamatai. Being in the trademark stage it may well arrive behind three or four map packs and a bundle of character skins. But in any case Square Enix would be playing to its strengths at a time when, well — look at what transpired today — another rebirth story appears in dire need of writing.
Tomb Raider is available now for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.
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