Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts publisher Square Enix plans to restart its India operations for mobile games. The Japanese company entered India in 2013 only to shut its doors a year later, laying off all its staff. In 2015 it was present at the Nasscom Game Developer's Conference to vet potential Indian studios to work with. Now, in a statement labelled 'A New Year's Letter from President', Yosuke Matsuda, Square Enix's President and Representative Director has said that Square Enix plans to re-enter India and pursue "robust expansion". Which is interesting when you consider it usually focusses on polished, mid-core games versus the usual casual fare that makes up most of the app stores and mindspace of Indian gamers.
"Furthermore, we plan to relaunch our dormant Indian subsidiary and pursue the robust expansion of our Indian business," Matusda said. "Given India's developing telecommunications and payment infrastructure, we see it as an extremely promising market for entertainment consumption in terms of both the size of its population and its economic power. As we restart our business there this year, we will also have representation from our Japan team on the ground in India. We will work to ensure a powerful launch and to establish solid underpinnings for our Indian business."
What shape or form Square Enix's efforts take will be interesting. Past attempts involved partnering with local developers which resulted in several cancelled projects and eventually, the cancellation of its India team. After that, the publisher was at an invite-only session at NGDC 2015 where pre-selected local developers can showcase their upcoming games to publishers. Other attendees included Disney and Nazara.
At the time, our sources also let on that the Japan-based company was looking to publish "midcore, AA games for mobile with an emphasis on story." Midcore games usually sit between complex console and PC fare like Dota 2 and mobile games like Subway Surfer, such as Machine Zone's Game of War: Fire Age.
"They're not looking for anything basic. They want something a whole lot bigger in terms of game design and story than what most of us are up to. They definitely don't want another Angry Birds or Candy Crush," another developer told us. "Naturally they quizzed us on all possible metrics such as conversion rates and DAU [daily active users]."
Unlike the company's presence at previous editions of NGDC, there was a single Japanese representative and his translator doing the rounds at the event rather than an entire entourage. While it's great that Square Enix is reconsidering its interest in India, most developers are cautious.
"Considering what happened the last time around, we're not really sure if they're interested this time around or if this was just done to appease some higher up sitting in Japan," another source said.
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