Last month, Sony made headlines in the video game world when it decided to sell its stock in the massive Japanese game developer, Square Enix, for $47 million. For years, the two had operated as partners with nothing but mutual success on both ends of the spectrum to show for it, making Sony's decision seem all the more rash. Many speculated about the reasoning behind Sony leaving Square Enix behind, especially when the Final Fantasy developer was seeing a positive swing in its fortunes.
Apparently, the reasoning behind the deal was done for quite the opposite. Sony is the company who was in need of aid after falling on some tough financial times, and Square Enix was more than happy to step up and assist Sony as a returned favor.
At Comic-Con in Thailand this week, Square Enix Producer Shinji Hashimoto commented on the issue in response to a fan question.
"We didn't think this would become big news," he said. "Back in 2001, Square Enix had financial problems and Sony bought our stocks. Now, the situation is reversed. Since then, we have had good support from our customers for our products, so Square Enix is back on its legs. But Sony has declined.
"The presidents of both companies had negotiation and resulted as everyone knew. We did not have argument. Since Sony once helped us, it was time we helped Sony back."
If you need a brief history lesson, the "financial problems" Hashimoto mentions for Square Enix occurred in the shadow of Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within tanking at the American box office. Even though it was riding high in the video game world at the time, mainstream audiences couldn't get behind a Final Fantasy product, and obviously neither could investors.
The film's misfortunes saw Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi exit the company, and it nearly derailed the planned merger between Square and Enix that hadn't been finalized. Thanks to Sony stepping in to help, the merger was saved and we got plenty of great software from Square Enix on the best selling console in history, the PlayStation 2.
It goes without saying that the two need each other to thrive and find it in each other's interest to aid one another in times of need.
Also in the speech, Hashimoto teased the presence of Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts III at E3 this year in response to a different fan question.
"We would like to keep it secret. It just only a few months from now. I'm pretty sure you will be surprised."
Is it just me or has Square Enix been running away with the headlines as of late? I know I'm a fan, but it's been doing a great job getting nothing but praise from around the industry. The financial and critical success of Bravely Default and Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, turning their poor fortunes around in a full 180 degrees, admitting to losing focus and promising to get it back, establishing a more long term development plan for Final Fantasy, and finally, coming to Sony's aid like this.
So far, Square Enix is definitely the best and most exciting publisher of the year. Nobody else even comes close.