Square Enix "didn't know" international appeal of products

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Boss of Japanese game company Square Enix professes to not have known that their products were of interest outside of Japan. Do leaders do e...

Boss of Japanese game company Square Enix professes to not have known that their products were of interest outside of Japan. Do leaders do enough to see and cultivate the international appeal of their products?

By Karn G. Bulsuk


Historically, Japan has mostly seen itself as an isolated island, and from a business and technological standpoint, this has been partially true. Markets are often described as covering "Asia ex. Japan" for example, while the mobile phone market in Japan was, until the arrival of the iPhone, closed in terms of phone models and technology, relying on standards used nowhere else in the world.

Similarly, with a massive video games industry, there are many games which are made for the Japanese market and never given a release outside of the country - these are often obvious by the boxes which are marked "For Japan Only."

Recently, games publisher Square Enix buckled that the trend by releasing a Role Playing video game titled "Bravely Default", created in the Japanese style of gameplay, to the world market.

The game, with it's Engrish title intact, has been well received globally and has sold considerably well. So well, that Square Enix boss Yosuke Matsuda reportedly told Nikkei Shimbun that: "Due to having split (the development mindset) according to regions around the world, we weren't able to see this clearly up until now, but fans of JRPGs are really spread around the world." Traditionally, some Japanese game companies saw the world as split into two regions: Japan and the Western world, the latter which was thought to have different requirements and unable to understand nor enjoy Japanese-styled games.

This caused a significant amount of confusion among observers which questioned why it took them so long to realise that there is a significant amount of demand for their games - in fact, games which have been produced by Japanese game companies specifically for the Western market have often flopped simply because the games were trying too hard to be Western, or simply dumbed down, when the target market wanted the genuine Japanese experience.

It's rather surprising and disappointing to see that leaders and their companies often do not realise the global potential of the products they make. What other potentially successful and money making games has Square Enix kept locked up in Japan, never to see an international release?

Conglomerate Rakuten is an example of a Japanese company which has actively sought after the foreign market. In Japan, Rakuten already runs an online marketplace similar to ebay, where sellers can offer their goods via the market with Rakuten keeping a certain portion as fees.

Aware that there is a demand for Japanese goods which are difficult or impossible to buy overseas, and actively aware that there is a language issue between sellers and potential buyers, they've customised their online shopping experience to directly target the foreign customers. Rakuten Global Market, a result of that initiative, translates Japanese store pages into basic English to allow people to browse and buy their wares.

Leaders do a disservice to their companies if they solely target their domestic markets - people are looking for something new and different in a world where products are growing increasing boring and uniform.

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Karn G. Bulsuk: Full Speed Ahead: Square Enix "didn't know" international appeal of products
Square Enix "didn't know" international appeal of products
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Karn G. Bulsuk: Full Speed Ahead
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