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Core Dump - Work In Progress

Episode 51

December 9, 1997 : Square Soft and better promos

Last week I changed the CGI program that runs this website. Now there's a problem. I don't know what, because it's all working like a charm here, but it seems that some IE users might experience problems. But I don't have an internet explorer, and as I'm working from the university, it's not easy to install one either.

Producing Computer Games

The computer game industry is running into big sales numbers nowadays. Final Fantasy VII has just hit the "one million copies in North America" mark. The profits from this are enormous, even if the rumours are right (that 200 people worked on FFVII). But that is not what I wanted to talk about.

I just read an article at the "Playstation Gamer" website. It was about Square soft (the company behind FFVII). Anyway, there are people in Japan that disagree with the way Square has been "pulling off" staff from other game companies, by offering them better deals. If all information is right, they even took away people or complete teams in mid-development, leaving the other company with a problem. Not nice.

It is a scary thought, because it reminds me of Microsoft-like tactics. And I don't like that, obviously. Not that we can do much about it. Once a company is this big, it can create the market. Usually, there are laws against this, but in practice a monopoly is not uncommon. Consider Intel in the microprocessor market.

Intel has been one of the original designers of the mircroprocessors found in PCs. (Like Zilog did the Z80 for the MSX) For PCs there are many other companies who produce processors that do the same, only cheaper.
But during the years, Intel found that by some clever naming and marketing ("pentium" technology etc) they could make themselves known to the public ("pentium inside"), something that did not happen before (not everyone with an Amiga knows about Motorola), they were able to become a household name.

These days, Intel is the microprocessor manufacturer.

Back to Square Soft. Although computer game advertisements on TV are not too common yet (here in Europe anyway), there are definitely on the rise. But they require huge budgets. Very few companies are able to afford that. Obviously the producers of the game consoles (Sega, Sony, Nintendo) can afford it, but those are general commercials not aimed at particular games. And now, with Square selling such huge amounts of FVII (And FF tactics, for that matter), they will be able to create stunning commercials. This will change the market even further.
And that is even a different way of changing the market than the "pulling of" suggested in the article.

I am not suggesting that Square should not have such huge sales. That is the consequence of a free market, we live with that. But I want to point out (again) the dangers of a Microsoft-like monopoly. In such cases, the market mechanism ceases to help the buyers.

But there is another side to this story. An interesting side. A few years ago, many English (and American) developers were bought by Electronic Arts. They used different methods than Square, but the result was more or less the same. But now, some years later, many development teams can been seen splitting of again. Sure, they get paid less, but they regain their creative freedom.

Now I wonder: could such a scenario be likely for Square too? Would those developers, after a few years, try to split off again? I think so, although I have to take into account here that my knowledge of japanese culture is still limited. (Albeit rising).

Better Promos

After I had spent so long on constructing the second (japanese) promo, I can say it is actually a lot better than the English version. Japanese chauvinism is misplaced here, it just happened that I incorporated many improvements (as well as player suggestions) while working on the japanese version. So now I have a bit of a dilemma.

I would like to show all these improvements to everyone else. But I do not want to release the same promo again. Phew. Do I have time to construct a second promo?

Well, I will look into it next week, and let you know. I have to say though, that the Japanese Version of the promo was released with NV magazine (which happened to Sonyc some time ago too), and the comments were really good!

For one thing, the japanese actually read the story. Whereas most european players just hit the firebutton at the first glance of text, the japanese loved the storyline. And they don't even know that it's only the tip of the iceberg! All in all, I have great hopes for the japanese version of Core Dump.

Go on...

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