There is no doubt that Nintendo has struggled in recent years partly due to their frequent lack of third party support. With the next Nintendo console seemingly on the horizon and the flailing Wii U floating down the river, it bears repeating that Nintendo desperately needs the support of certain third parties in order to make the NX a success. Square Enix, publisher of Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, and a veritable treasure trove of modern and classic RPGs, is one of the most important third party developers that Nintendo needs to woo back into their good graces in order to successfully launch the NX. In order to accommodate such a feat, each company should realize what they have to gain from each other.
With Dragon Quest XI being considered for the NX and Cloud Strife being present as DLC in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U/3DS, a new era of positivity and renewed interest has begun between the two companies. There are no guarantees, however, that Square Enix will release any of its other big budget AAA titles on the NX. With Final Fantasy XV and the Final Fantasy VII Remake on the horizon, as well as the continuation of their wildly popular MMORPG, Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward, the need for Square Enix to port its popular franchises to the NX is palpable. Without Square Enix’s own Dragon Quest games (which are very popular in Japan) and lesser titles published by them, such as Deus Ex and Just Cause (which are popular in the West), a significant portion of the NX’s possible market-share is reduced and its propensity to be an all-in-one console for some gamers is severely hampered.
Because Nintendo needs as many good third party developers and publishers to make games for the NX as possible to avoid long release droughts (while also giving variety to a gaming landscape often dominated by Mario and Co.), the cooperation of a company like Square Enix is warranted. Their support would establish the NX as a viable one-console solution, would provide the necessary push out of the gate to attract other third party developers, and would give Nintendo the variety needed to differentiate themselves from the PS4 and Xbox One. Without a major developer like Square Enix on board, Nintendo’s ability to serve as the one console for a segment of gamers is heavily diminished. In short, Nintendo needs Square’s IPs to push as many consoles as possible; as evidenced by the Wii U, even the most critically acclaimed games are incapable of single-handedly selling consoles to a skeptical and saturated market.
Square Enix’s Needs
There are certain conditions that the NX needs to meet before ports or reworks of Square Enix games can be conceptualized. A sufficient online system is chief among those concerns. With Square Enix’s recent focus on its MMO, Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward, and the chance that it may come to the NX, the need for an easy to use and streamlined online interface has never been more apparent. The My Nintendo account system is already a step in the right direction, but Square Enix should see more from Nintendo before committing one of their largest titles to a nascent online system. Square Enix’s relative independence when it comes to Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward’s online system would be a boon for Nintendo. It would eliminate the need for a dramatic shake-up of their online architecture and would mean that the majority of changes would involve software and user accounts instead of hardware issues that would cost Nintendo precious time and financial resources.
The NX also needs to be powerful enough to run Square Enix’s modern games at or above the Xbox One’s capability. With the Xbox One clearly the bottleneck of Square Enix’s future multi-platform games, there needs to be, at the least, that same level of performance before they should commit to any sort of deal with Nintendo. If the NX is more powerful than the PS4 and Xbox One and has jumped forward a generation, then they are in luck. The NX could be the platform in which they can demonstrate definitive editions (as far as graphics are concerned) of their modern games. With sufficient power also comes the understanding that Nintendo needs to provide a system architecture (such as x86) which is easy to understand and easy to port to. Without either of these, ports of games from either the Final Fantasy series or Square Enix’s other titles would most likely never develop and Nintendo will lose out on a chance for a huge third party developer to produce content for their console.
What They Have to Gain
Both companies have an enormous amount to gain from this deal if it happens. Nintendo would receive a much needed boost in third party support while Square Enix would receive a new platform that would increase the range of their product and the type of households that their games can reach. While Nintendo consoles are often perceived as appealing only to children or rabidly nostalgic fans of Nintendo’s past, an opportunity could emerge, depending on price, where households normally not saturated by a PS4 or Xbox One could have a console capable of playing more family-friendly games as well as the mature experiences most gamers want. It would provide an “E” rated game for the children in the household, “Teen” and “Mature” rated gaming experiences for siblings, and a myriad of games for the parents of children who play on the NX. The Nintendo NX could become a gaming console capable of appealing to every sort of gamer in a household.
If the Nintendo NX is more powerful than the PS4, then there is no greater company that can provide a graphically-intensive gaming experience that showcases the console’s graphical chops than Square Enix. After all, this was the same company that was able to get Rise of the Tomb Raider, a modern AAA title, running on the Xbox 360, a decade-old console with 512MB of VRAM. Given how often Nintendo struggles to create games that push the current console to its limit, the assistance of a company with decades of experience in heavily-demanding visual arts would be helpful to Nintendo’s fledgling console. While the Wii and Wii U had only one or two titles which pushed the consoles to their fullest potential, the NX could possibly have three graphically-intensive games (Final Fantasy XV, the Final Fantasy VII Remake, and Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward) well within the release window of the console.
A Perfect Partnership
Nintendo and Square Enix would both profit from a strong relationship beginning with the NX. While Nintendo struggles with producing capable online experiences and boundary-pushing visual fidelity, Square Enix succeeds; while Square Enix struggles with saturation in family-oriented, one-console homes, Nintendo succeeds. Each company has much to gain and much less to lose. If Nintendo can provide Square Enix with a well-equipped console complete with an excellent online system, a family-friendly demeanor, and a well-understood system architecture, then Square Enix can provide them, in turn, with brilliant, visually demanding games and a newly repaired reputation among AAA-focused gamers.
The two companies have a bright future ahead of them if the path of cooperation is one that they indeed take. One only need remember the last time that Square Enix (then Square) and Nintendo cooperated fully, the SNES era, to see how this partnership could positively impact both companies and help the NX succeed. With Square Enix’s support right out of the gate, the NX could be a smashing success capable of challenging Microsoft’s position as the second most popular console manufacturer, while also contesting Sony’s control of the home console market within the space of a console generation. With Square Enix on their side, Nintendo’s NX may well prove to be a success and not just the final fantasy of Nintendo’s console manufacturing days.