Square Enix want earlier interaction with customers, look to Kickstarter as inspiration
After a disastrous financial year, in which Square Enix not only failed to make their expected profits, but were hit instead with by massive financial loss, the company's senior executive managing director Yosuke Matsuda has been looking at Kickstarter as a possible guide to improving "asset turnover". Which isn't to say they'll attempt to raise $100,000,000 for a Tomb Raider sequel via the crowd-funding site. ($110,000,000 stretch goal: add some proper tombs.) Instead, Matsuda wants Square Enix to interact with its customers at an earlier stage.
"One could go as far as to say that in today's times, making customers wait for years with little to no information is being dishonest to them," Matsuda said, in an earnings call two weeks ago. "We're no longer in an age where customers are left in the dark until a product is completed. We need to shift to a business model where we frequently interact with our customers for our products that are in‐development and/or prior to being sold, have our customers understand games under development, and finally make sure we develop games that meet their expectations."
"There is a crowdfunding website called 'Kickstarter,'" he continued, "which does not only serve as a method of financing for developers, but I believe should also be seen as a way to unite marketing and development together by allowing us to interact with customers while a game is in development."
Matsuda also pointed to Steam's Greenlight and Early Access initiatives as ways in which game makers are communicating with their community:
"Valve's Steam Greenlight and Early Access, are also very interesting, in that they raise the frequency by which we interact with customers, increasing their engagement and reflecting customer needs. We are also looking at what initiatives are possible from this perspective. What should we present to our customers before a game is finished, how can our customers enjoy this, and how do we connect this to profitability, is something we are thinking about implementing, and which can improve our asset turnover in the process."
Traditionally these services have been used by smaller developers, with smaller communities, making direct engagement a more manageable prospect. How Square Enix would scale these ideas out onto a much larger scale remains to be seen. But more openness and interaction from the publisher surely can't be a bad thing.