You could set your watch to it by this point. Square Enix is claiming a game published by its western arm has failed to meet sales expectations. This time it's Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy on the chopping block. In a newly published outline (opens in new tab) of a financial results briefing, representative director Yosuke Matsuda said that "despite strong reviews", sales of Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy "undershot our initial expectations."
It's an unsurprising statement from a publisher for whom "undershot expectations" appears to have become its motto. Last year, Square Enix called sales of Marvel's Avengers "disappointing", (opens in new tab) following a lukewarm reception to its attempt at a live-service superhero action game. In 2018, both Just Cause 4 (opens in new tab) and Shadow of the Tomb Raider got the a look of disapproval, with Matsuda saying Tomb Raider "got off to a weak start", despite selling 4.12 million (opens in new tab) units as of February 2019, and the game's own developers expressing their happiness (opens in new tab) with the game's performance.
Then there was poor old Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, sales of which were identified as the reason for scrapping the rebooted series (opens in new tab) in favour of new, Marvel licensed projects. The very same projects Square Enix is now saying are failing to meet sales targets.
It does seem like there's an issue surrounding Square Enix's western-developed games. The question is whether it's a problem of performance, or a problem of expectation. All the above games released toward the end of the year, i.e. the most competitive period in the gaming market. Compare that with Square Enix's remake of Final Fantasy VII, which released in April on a single platform and sold 3.5 million copies (opens in new tab) in three days.
Indeed, it appears all of Square Enix's library lives in the shadow of Final Fantasy, particularly Final Fantasy 14, which is so popular Square Enix had to temporarily remove it from sale. (opens in new tab) Matsuda specifically mentions the "substantial growth" of FF14's subscriber base right after lamenting Guardians' sales figures. When you've got a success like FF14 on your hands, maybe everything else does appear underwhelming by comparison. But perhaps it's also unreasonable to expect every game to deliver that level of performance, especially those games released during an increasingly crowded holiday window.
Matsuda was admittedly more positive about Guardians of the Galaxy's future, stating "sales initiatives that we kicked off in November 2021 and continued into the new year have resulted in sales growth, and we intend to work to continue to expand sales to make up for the title's slow start."
The Marvel license may not have spun the megabucks that Square Enix anticipated, but Guardians of the Galaxy is well worth your time. Luke Winkie enjoyed its colourful and characterful adventure in his review (opens in new tab), and the game has been patched repeatedly since launch, so hopefully the bugs Luke encountered will have been ironed out by now.