Sparks will fly

Having snapped up Eidos this year, Square Enix is planning a bumper extravaganza for Cologne’s trade show. Tim Ingham interviews the publisher’s product boss Larry Sparks…

Which games are you expecting the biggest reaction to at Gamescom?
We expect all of our titles to receive favourable reactions. As always there will be a great focus and attention on Final Fantasy titles. The action of Dissidia: Final Fantasy should draw crowds, the Kingdom Hearts series has had great success in Europe, so the DS title Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days should be popular with consumers at the show.

And then there is the highly anticipated Batman: Arkham Asylum, a game which is close to release in Europe and really building momentum as one of the hottest new titles around. This will be fully playable on our stand so make sure you come by and check it out along with Mini Ninjas from IO Interactive, another exciting new title which is generating a lot of buzz.
We’re also very excited to have the playable world premiere of Supreme Commander 2 at Gamescom, along with Order of War. With the PC market still very strong in Germany these two titles will be very important for us.

What makes Gamescom the perfect place to show off the likes of FFXIV/FXIII?
Gamescom looks set to be a very important show for the European market. Not only will it attract large German consumer numbers, but we expect to see lots of familiar faces from international trade and media. The timing of the show before the traditional seasonal rush is also a very important factor.

After all the hype surrounding both FF titles from the last two E3’s, are you confident that you’ll be able to satisfy the franchise’s fans’ hunger for information at the show?
We’re very much treating Gamescom as a show for hands-on with products and a lot of our Japanese development teams will be travelling over to meet media and to showcase their titles.

We’re not planning any major announcements as is typical at a show like E3 or TGS, but we’ll see what the reaction is like this year and will maybe readdress that approach for future shows. For this year’s Gamescom with regard to Final Fantasy, we may still be able to create an unexpected surprise that should more than satisfy fans hunger.

Does presenting at Gamescom give you the perfect opportunity to show how your games have evolved to have a more Western appeal?
Absolutely, but I’d say not to judge us at this year’s show on the evolution. Observers will certainly see from the integration of the Eidos and Square Enix brands that we have a very broad portfolio, but this is just the beginning of our expansion and the future of this evolution looks very promising.

You will be showing off a FF for each next-gen console. Could this decision make this ‘round’ of titles the most anticipated range the series has ever produced?
The Final Fantasy series has always had a loyal following and has been very platform-exclusive in the past. As our current line-up shows, Final Fantasy is a brand that can live across platforms and deliver unique experiences on each platform. With both Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy XIV being on multiple platforms, it certainly makes them more anticipated as of course the potential audience grows with this.

What does Kingdom Hearts’ arrival on DS tell us about the direction that the series is going?
This is the first Kingdom Hearts title with multiplayer support; we also wanted the game to be enjoyed
solo as well as with friends. So the
DS is a logical fit for especially with the games unique blend of Disney and Square Enix worlds.

How has Front Mission Evolved’s development from a Western company changed the way it has been created?
This title is very much a collaboration between the developers Double Helix and Square Enix. What is certainly evident is that this is a new experience within the Front Mission universe and is moving away from the tactical RPG roots of the series. What we aren’t doing though is creating something that is deliberately Western, or deliberately Eastern, but a game that is a
result of both cultures and therefore hopefully one that will appeal to both cultures too.

Can it stand alongside the best third-person shooters out there?

We certainly hope so. We hope fans will appreciate the new take on the series and players new to the Front Mission universe will enjoy a rich experience and action-packed gameplay.

Your other ‘surprise’ title from E3, Nier, is an action adventure with a ‘dark’ side. What do you think European retail will make of the title – and what are its closest peers in terms of previously successful games?
We have to be a little secretive about Nier due to a deliberate mystery in the main story, so it’s difficult to say too much without spoiling the secrets.
We think that this title could surprise a lot of players though, as the focus is very much on action with
the hero battling a vast array of fantastical creatures.
Closest peers is again tricky without giving too much away, perhaps think of it as a darker more adult Zelda crossed with Devil May Cry.

Are you confident that attendees will walk away from your Gamescom presentation/stands with the feeling that Square has a line-up that can really succeed amongst a European audience?
Absolutely, our 2009–2010 line-up is set to be our strongest and most diverse range of titles that we will have released into the market.
We hope that visitors and guests at the show go away very impressed with the great strides we are taking within the industry to deliver unforgettable experiences for every type of gamer.

Square’s line-up at Gamescom includes:

Final Fantasy XIII
Formats: PS3/360
Released: 2010

The game that stunned E3 2008 is the most beautiful iteration yet in the FF series.

Final Fantasy XIV
Formats: PS3/PC
Released: 2010

The game that stunned E3 2009 looks amazing – and has already created a huge buzz.

Dissidia Final Fantasy
Formats: PSP
Released: 04/09/09

The game that Square believes can ‘dominate’ the PSP – like Crisis Core before it.

Supreme Commander 2
Formats: PS3/PC
Released: 2010

This Gas Powered Games-developed epic is the sequel to THQ’s PC smash hit.

Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days
Formats: DS
Released: 09/10/09

Due for release in October, this title will bring together Disney and Final Fantasy characters.

Final Fantasy: Crystal Bearers
Formats: Wii
Released: This Winter

This much-anticipated title brings together motion control and the Final Fantasy world.

Order Of War
Formats: PC
Released: 18/09/09 developed this historically accurate, very pretty WWII  strategy title.

Front Mission Evolved
Formats: PC/360/PS3
Released: TBC

First announced at E3, this addition to the Front Mission series is a futuristic shooter.

Formats: PS3/360
Released: 2010

A sexy new IP, this action title has been developed by Cavia – the studio behind Bullet Witch.

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