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Final Fantasy: It's Just Good Business (A Look at the Marketing Practice of Square- Enix)
Final Fantasy For the Economic WIN
Final Fantasy is a franchise that has been around since 1987, has global reach, and is still going strong in the modern age of gaming. The franchise is very successful and has been through many types and generations of gaming consoles, languages and technological advancements. Even if a consumer hasn’t played the games or seen the movies chances are they have at least heard of it.
Even if a person has not heard of Final Fantasy, they have definitely heard about the company responsible for this record breaking masterpiece, Square Enix. Square Enix is a huge multibillion dollar, publicly traded corporation and definitely has some staying power in the industry. Enix was founded in 1975 and Square soft was found in 1986 (Square Enix, 2011) and up until 2003 when they merged, they were major competitors, with Enix’s Dragon Quest as direct competition to Final Fantasy. Square soft initially developed the game, but post-merger, Square Enix now owns the Final Fantasy franchise. Final Fantasy has a vast range of items in its repertoire, including video games, action figures, to movies and much more. Square Enix makes the games and sells the other products directly from their website, as well as making use of licensing to lease out the Final Fantasy name to other products.
Final Fantasy’s marketing mix is very similar to its competitors, though they do offer more products in their line than most. Final Fantasy Branded items include video games on many platforms, computer generated films, books, action figures, plush dolls, music CDs, jewelry and online subscription services. (Square Enix, 2011) Square’s prices are right on target with the rest of the game market selling games for a price of $50 - $70 when they launch. (Loftus, 2011) If you figure a few games such as Final Fantasy XI have a monthly subscription fee and new packs that come out as Downloadable Content (DLC) Square Enix is recouping the insane amount of money they spend in development costs.
Final Fantasy games are released just as many other video games, at large nationwide retailers such as Wal-Mart, Game Stop, Target, Shopko, Sam’s Club, Costco, Best Buy and many other smaller electronic boutiques. This makes it easier for the game to sell as most of the consumers who end up purchasing the game needed to come to the ‘big box’ store for other items anyway. Most retailers also offer the games for purchase online through their web stores, which seem to be the trend in our modern age.
Square definitely has its share of difficulties, just as any game developer does, with resellers. Often these used video game stores will order new copies of games as well, but when games are bought and sold second hand no part of that profit is returned to the developer. (Wada, 2011) Aside from the ever growing used game market battle, Square Enix has taken many calculated risks, sometimes with great loss, as seen with the production of the fully CGI movie Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. Though the movie won several Guinness Book of World records achievements, the movie itself put great financial strain on the company. (Guiness World Records, 2001) The movie cost $130 million including marketing costs and was produced by Columbia Pictures in 2001. The movie only made $32 million in the U.S. box office, also earning it a place among the least successful video game movies ever. The advertising for these games and movies can cost phenomenal amounts of money and no expense is spared when it comes to targeting the masses.
In 2004, Sony and Square teamed up to market the release of Final Fantasy XI and the PlayStation 2’s (PS2) 40 GB hard drive. (Sony and Square Enix, 2004) The campaign was run in print ads, online, and on television, the plan was great and saw a large amount of success. Essentially the hard drive for the PS2, which at the time was the largest hard disk any console had seen, came preloaded with Final Fantasy XI. This meant that in order to get the big hard drive you had to get Final Fantasy XI, essentially reach a larger target demographic than the game alone would have. Marketing has always been one of Final Fantasy’s strong suits, dating back from its beginning in 1987, and a huge push in 1997 with the release of Final Fantasy VII. (CBS Interactive Library, 1997) Though Final Fantasy was already an extremely huge video game in Japan, it really didn’t catch on in the United States until 1997. Square teamed up with Pepsi and had many commercial slots bought up feature the 3D animation from the games FMV (full motion video) sequences. The game was released as part of Sony’s $100 million marketing campaign, and is one of the most successful video game campaigns ever.
In addition to being a marketing master, Square Enix is also a very socially responsible company. This became very evident after their support effort following the Great East Japan Earthquake. The company donated 100 million Japanese Yen which is the equivalent of $1,283,900 U.S. dollars (google.com, 2011), and established several support groups for the affected people, including many of its own employees (Square Enix, 2011).
The impact that social responsibility, along with impressive sales figures, can be seen in the company’s profits and stock prices, which have been relatively stable even in a down economy. The company’s stock is traded on the Tokyo exchange and has 115,370, 000 shares outstanding. (Reuters, 2011) Though it suffered a dip due to a security breach earlier this year it has been rising consistently ever since. The company has many divisions worldwide including Europe, Japan and the U.S. Though the company did report some heavy losses this year due to some game cancellations and Final Fantasy XIV issues, it still remains at the forefront in the game industry, and is still turning a profit.
Overall, Final Fantasy has been Square’s money maker, essentially the driving force behind its success and continues to allow the company financial gain in the face of such dire times. Square Enix has got an award winning, profitable franchise and the business sense to keep afloat. Branching out and diversifying its products is a sensible move and creating different subsidiaries to handle business in each part of the globe help keeps the business manageable. Social responsibility, a creative business plan and innovation have made the company standout among competitors and in the business market in general. If anything, other companies should take their cue from Square Enix because it’s rare to find a company with such incredible power and strategic planning.