This is an intervention. While most of the gaming world has thankfully moved on from stupid countdown clocks designed to drum up silly publicity for forgettable games, Square Enix still clings to them. It's time for Square Enix to stop. Enough!
Now, you are overreacting, Brian Ashcraft, you say. Perhaps. But, countdown clocks are so 2008, when it seemed like there was a new one every single week. They're pre-Global Financial Crisis. They are not old fashioned and simplistic. They are not now.
Worse, yet, is that Square Enix's track record with them has been horrible. Simply, simply horrible. Sure, they're have been some outliers, like Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light, which was revealed via a countdown clock. But many of the other countdown counts have counted down to things that ended up being huge disappointments.
In 2009, there was the countdown clock that counted down to card-based arcade game Lord of Vermillion II, which matters if you live in Japan, go to arcades, and spend lots on card games. In 2010, there was countdown site that promised to "change Japanese history". It ended up being a Square Enix browser game called Sengoku IXA. In 2011, there was a Square Enix site that promised a "large scale new title" and counted down to a "MMO active time strategy"
And then, this year, there was a countdown site that people thought was for a sequel for The World Ends With You. It was a 20 dollar iOS port of the original Nintendo DS game — a good port, but still, a port.
Look at that track record! Disappointing gamers since 2009. When I say these are disappointments, I'm not talking about the quality of the games. Rather, I'm talking about expectations. Why are these disappointments? Because by launching them with a stupid countdown clock, Square Enix built up bigger expectations. The World Ends With You is a perfect example of that. When the countdown site launched, people thought it was for a proper sequel. Then, they discovered it was an iOS port, causing a kneejerk reaction. Instead, if Square Enix had ditched the tease and simply rolled out the game, people might've been more receptive and willing to judge the title on its own terms — instead of through the filter of their crushed expectations.
Today, Square Enix launched another teaser. The page says "Star", and the countdown looks like it will be related to the Star Ocean series of role-playing games. But, online, people are already hesitant, wondering if this is a mobile version or a social version. Look, there's nothing wrong with that. There are many, many wonderful social games. But if you build up people's expectations for a big sequel on traditional hardware, and you don't deliver that, then there are tears. Ultimately, it's the game that suffers the most — not the gamers.
Ha, you say. You talked about this countdown clock. You did exactly what Square Enix wanted. Maybe! But I see this tired, old PR stunt as more than that. It's a cry for help.
Look, Square Enix, you make some wonderful games. You have lots of fans. You don't need to do this drip-fed crap. You're better than this. If your games are good, they can stand up on their own, sans faux hype. Quit those countdown clocks cold turkey. The first step is to admit you have a problem, Square Enix. You can get through this.
Oh, and not to spoil the countdown, Siliconera is reporting that Square Enix filed a trademark for "Star Galaxy"...
Secret Title [Square Enix]
Top photo: Sergii Figurnyi/Shutterstock