Square Enix Montreal plans to drop its Go franchise in favour of a shift from a premium game model to a freemium game model. In an interview with VentureBeat, Patrick Naud, head of the Square Enix Montreal studio, revealed that the company’s popular Go lineup — a series of turn-based puzzlers which began with Hitman Go before expanding into Lara Croft Go and Deus Ex Go — is no longer profitable at the $5 per game up-front asking price, even despite the use of in-app purchases for in-game expansions.
Instead, Naud says, the company is planning a shift in the direction of “free-to-play” games on mobile, essentially a new term for the “freemium” model that offers the game itself for free but then encourages users to pay considerably larger amounts of money in the form of micropayments for in-game currency and other similarly consumable items. Sadly, as Naud points out, the premium mobile market is slowly dying in an era of high-quality free titles that discourage users from even looking at games that aren’t free up front. While Naud doesn’t say what direction the company is going to go in with its “free-to-play” model, but Naud says that they’re looking to “have games that we’ll be able to maintain and grow for five, six, seven years” and emphasizes that it’s part of the DNA of Square Enix to remain focused on making great games first, and therefore promises that they are more interested in making “something that people are passionate about” than simply games that they can monetize.
And on the other end, it’s also part of our DNA, and the wider Square Enix DNA – not only us in Montreal, but others around the group – how can we make great games first? Before we make games that monetize, how can we just make something that people are passionate about, that brings them to the game on a regular basis, that they want to talk to their friends about? They’re more likely to monetize because of this, rather than being hit with a paywall. A paywall is short-term revenue. We’re focused on making amazing experiences.
Since Square Enix also still owns considerable branded intellectual property, it also seems reasonable to assume that the new games will leverage this IP, since as Naud says it’s been one of the comany’s advantages to be able to publish games with automatic recognition. For now, the existing Go games still remain available on the App Store, and it’s unclear whether Square Enix plans to eventually pull these, or simply stop updating and supporting them in favour of the new “freemium” direction. [via iPhone in Canada]