It has been 20 years since the Square-Enix merger, which created a massive Japanese gaming company that went on to develop some of the most beloved role-playing games in history. The merger was announced in late 2002 and became effective on April 1, 2003. At the time, both Square and Enix were riding high on the success of their franchises, Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy, respectively. The merger was initially met with excitement and optimism from Japanese residents, who saw it as an opportunity to create new, innovative gaming experiences.
Square was primarily a game development and publishing company, while Enix had a more multifaceted approach, publishing not just software but books and manga as well. Both companies had attempted to make a push into Western markets in the early ’90s but retreated at the end of the 16-bit generation. They then worked to re-establish themselves overseas during the PlayStation’s massive success. Square was doing quite well in the West, though Enix was still struggling.
At the time of the merger, Japan’s console gaming market was at its peak, and major game releases frequently sold over a million copies in Japan alone. The big franchises from Square and Enix’s stables were among these massive megahits. However, the market would soon change dramatically, and by the end of the decade, console gaming in Japan was on a sharp decline as portable systems and more advanced phone apps began to dominate. The merged Square-Enix didn’t hesitate to get into the mobile market fairly early, a decision that helped carry them through the rough transition to HD gaming that saw many Japanese developers and publishers struggling to catch up.
Digicube and Enix’s comics publishing business were the main issues the companies were facing at the time of the merger. Digicube, Square’s media publishing division, was floundering miserably due to its distribution service that provided boxed copies of games to be bought from convenience stores. Enix, on the other hand, was facing an internal clash between factions of authors and editors who disagreed on the direction of their anthologies under the Comic Gangan banner.
While the exact reasons for the merger remain somewhat unclear, many believe it had to do with rumours of other big mergers in the industry. Specifically, a merger between Namco and Sega was rumoured around then, though that didn’t come to fruition. Regardless, both Square and Enix were facing their own issues at the time, and the merger was seen as an opportunity to combine their strengths and tackle these problems together.
The merged company didn’t hesitate to get into the mobile market fairly early, a decision that helped carry them through the rough transition to HD gaming that saw many Japanese developers and publishers struggling to catch up. Today, Square Enix remains one of the biggest gaming companies in the world, with a portfolio that includes iconic franchises like Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, and Kingdom Hearts.
The Square-Enix merger was seen as a big deal by Japanese residents 20 years ago, as it brought two rival companies together to create new gaming experiences during a time when the console gaming market was booming. The merger allowed them to tackle problems facing both companies by combining their strengths, and the company went on to develop some of the most beloved role-playing games in history. Today, Square Enix remains a major player in the gaming industry and continues to release innovative and exciting games.