Can Level 5 De-throne Square Enix?
The answer is probably not in terms of the numbers of games, the answer is quite simple when you look at the two companies’ size and structure. Level 5 has a total employee of 150 developers as of Oct. 2007, the team maybe bigger now as they ramp up their production on White Knight Chronicles. But it is not as big as Square Enix’s 3,275 employees.
But does quantity = quality? In the gaming world, the answer is a no. Team Ico, Polyphony Digital, and even Kojima Productions hovers around 150-250 employees depending on the time frame in their development, and they have produced some of the truly genre defining games up-to-date. Media Molecule with only 25 people is already getting so much attention from LittleBigPlanet.
Level 5 has been making RPGs for the past 10 years, if anyone in Japan knows how to make a good RPG it would be Level 5, as a matter of fact, they were hand picked by the former Enix to produce Dragon Quest.
Level 5’s chance to become the single most renown RPG maker, the one that will replace Square Enix as the prime RPG maker this decade lies in the upcoming White Knight Chronicles (Shirokishi Monogatari - Inishie no Kodou). This will be the first massive, grand production, for the PlayStation 3. Many people do not realize, but this is what Final Fantasy 7 was to the Playstation 1. For both systems it is the first grand production RPG to hit Japan, and hopefully for Sony it will have as big of an impact as FF7 in terms of sales numbers. Some people would argue that it was not a proven franchise, but most Japanese people have also gotten tire of the FF series since the release of 11 and 12 and X2 (judging by the sales numbers). SE’s effort to put out a quality Final Fantasy game really ended with Final Fantasy 10, with 12 being only subpar and downright boring to gamers who mastered the art of the “macro” system early. That’s right! I was able to get max level by leaving my PS2 on for 24 hrs with the party doing auto-battle with auto-cure.
If WKC is successful commercially, I will have no doubt Sony will try to acquire Level 5 or make them a 2nd party developer like Insomniac. After acquiring Evolution and BigBig Studio last year, it is about time Sony flexes some of their financial muscle in their hometown.
The general prediction is for Sony to buy Media Molecule and Level 5 next. In this generation of gaming, third party exclusive is almost non-existing, first party is now more important than ever!
All hail the KING, Andrespetmonkey