#98: “Knowledge and Understanding – Part 2”
Published in 2017/12/14 issue
On October 30, I headed to Paris, France for the FFXIV showcase at Paris Games Week (PGW). PGW is France’s biggest gaming event, and I’d heard that it’d been growing rapidly in the past few years. Having 300,000 attendees put it on a similar scale as gamescom—it was a good PR opportunity for FFXIV of course, but I was also excited to observe the market there.
…However, my expectations were shot on the very first day. First of all, we didn’t get as many visitors as I thought we would. PGW 2017 ran for five days from November 1 (Wednesday) to November 5 (Sunday). Though it began on a Wednesday, I was told that there’d still be a considerable turnout since it was a holiday in France.
“Even if it’s spread over five days, that ‘300,000’ number must’ve been an exaggeration, right?”
PGW was divided into three zones. One of them was the console game zone, and its total size about as big as 1.5 halls in Makuhari Messe (the Tokyo Game Show venue). The zone for kids’ games and retro games was about the same, and then there was the eSports zone which focused on PC games. Our display was in the console game zone.
Since it’s a European gaming event, I couldn’t help but compare it to gamescom, and the first point of comparison is that the booth area is smaller. Since it can’t accommodate as many people, there are fewer exhibitors and the space given to each company is smaller. Additionally, many of the visitors to the console game zone were very young. There were a ton of middle school and high school students. It was rather unique compared to other gaming events in that sense.
Also, when we held our stage event, the first thing I noticed was that some of the visitors had their sights on the goods and t-shirts that were being given out, rather than the opportunity to play new games. It felt more like a “giveaway show”—booths and events that weren’t giving away merchandise tended to not gather many people. Amidst all that, the games that drew a huge crowd were PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS (PUBG), naturally, and Just Dance.
PUBG is self-explanatory, but you may be wondering why Just Dance was one of them. Actually, Just Dance attracts a lot of people at gaming events, no matter the country. Part of it is because of the skilled dancers that they always have on stage, but it’s also because regular attendees enjoy coming and dancing to popular songs. It’s a good time for men, women, and children alike; and it’s fun whether you’re participating or just watching. They occasionally give out merchandise as well. It feels like what a stage event is truly supposed to be.
The visitors to the console game zone skewed far towards the young side, so there were also a lot of parents accompanying their children. This was particularly unique, even compared to any other gaming event in the world. In the end, there were even parents who were using their kids to ask for goods. From a stage management perspective, there were situations that made me doubt whether it was effective PR for the game or not.
When I finally found time to observe the kids + retro game zone, I found that it had a great, cozy atmosphere with gamer kids and parents all mixed together. On the other hand, the eSports zone was the busiest of them all, and the excitement there was about the same as gamescom. If anything, it might’ve been even more hyped up, since it was all concentrated into one zone. Rather than loud cheering, everywhere I looked I’d see people holding their breath as they watched the matches unfold. This is something that you still can’t quite experience in Japan.
Square Enix’s France office is small compared to the other European branches. They’ve been in the middle of reorganizing over the past few years, and they don’t have many employees, but they still worked very hard to promote all of our titles. I’m thankful for their efforts, but I can’t deny that many of their setups were reused from gamescom, and thus weren’t exactly catered towards PGW’s unique characteristics. PGW made me painfully aware that prior knowledge alone isn’t enough to run an event optimally.
Out of all of the countries that I’ve visited on business, France is actually the one where employees receive the best treatment. For example, let’s say that I was employed as a department head in some company in France. Assuming I don’t quit of my own accord, my compensation and working conditions are assured. No matter how lazy I am at my job, if the company were to lay me off, they wouldn’t be able to hire someone for the same position that I held. It’s difficult to prove “laziness” in the first place, and thanks to the various regulations in place, it’s hard to establish a “lawful dismissal” because they need to go through certain procedures, e.g. sending a notice recommending I improve my work ethic.
This means that the hiring risk is too great for the company, and the younger you are, the less likely you are to be hired as a full-time employee. Most young people are hired as contract employees under poor conditions, so they aren’t making much money. Even though the laws were supposed to protect the employees, they ended up making them suffer instead.
The French government attempted to ease up on the dismissal laws on several occasions, but they were always met with fierce resistance from the employee side, and no notable progress has been made. There must be a generation gap here. The young people seeking employment are subject to the businesses’ wariness towards full-time employment, while the people who are already employed are opposed to relaxing the dismissal laws. Thus, the young generation gets the short end of the stick.
That being the situation, rather than paying for an expensive console game, it’s more economical to play free-to-play games via Steam on their parents’ PCs. Young people are interested in games, but they can’t afford to buy them.
As I wrote in the previous column, simply going from knowledge to understanding makes all the difference when it comes to our initiatives. By participating at Paris Games Week for the first time, I witnessed the real situation, linked my experience to my existing knowledge, and transformed that knowledge into understanding. FFXIV’s PR and events still have room for improvement, and we also have the special characteristic of being an MMORPG. We need to change our approach and make innovative strides.
After the release of 4.0, I was uncertain about my personal objectives. But over these two weeks of business trips, I got first-hand experience with things I originally only knew of, giving me further understanding of them. Now I know that there’s still more that I can improve about myself. Game development is fascinating, but the business side of it is equally so.