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Square Enix seeks to solve Latin American puzzle

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Most games companies treat Latin America as if it were an offshoot of its core North American business, but as the number of gamers grows in major economies like Mexico, Brazil and Argentina, the region is being treated more seriously.

Last year, Square Enix set up a subsidiary in Mexico and tasked itself with figuring out exactly what sort of games might be commercially successful there, above and beyond those titles being imported from elsewhere in the world. Now the company is finding some answers.>

"Because there hasn't been as much exploration, nobody has tried to find the formula that works specifically for Latin America," said Igor Inocima, head of Square Enix Latin America. "The games that are popular here are mostly the games that are popular in the U.S. and Europe, like shooters or action games. But maybe there's a formula that works specifically for here.

"That's one of the things we're trying to find. Why for example, are RPGs not that popular here? Is it because they don't identify themselves with the story, or the settings are too far away from them? So we are experimenting with some combinations of things to see if we can find something that hasn't been tried yet, but we have to see how it works."

Speaking to GamesIndustry, Inocima acknowledged that the size of the region, its enormous variety and its economic challenges make it a tough problem to solve. "We can't wait until everything is perfect to start. It would take too long," he said.

But sales of smart phones, tablets and even PCs is exploding, offering lots of opportunities. This, in turn, is creating a groundswell of new development efforts. Square Enix Latin America has signed deals with five independent studios in the region including Okam Studio and ZupCat in Argentina; Hoplon and Ilusis in Brazil and Brainz in Colombia.

"Development is getting better," he said, but he added that local studios are failing to address local opportunities. "More people are starting to develop games. But most of the games they develop are not aimed at the Latin American market. They're aimed at the global audience. They're not something for this region. So I don't think they see the advantage they have here, or they think it's better to try their luck on the global market or focusing on the regional market."