Within the vast, turbulent and utterly unpredictable sphere of the gaming industry, the art of choosing the right name can mean the difference between enshrinement in hallowed halls of gaming royalty, and falling into bleak bargain-bin obscurity. Of course, there are ultimately more important factors than govern the potential success of an intrepid new title – gameplay quality being a rather essential one – but I digress, picking a bad name for your game can have absolutely devastating results, potentially alienating budding consumers and sending the internet into a raging firestorm of negativity. It seems strange then that the same level of scrutiny isn’t applied to the studios themselves. Specifically, Tokyo RPG Factory.
The primary goal of this fledgling studio revolves around the idea of recapturing the magic of the 16bit JRGP era, even if it is but a single spark. The likes of Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy VII and Suikoden II hold a special place in hearts on many gamers, with their beguiling narratives, kaleidoscopic visuals and memorable characters enthralling the minds of many all over the world. It’s a genre steeped in the juices of creativity, and there are moments within these masterpieces that can be absolutely spellbinding. It seems puzzling, then, that a studio focusing om such an imaginative and artistic genre would choose a name that evokes the complete opposite.
The main problem arises from the concluding word in the studio’s name – factory. Such an expression reeks of all the elements that are categorically opposed to the field of creative excellence: mass production, uniformity, rapid turnover. It’s not a word that inspires feelings of artistry and originality, and thus it seems perplexing why studio would opt for such a name. Videogames thrive on their delicate embrace of the creative medium, where they can be given room to blossom into something truly spectacular, and the idea of a factory completely ravishes the required subtlety and elegance of masterful videogame creation. The fact that the developers are attempting to recreate the glory days of the JRPG makes the decision even more confusing, given that it is a genre that flourishes under the careful stewardship of inspired artisans.
The last couple of years have witnessed a rise in the adoption of the annual release cycle, with the likes of Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed and even Far Cry adopting year-on-year publication schedules. Such a decision, however, has been swiftly losing momentum with hardcore gamers, and even casual players are beginning to show feelings of resentment towards this marketing strategy, if the declining sales figures for the latest entries in the Call of Duty franchise are anything to go by. Each iteration feels merely like a copy and paste of the previous entry, with only a slightly refined colour palette and ‘innovative’ fish A.I to differentiate it from the copycat hordes that came before it. It’s an image almost entirely lacking in creativity, and thus the decision as to why Square Enix chose the name Tokyo RPG Factory is one that subverts the very essence of, not only the medium itself, but the whims and opinions of the gamers themselves.
Surely, it would have been far better to name the studio Tokyo RPG Workshop, as opposed to linking it with a symbol of mass industrialisation and standardisation. The workshop motif connotes artistry, craftsmanship, creativity – hallmarks of the videogame industry. The very best creators encapsulate all of these essential elements, including those responsible for envisioning the highly evocative JRPGs that Tokyo RPG Factory strives to recreate.
Now of course, for the majority of gamers, a studio’s name is about as relevant as the extraordinary minds responsible for the creation to their favourite games. As long as the end product is good, then that’s all that matters. Take EA for example. Their very name – Electronic Arts in full – actively attempts to promote creativity and ingenuity, despite the fact that, these days, such an assertion is dubious at best. They at least try to display some synergy with the core fundamentals of the medium, something that, at face value, Tokyo RPG Factory fails to stimulate.
Yet, at the end of day, it is the content produced that matters. For all the misdirection and negative perceptions induced by the studio’s name, the only thing people truly care about is the quality of the games that they create. I Am Setsuna, while not spectacular, is still a highly enjoyable experience that successfully manages to recapture the excellence of the 90s JRPG, even if it is but a fleeting shadow in comparison to those evocative masterpieces. It was the studio’s first attempt, their freshman project, and thus it’s too early to ascertain whether or not they will subvert their dubious title and morph into a shining beacon of artistic majesty.
Thus this issue, for now and perhaps for all time, will remain but a minor grievance that all but the a few frustrated gamers will take notice of. It’s a trivial complaint, but as the industry grows and develops, both technologically and artistically, these seemingly insignificant gripes could become more and more apparent. Perception is, after all, half the battle, and if even but a minute portion of the potential audience are put off by Tokyo RPG Factory’s poor choice then it is an issue worth investigating and fixing.