Gamepro recently conducted an interview with Square Enix regarding their soon to be opened Square Enix Online Merchandise Store. For those that do not want to take the time to sit through and read the entire interview, I can summarize what is related to Kingdom Hearts. It is basically confirmed that the different forms of Sora Playarts Figures will be available in the store, along with some weapons. If we're lucky, we'll see some never before seen stuff too, maybe even plushies!
GamePro: Can you explain how you plan to expand Square Enix's merchandising efforts worldwide?
Square Enix: The basis of the online store is that fans will be able to experience Square Enix's games and movies in 3D, real-life form. The purpose of the online store is to be able to provide this merchandise and be a direct source for fans. We'll start in the US and Japan and branch out to Europe eventually. It's not that we're going to stop selling Square Enix merchandise in stores, it's just that fans have spoken out about not being able to find certain figures. We wanted to provide a store all fans can come to and find whatever they're looking for. For fans that frequent the [online] store, we will also be providing exclusive merchandise.
GP: Have you found that US and Japanese Square Enix fans have different taste in merchandise? If so, how will the stores reflect that?
SE: American gamers have really big homes and really big hearts, so they tend to go for the larger merchandise. Japanese fans live in more cramped spaces so they like smaller items. We did develop a lot of the larger merchandise specifically targeting the US audience.
GP: With a lot of the Final Fantasy titles having extended life-spans due to spinoffs and sequels, how do you keep the merchandising fresh?
SE: The development teams for the Final Fantasy games are constantly trying to maintain a high quality, and the merchandising reflects that. The recent merchandise hasn't been made by hand. Rather, we've digitized images and crafted the models so that the merchandise better reflects the models in the games. The articulation technology is also greatly improving.
We're also trying to go into more of an artistic direction. We often visit museums in the US to get a better feeling of their sensibilities, and are working towards adapting that artistry to new products.
GP: Do you take a different approach when dealing with a game with cuter characters, like Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles or Dragon Quest?
SE: For the cuter characters, there are smaller figurines available at lower prices. Currently, these figures are more popular in Japan, but with the online store, we're hoping to get these products out to American fans too.
GP: How will you go about the challenge of developing merchandise for more mature fare like the upcoming Last Remnant?
SE: We've actually just received word to start developing Last Remnant merchandise, so no solid plans have been made yet, but we're definitely starting work on it.
GP: Do you have any special plans for the opening of the online store in terms of promotions or exclusive items?
SE: We will always have exclusive items in the online store, but we will have many at launch, including Advent Children sculptures, Final Fantasy III mini-figurines, and many forms of Sora from Kingdom Hearts.
GP: How much do you need to know about a character before merchandising him or her? Do you need to know more than just the character's looks?
SE: There are a lot of products we're working on where the game hasn't been released yet, so we're in constant communication behind the scenes with each game's creator, who has a lot of input in how the merchandise ends up looking.
GP: Will you be including some of the famous Final Fantasy weapons in the store?
SE: There will definitely be weapon products online--there're plans for creating interchangeable weapons for figurines, available exclusively online.
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