Despite already being a year of surprising acquisitions, ranging from Microsoft to Epic Games, Sony has also been equally participating in the desire to requisition more first-party IPs and talent. PlayStation began expanding in 2022 with its $3.6 billion acquisition of Bungie, and Sony is reportedly preparing for another big acquisition by way of Square Enix. Pair that with the storied Final Fantasy publisher recently offloading Eidos Montreal, Crystal Dynamics, Square Enix Montreal, and some of the publisher's biggest western IP to Embracer Group, and many are beginning to believe the buyout rumors. An announcement could even come as early as this week.
The publisher is prepping for the end of its 2022 fiscal year on May 10, and it's very possible that an acquisition announcement could take place during that same meeting. A Square Enix acquisition by Sony would definitely make a lot of sense, especially considering the publisher has been supporting the PlayStation platform since the 90s. Even though the publisher has been much better with supporting multiplatform releases with some of its biggest IPs, recent years have led to additional efforts in exclusivity and timed-exclusivity with PlayStation. Square Enix certainly doesn't need the acquisition, and there would certainly be pros and cons, but it's not an unreasonable expectation.
The Timing of Embracer's Buyout is Convenient
Recent news from the publisher has certainly stoked the flames of these acquisition rumors, at least to some degree. Despite Marvel's Avengers reception, or even Tomb Raider's reception, Square Enix made the decision to sell anyway in order to "assist [Square Enix] in adapting to the changes underway in the global business environment... by moving forward with investments in fields including blockchain, AI, and the cloud." Opinions on NFTs by fans and critics aside, many other pundits have seen this statement from Square Enix's press release as an attempt to bolster the company's potential value proposition; otherwise encouraging potential buyers.
The timing lining up with the end of the fiscal year would certainly make sense, especially if a sale/acquisition is pending. Considering the $300 million deal for its western studios, a price that could easily be interpreted as low-balling (when one developer, Bungie, sells for $3.6 billion to Sony), the sudden sale might make sense in that context. Square Enix could have potentially sold those studios to make a better deal for a company like Sony to acquire the publisher, alongside exclusivity for similarly (if not more) iconic IP like Final Fantasy or Kingdom Hearts. Selling off comparatively smaller IP may have sweetened any potential deal for a publisher acquisition.
Square Enix's Relationship with PlayStation is Strong
It certainly helps that Sony and Square Enix have had a seemingly positive, or otherwise mutually beneficial relationship since Final Fantasy 7 made the jump to PlayStation in 1997. Several entries after that, as well as additional new IPs like Kingdom Hearts and more recently with Forspoken, have all seen PlayStation console timed exclusivity. An acquisition deal with Sony could make that exclusivity permanent, which would certainly be of interest for PlayStation's first-party offering. Microsoft likely made a similar justification with the acquisition of Activision Blizzard, though the situation with that publisher is under a far different context and controversy.
Being PlayStation-exclusive wouldn't necessarily be any different from the way Square Enix already operates with several of its biggest releases. Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, Dragon Quest, and various other IPs have already had timed-exclusivity on PlayStation previously. On the flip side, Bungie's acquisition by Sony was not done with the prerequisite of Destiny (or any other future IP) becoming a PlayStation exclusive. That doesn't necessarily mean the same thing for Square Enix, but it doesn't mean the opposite either. Especially with Sony's support of the PC platform with PlayStation's first-party IP, there is a possibility that not much will change for Square Enix.
Pros and Cons of a Square Enix-Sony Acquisition
That being said, there are obviously pros and cons associated with a Square Enix acquisition by Sony. Firstly, there's the chance that the publisher's shaky support of other platforms would finally come to an end; ensuring all Square Enix games are PlayStation-exclusive in the future. It might not be a huge deal for Xbox players, especially if they're used to kind of getting the short end of the multiplatform stick. However, it'd be an unfortunate reality where games like Dragon Quest 11 on Switch may never happen again after Square Enix goes exclusive. Even PC support could end, assuming Sony is aggressive enough to warrant making that decision.
On the other hand, Square Enix could borrow a similar approach to Bungie, and still be able to publish games on multiple platforms at its discretion. Bungie proved to be the exception to the rule when Sony acquired the solo developer, but Square Enix is made up of multiple development teams, so a multiplatform arrangement could be more complex. That being said, the publisher could still more feasibly handle multiplatform development because the infrastructure is in place for Square Enix to feasibly do so.
Square Enix and PlayStation have had a tough-knit publishing relationship in the last few decades. An acquisition by Sony wouldn't be entirely out of left-field for either party, and the publisher's intention to sell its western developers could be indicative of this.
MORE: PlayStation or Xbox: Who Should Buy Square Enix
Source: Square Enix