They not only publish video games on multiple platforms and run an online MMO, Square Enix will now also publish manga online! According to ANN, “Square Enix currently releases manga titles in 20 countries overseas through partnerships with local publishers. …(But) given the increasing popularity of electronic reading formats, Square Enix has decided to take advantage of the online distribution infrastructure originally developed for its games business, along with the company’s existing payment system and online fan communities in order to establish a paid digital distribution channel to better serve the varied needs of its global customers. Square Enix will continue to work with its existing regional publishing licensees to promote both electronic and print versions of titles, while aiming to deter piracy by establishing an official web-based distribution source.”
Some titles are available right now at the Sqaure Enix North American site with titles Full Metal Alchemist, Black Butler, Soul Eater, and O-Parts Hunter ready for viewing. Other titles coming soon are The Record of a Fallen Vampire, Pandora Hearts, Sumomomo, Momomo, and Spiral: Bonds of Reasoning. Flash is needed to view the manga and so far, membership is not required to view the previews.
The full service will open this coming fall and whether there will be a pricing structure or if it will be a free service is to be determined. I think it’ll be the former. The stores are specifically geared towards North America and France but that doesn’t mean anyone else from around the world cannot view them as well, unless a region lock is in place. Both regions will have manga that are already being offered by local manga publishers so titles may differ due to local tastes.
So far, it just seems like Square is just providing a portal-like service for manga companies and are not really in the business of translating and releasing their own titles. It’s a bit surprising since Square have manga based on their titles like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest which I think they can publish themselves. Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda series as well as Capcom’s Pheonix Wright have already made it to the States’ shores and I think Square would be remiss to turn away such a great opportunity. Regardless, it makes me wonder if we’ll see already translated titles like Kingdom Hearts at Square’s new manga site.