As a user and player of the mobile game Kingdom Hearts: Union X (Cross), I browse other gaming forums and I have seen a lot of complaints about the game over time. Most of the complaints deal with the differences between the International version and the Japanese version. In this topic will be a very lengthy and critical look at those differences and how they translate into both a business strategy and a community message. To note this all comes from a single player's viewpoint who has been playing for a whole year so far, so take it as you will.

Jewels are the in-game currency that can be bought with real money to buy medals and avatar boards that appear. The major mentioned difference/complaint is the amount of jewels that players receive on a daily basis when they log in and play.

In the International version, players currently receive a total of 500 jewels for 5 days; 50 for days 1 and 2, 100 for days 3 and 4, and 200 for day 5 and then resets after day 5. In the Japanese version that used to be the case (and before that, a set-up that wasn't well received), however it has since been bumped up to 900 jewels for 5 days; 100 jewels for days 1 and 2, 200 for days 3 and 4, and 300 for day 5.

Daily jewel event missions also play a part as well. In the Japanese version, these are daily and players can receive up to 200 free jewels by completing the requirements for those jewels. In the international version, there are most times where these quests are available but there is no guarantee that the following week starting on Monday that there will be a set of Daily Jewel Event quests for players. Either way, That is a guaranteed 1400 free jewels a week to players who complete these events.

To add things up, currently Japanese players can receive up to a minimum of 2700 jewels a week that can be used to buy medal packs which randomly produce a number of medals based on the corresponding price or avatar boards when they become available. The International version can only produce a guaranteed 800 jewels. Now obviously I didn't mention the addition of Daily Event jewels because, again, those aren't specifically guaranteed. However, lately there has been a lot more of these events occurring in the International version, but there has been no mentioning or evidence that Square-Enix of North America's Mobile Department implementing a permanent set-up in either its Twitter account or its in-game messages.

One thing I didn't mention is the acquisition of Jewels from the Union Cross as that is a game mode recently implemented in both versions with very little to no actual differences as of late.

KHUX came out in Japan on September 3, 2015 and internationally April 7, 2016, so it isn't a surprise that the Japanese version would have different and/or more content than the international version at this point. However, there has been some complaints about how different and similar the battle system in the game is when comparing the two versions.

Medals are a major part of the gameplay in KHUX and availability of said medals have indeed been a major criticism of the game and how much it differs between the two games. Medals that were available in Japan first and then available internationally have seen the nerf treatment, where the special effects and potential of certain medals were reduced. Examples include the Zootopia Avatar board-only medals in which their special effects were downgraded for less useful potential, and the World of Final Fantasy Sora medal. There has been only a few cases in which this has happened, but it still garnered attention and complaints when people compared the medals released internationally to the ones already out in Japan. As of now, there has been no recent cases where this is evident, however there is need to point out that certain event medals which came out in the International version before Japan were then later improved in the Japanese version, such as the Moana medals.

Continuing with medals is the notable Fantasia Mickey B medal which grants a 3-Star medal and up an increase in its special attack multiplier. Normally a medal can only increase its special attack multiplier when being fused with the same medal. For rarer Tier 4 medals and higher (currently up to 5 in Int'l version and 6 in Japan) it's harder to do since the chance of getting those same medals from pulls is less likely unless there is an Epic Medal Carnival which slightly increases those odds. Fantasia Mickey B alleviates that problem by allowing players the opportunity to increase those medal multipliers without having to spend so many jewels to get an exact copy of the medal needed to do so. The medal itself was first available in Japan 3 months after the game was released and a way to make that medal through evolving special medals a month later, providing opportunities to players in that version. However, in the international version it wasn't made available until 11 months later when the international version already began implementing medals with Tier 5 special attack multipliers in its medal pool. There was a major response to this discrepancy in Twitter and how in previous remarks through SE that they were trying to bring the International version closer to the Japanese version. Even today, the availability of this medal is only through gift distribution in the game and whenever players purchase the VIP Jewel package which grants players the Broom Servant medal quests in which players can get up to 7 medals (5 Brooms + Fantasia Mickey A = Fantasia Mickey B).

Event Difficulty
For players both Internationally and in Japan, there have been Organization XIII events in which players can get free Tier 3 Reverse medals for greater power and usability by completing said events. These events come with the B Version of the Organization XIII members medals and normally start on the 13th of each month for both Japan and Int'l. To date, Japan has been ahead of the Int'l version by two months starting last September in 2016. Since November, each version has been able to get both sets of medals. The Japanese version almost already had a full year of new medals since release and and the Fantasia Mickey B medal to make going through these events much easier.

For the months of November and December, the level of difficulty was changed to reflect the progress of players in the Int'l version where enemies were made weaker. However since January of this year the level of difficulty for these events have been unchanged for the Int'l version, meaning that both versions were getting the same event at the same difficulty. Complaints were made by players when the comparison of both versions were made. One complaint mentioned was that the only way to increase the special attack multiplier of these events medals (getting all 7 available to players through the event) were to already have other medals that had higher multipliers on rarer medals that were Tier 3 or Tier 4, making it easier to obtain. Since then, the introduction of special deals for guaranteed medals and Fantasia Mickey B in the Int'l version has alleviated this problem for the most part, but again the availability of these medals still proves both challenging and frustrating to players who are unable to (or don't want to) pay money for Jewels.


Now that we have looked at some of these complaints, it's time to look at how this translates into a business opportunity for SE and as a message to its player-based community.

Let's look at the business aspect. For Square-Enix this is a major opportunity to make money. The restriction of the amount of guaranteed jewels that the player obtains in-game and the limitation of certain medals and avatar boards in the Int'l version does provide the scarcity and the perceived importance of these limited events. As such, if players don't have enough jewels to get a certain medal or avatar board, they have the option to pay with real money to get more jewels to do so. When you pay with more money, you will get more jewels at a better deal. There is also the once-a-week option for players to buy into the VIP deal where they can get even more jewels at the same price listed in their already existing purchase options but with the opportunity to get stronger in game and get exclusive play in quests to obtain special medals.

In Japan there are special Gatcha laws implemented that games which require or use real-world currency has to notify players the ratio of success/probability of getting a certain item, which in the case of KHUX is medals. This can also be seen as the reason why the Japanese version provides players with more opportunities to get jewels to do pulls and the whatnot. Since there are no such limitations in the Int'l version of the game there are less reasons to provide players with more free jewels or cheaper deals. I will even admit that I, too, have payed with real money for jewels through the VIP access once a week. And if 1000 people were to do this option in the U.S. each week alone, that's nearly $15,000 a week in revenue for a mobile game, which would translate to slightly above $780,000 a year. I have no clue as to how many people actually do this, so the revenue that SE makes is unknown.

But therein lies the major gripe that the community has with the game; for a free game, it isn't exactly free. In order to complete certain challenges in the game or even complete certain events, powerful, effective medals are necessary or required. In order to get those kind of medals players will need to spend jewels, and when there are no more jewels available, players can't get those medals unless they pay for more. There is a tipping point with players when it comes to the money they spend on games. When most people purchase a new video game, it usually between the $30 - $80 price range and do so based on the perceived importance and possible enjoyment of the game. So the notion that players have to pay money for a virtual currency that may or may not have any other practical use in the future for a mobile game that isn't as important as the main line of the game series just to progress in the story or any other fun events, isn't exactly going to be looked at favorably.

Now to be fair, not everyone is saying that the aspect of having to pay with money is bad. On the Google Play Store (because I don't have Apple), it has an overall score of 4.0 Star rating out of 5. Now that would show overall positive feedback for the game. But when you compare that to the fan responses on Twitter to every update post, there is significant amount of negative feedback usually noting the lack of a particular awaited medal currently in the Japanese version or how they feel that SENA is forcing the option of real payments in order to play the game. The only time that I have seen positive feedback have been when really good medals or medal purchase deals have come out that would make normal and harder game play easier to handle, including the Illustrated KHII Kairi medal event in which medal pulls were 1/2 off and guaranteed at 5 pulls to get Kairi. And having myself actually paid money for this game before, I can say that having done so makes the game easier and have no current sense of buyer's remorse. But still, I can understand where other players are coming from when they compare the level of treatment in both versions of the same game. These players who make these complaints may or may not be entitled to their opinion, but the fact that they do make these complaints would indicate a perceived lack of care from Square-Enix. There have been times where even I critique the decisions made by the team who manages KHUX. If players make these complaints finally get fed up with this, it wouldn't be surprising if overall game activity goes down overtime.


What I am hoping to get out of this is the opportunity to talk with Square-Enix employees who read this and work on this game and know why they make the development decisions that they implement as they strive to make the International version the same as the Japanese version. As someone who has a major interest in the business operation aspects of gaming companies and as a major fan of Square-Enix games, I would like to make this a formal invitation to anyone who can easily talk about this (with the proper authority to do so) and answer this question: Why has there been no mentioning or implementation of the increase in Jewels that players can obtain when there is evidence of this difference with the Japanese version when it has been stated that the wish is to make this game closer to how the Japanese version works? I would understand if they felt that it would be unnecessary to change how many jewels players can receive due to elastic/inelastic changes in jewel purchases, but unanswered or unmentioned problems would lead people to think otherwise about a gaming company's integrity. Any responses would make understanding the decisions and development made that much easier. And feel free to make any other comments about this game that you might have as a player, since I didn't see any generals for this game here.