As CEOs chase infinite growth, Hidetaka Miyazaki says FromSoftware gets "better games and better decisions" from a "conservative forecast" with "room to fail"

Elden Ring DLC spear throw
(Image credit: FromSoftware / Bandai Namco)

Elden Ring is, by orders of magnitude, the most successful game FromSoftware has ever made, and its new Shadow of the Erdtree DLC will only compound that. But studio president and long-time Souls game director Hidetaka Miyazaki says the studio never assumes that this degree of success "will happen again with our future games," instead choosing to play it safe and keep expectations "conservative." 

In an interview with The Guardian, Miyazaki outlines a financial and developmental strategy that seems almost opposed to the growth-centric pursuits of many large companies – companies much, much larger than FromSoftware, to be fair – including several game publishers who've recently racked up thousands of layoffs between them in a nominally last-ditch effort to cut costs (which was, curiously, a ditch before cutting executive payouts). 

"Elden Ring was in a league of its own in terms of the success and critical acclaim that it has seen, but what we try to do as a company is never assume that will happen again with our future games," Miyazaki says. 

"No decision is based on any assumption that, hey, we did it once, it’s going to happen again. Allowing for this rather conservative forecast gives us room to fail – and that in turn results in better games and better decisions," he continues. "In a roundabout way, I think that assumption of not making another hit, that conservative outlook, is fueling and aiding our game design." 

Armored Core 6 red mech

(Image credit: FromSoftware)

We've already seen a real-world example of this in action. Between the launch of Elden Ring in 2022 and now the Elden Ring DLC, FromSoftware released Armored Core 6 (review here, if you're wondering what we thought). It had been 11 years since Armored Core 5, and during that time, FromSoftware had cultivated a reputation almost exclusively as a master of dark fantasy RPGs. As a result, a lot more people were interested in anything FromSoftware made, even if that was the sixth numbered game in a mech series they may not have tried (hello, it's me).

As of October 2023, Armored Core 6 had sold 2.8 million copies, so we can reasonably assume it's comfortably over 3 million nowadays – a fraction of Elden Ring's now 25 million sales, but a figure that's never once been treated as disappointing. Rather, the Japanese voice actors for some of the game's characters presented it as fantastic news on a stream sanctioned by publisher Bandai Namco

Rather than room to fail – because by every metric we've heard, Armored Core 6 was regarded as anything but a failure both commercially and critically – Armored Core 6 likely benefited from the "conservative outlook" Miyazaki alludes to here. It exemplifies it: FromSoftware can continue to make games that are smaller than Elden Ring but still find their own measure of success, not shackled to ever-rising expectations. 

Earlier this month, Miyazaki affirmed that the layoffs we've been seeing – which, for the record, would fall under much stricter labor regulations in Japan and therefore aren't so easily dropped on people – are "something I would not let happen" to FromSoft as long as he's in charge, citing (and paraphrasing) late Nintendo President Satoru Iwata's theory that "'people who are afraid of losing their jobs are afraid of making good things.'"

Miyazaki says games like Elden Ring have to be hard: "If we really wanted the whole world to play the game, we could just crank the difficulty down."

Austin Wood

Austin freelanced for the likes of PC Gamer, Eurogamer, IGN, Sports Illustrated, and more while finishing his journalism degree, and he's been with GamesRadar+ since 2019. They've yet to realize that his position as a senior writer is just a cover up for his career-spanning Destiny column, and he's kept the ruse going with a focus on news and the occasional feature, all while playing as many roguelikes as possible.