Final Fantasy and the Square Enix Revival
It seems the winds have once again changed in favour of the Square-Enix and the Final Fantasy franchise. Anecdotal evidence suggests that fans are back on board while new fans are on the bandwagon, 30,000 $400 AUD “Ultimate Edition” versions of the game were sold out in less than 30 minutes worldwide, and most importantly, it appears that Square-Enix believes in their most valuable IP once again.
Final Fantasy XV has been through a tumultuous development. Development of the game first kicked off in early 2006 as Final Fantasy Versus XIII with the announcement of the game coming at E3 a few months later, but outside of yearly CG trailers we’d seen/heard sparingly little information about the game. That remained the case until E3 2013 where Square-Enix took to the stage and while debuting a new trailer revealed it was to now be Final Fantasy XV and was coming to PS4 and Xbox One, rather than the initially planned release on PS3.
There had been a thick cloud of mystery surrounding the game ever since it was revealed, and Square-Enix kept a lot to their chests – which was understandable given the backlash that Final Fantasy XIII and its subsequent sequels received upon their release. It seems however that full confidence has returned to Square-Enix, and it was demonstrated most prominently in the very recent Final Fantasy XV Uncovered Event. The event was locked in months in advance, they booked out the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, and they locked away Greg Miller and Tim Gettys of Kinda Funny in as hosts of the event, the former being one of the most recognisable faces in the industry at present. All this was an entrée for the main event, though, and when the bright lights were shining and the eyes of the world were upon them, it was then that Square-Enix really stood up and delivered.
To demonstrate that the company meant business the show began with Hironobu Sakaguchi opening proceedings. The father of the franchise spoke of his love for what it has become, and despite having moved on, expressed reassuring confidence in the future direction for the series. We then saw a new trailer which combined CG, gameplay and the dulcet tones of Florence of Florence & the Machine; more gameplay trailers and environmental footage was then shown, but it was following this that Square-Enix really made waves. An anime “Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV” was revealed with the first episode going live that evening, they then followed this by revealing a CG movie “Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV”, also announcing its A-list Hollywood cast including Sean Bean, Lena Heady and Aaron Paul. Not done, they revealed a new demo for the game (also available that day), a mobile game spin-off, the deluxe and aforementioned Ultimate Edition and finally the September 30th release date.
In one evening Square-Enix delivered punch after punch, with each blow broadening the grins on their fans faces. It’s rare that the company is as consumer facing as they were in that evening, but while fans are delighted, it also demonstrates their seemingly unwavering confidence in the product they’re creating. This new found confidence is something that I hope can extend to the way Square-Enix conducts all of their business going forward. For quite some time, the company has (rightly or wrongly) had a reputation in the West for being a bit loose with the truth, for making a few behind closed doors deals, and for not putting the consumer’s interests first. The feedback that Square-Enix has received post-event has been so overwhelmingly positive that it must inform their future practice.
The company was condemned for how they handled Rise of the Tomb Raider’s release and its initial exclusivity with the Xbox One, they were blasted for their greedy ploys involving Deus Ex: Human Revolution’s pre-order scheme and many speculate they had their dirty paws all over the newest Hitman game’s episodic release structure. They’ve been public enemy number one for quite a while now, but then in one fell swoop, they’ve earned so much good will back – a shock in many respects given that it took us a lazy ten years to finally get the Final Fantasy XV in the first place! They need to learn from this experience though – so what do they need to do?
Simply put – the consumer needs to come first. Let’s avoid fracturing audiences by releasing games exclusively on one platform, let’s not devise nasty cash-grabbing pre-order schemes or break down full games into episodic chunks with the goal being to extract more money from fans, let’s not announce a game months after it is conceived and then leave fans waiting on it for more than a decade before they can play it. In one night, the bucket of goodwill at Square-Enix has gone from near empty to overflowing for many gamers, and if they behave appropriately then there won’t be any need for shifty tactics because fans will willingly throw their hard-earned at the feet of the company.
Square-Enix, it seems as though you’re on the right track once again, I only hope you’ve learned from a near decade of mistakes, and that you’ve once again on the righteous path. By the way, if you can get Dragon Quest XI, Kingdom Hearts III and the Final Fantasy VII Remake out before 2020, that would be swell!