How Much Can Final Fantasy XV Really Rebuild The Franchise?

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So Square Enix is finally confident enough about Final Fantasy XV to go big with the marketing. Everyone’s talking about the recovery of the franchise. With all the progress we’ve seen so far on the game and the legitimate hype surrounding it, to me this still feels like only the first step on the road to recovery, a recovery that could still be a fragile one.

People are talking about FFXV like it’ll be the first great main Final Fantasy entry in years, possibly even a decade. To prove to me that Square and FF are indeed back, the publisher is going to need to take a main FF game from concept to completion in a reasonable amount of time without the kinds of serious setbacks we saw happen to Final Fantasy XIIIFinal Fantasy XIV, and FFXV. To me, FFXV is still the re-purposed spin-off game that’s been in development for a decade. Still, Square Enix is at least learning from its mistakes.

I’ve had a pretty good feeling about FFXV ever since the exploration gameplay trailer from a while back. It showed me it’s being made by a developer that’s no longer struggling with today’s technology. Possibly more importantly, the marketing is a bit more humble than it was for FFXIII. I still think the biggest issue with FFXIII is that on top of the production problems it had, Square Enix went into it planning out a whole sub-franchise of games before the main game could prove itself in the market. The whole thing stank of hubris. Now that the company and the intellectual property have been beaten down, they can try to earn their way back up.

…And then we got Square Enix’s 10 million lifetime (probably over the course of a few years) sales target for FFXV. I’m not gonna say that’s impossible, but it’s tough. Any news story on the announcement will probably tell you the top-selling game in the series — Final Fantasy VII (the remake of which is another step in re-earning fans’ trust) only topped 10 million after its recent re-releases. FFVII also however launched in a market that was much smaller and much different from the one in which FFXV will launch. If you wanna look at some other recent big games in comparison, Skyrim is somewhere north of 30 million right now. FFXIII did around 7 and a half million over its lifetime. Star Wars Battlefront did around 12 million I think. The Witcher 3 came from what was a niche Euro-jank franchise nine years ago to shipping somewhere over 6 million copies. Grand Theft Auto V has topped 60 million so far.

One huge difference today is how much the Japanese console market has shrunk. FFVII did something like 4 million in Japan. FFXIII was either the only PS3 game or one of only two PS3 games to ever crack 1 million in Japan, and I think the Japanese console market has shrunk even compared to then. Square Enix has done all its FFXV marketing in the west and is doing a simultaneous worldwide launch because it needs the western market to pick up the slack. FF isn’t quite back to being big again, especially compared to today’s juggernauts. I still think Square Enix needs to take its expectations for the recovery one step at a time.

As for the game itself, I think the most important part is that FFXV remembers why people play RPGs.

FFXIII forgot that, I think in the midst of Square Enix trying to figure out how to just get the game made. It settled on something a bit Call of Duty-inspired and the result was a pretty good combat system surrounded by little else. The FFXV videos I’ve seen so far make me pretty confident it has that fundamental RPG appeal again (honestly Final Fantasy XIII-2 had it… at times). The videos display a sense of exploration that feels both new to the franchise and exemplary of what’s possible on today’s consoles. The visuals and story show at least an attempt to create an interesting world with dynamics beyond stale shounen tropes.

I don’t think FFXV needs to be the greatest game ever or even game of the year for it to do what it needs to do for Square Enix and the franchise. It just needs to be a pretty good game. It just needs to avoid the heavy criticism FFXIII suffered and the initial version of FFXIV suffered. It just needs to show Square Enix how to move forward so perhaps the next big project can really start to rebuild.

PC version? It’ll probably happen six-to-12 months after the console versions.

BULLETS:

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