Final Fantasy is one of Square Enix’s most important franchises, but in a recent Gameindustry.biz interview with Square Enix CEO Yosuke Matsuda, is a franchise that’s exerted great pressure on everyone attached. That may not come as a shock to many when considering the challenges that come with inheriting a title with such a voluminous history and expectation. While there have been stumbles, such as the original failed launch of Final Fantasy XIV, Matsuda says that the series is “not something we could ever discontinue.”
“Each time, it’s a challenge for us to decide what kind of team to put on Final Fantasy. The developers always work under a lot of pressure. Innovation is the key. Of course the motif is consistent, but we need to always challenge ourselves, to do something that surpasses the previous installment or to provide something different to what we’ve had before. I think we were able to maintain that tradition with both XIV and XV, and I see that as an achievement.”
Both Final Fantasy XIV and Final Fantasy XV had considerable challenges facing their development but were ultimately met with commercial and critical favor. Final Fantasy XIV, as an MMORPG, has released two expansions after its initial 2013 re-release, with timely content patches that continually deliver more content to players hungry for more. It’s a game that director and producer Naoki Yoshida hopes will last at least ten years. It may be hard to believe but the half-way mark next year is nearly upon us, and the game doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.
Final Fantasy XV in it’s own way is extending itself beyond its original release date with scenario DLC, a multi-player expansion, and more to come in the following year, but it also includes an expansive trans-media campaign that saw release of the Kingsglaive movie, Brotherhood anime, and a slew of tangentially-related mobile titles. While it’s very much a single-player title, the development has tried to treat it very much like a game that operates as a service, adding in patches that fix bugs and add new features. Will other games get this treatment? Matsuda thinks it’ll have to be on a case-by-case basis.
Square Enix has been doing this with Final Fantasy in different ways in the last decade, for better or worse. See: the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII or what became of the Fabula Nova Crystallis mythos.
Matsuda: “At the end of the day, we are rooted in the games industry. Having solid games is at the basis of everything we do, and that’s not going to change.”
These days, it’s hard not to stumble into conversation about what’s next for series, especially with a recent comment from series brand manager Shinji Hashimoto that 2018 will be a big year for Final Fantasy announcements. What shape will the next numbered title take? Who will be working on it?
If Final Fantasy XIV, Final Fantasy XV, and the general industry tradewinds are any indication, it’ll likely be a title that lives well past its original release date. Maybe the important question may not be “will Final Fantasy XVI be a thing” or “what director will be installed” but rather “will Final Fantasy XVI be more than one thing?” What methods will it employ to deliver more of itself to its audience? Should we expect micro-transactions? Episodic DLC? A new trilogy?