Former Square Enix CEO: “Final Fantasy is Finished”

Former Square Enix CEO: “Final Fantasy is Finished”

Last updated on August 3rd, 2015

Cloud

On a Final Fantasy VII Remake and the Sorry State of Square Enix

Almost exactly 3 years ago today, on June 26th 2012, then-Square Enix CEO Yoichi Wada told us the exact conditions it would take for the company to remake Final Fantasy VII. Roughly translated, his words were:

“We’ll make a Final Fantasy VII remake once we’ve made a Final Fantasy game that exceeds the quality of FFVII… If the team were to remake Final Fantasy VII now, then the Final Fantasy franchise would be finished.”

 

To refresh your memory, Final Fantasy XIII was released in 2009. Final Fantasy XIV was released in 2010. Type-0 came to Japan in 2011. No main entry Final Fantasies have been released since Yoichi’s statement. According to Square Enix’s former CEO, then, the Final Fantasy series is finished. That is, unless Final Fantasy XV (originally Final Fantasy Versus XIII) is stellar. The likelihood of that is extremely low, having already spent over 9 years in development and still missing a solid release date. The game is now on its second director, with its second team, using its second engine, for its second target console generation. That’s not including the gameplay demo at E3 2013 constructed with the Ebony game engine designed for that purpose.

So, so long Final Fantasy. It was good knowing you. Well… maybe not recently. But those early years were pretty good. You know, the ones you so often hearken back to with constant re-releases and re-re-releases and FUCKING RE-RE-RE-RE-RELEASES YOU PIECE OF SHIT.

Oops. Lost my cool there. Sorry.

Like most of my articles, this one began with a tweet. Specifically these two, from me and friend of my Twitter account Pedro:

To which I replied:

If that seems like a lazy way to write this article, it is. But that’s ok because I’m going to elaborate on that last tweet. But first let’s do some story time.

Story Time

The year is 2006, and Disney has just acquired Pixar in a deal that surprises many in the industry. Steve Jobs, then CEO of Pixar, and Bob Iger, recently-named CEO of Walt Disney International, were the architects of the $7.4b acquisition.

Before the acquisition went through, Iger took the time to meet with John Lasseter, one of the brilliant minds at Pixar and director of Toy Story and other iconic films from the studio. It was important John understand the reasons behind the acquisition. Because, as John would find out, Iger intended to make John the chief creative officer of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation.

In a Fortune article archived here, John recalls his dinner with Iger:

[Bob Iger] told me his epiphany happened when Hong Kong Disneyland opened last fall, and he was there with his young kids watching the opening-day parade. He was watching all the classic Disney characters go by, and it hit him that there was not one character that Disney had created in the past ten years. Not one. All the new characters were invented by Pixar. That’s when he made the decision.

It was Iger’s observation and decisive action that turned around a flailing Disney Animation studio which had recently created, among others, such prestigious titles as Cinderella II and Aladdin King of Thieves, the 3rd entry in the series. Iger, like Wada, understood something vital: you can’t keep rehashing and reproducing the same thing and expect long-term success.

Rehash: On Final Fantasy XI, XIV, and VIIR

Pop quiz.
Q: What’s the most profitable Final Fantasy ever?
A: XI
Yes, the Final Fantasy that broke even nearly two years after its release is now the most profitable game in the series. With hundreds of thousands of subscribers paying to access the game every month for the past 12 years, it’s not hard to see how it racked up enough money to eclipse sales of even heavy hitters like Final Fantasy 7, 8 and 10.

Final Fantasy XI’s selling point was simple. As a player, you get to take part in your very own journey as someone in a world not unlike the Final Fantasies of the past. You could be like Butz. Or gambling man. Or anger-problems-transforming-girl. Or emo blonde guy. Or emo brunette guy. Or Vivi. Or katana-wielding-sunglasses-ronin. Any of those. Or your own original person. Maybe emo redhead guy. Cool, right? Sure, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Final Fantasy XI had a place because it capitalized on previous titles. Then came rat-face-boy of Final Fantasy XII, which wasn’t very good, and emo blonde girl in XIII, which also wasn’t very good. Then came XIV. In Final Fantasy XIV, you get to take part in your very own journey blah blah blah. You could be all of those characters like in Final Fantasy XI, PLUS rat-face-boy and emo blonde girl! Whoa!

The problem with Final Fantasy XIV is it doesn’t add anything to the formula. Nobody likes rat-face-boy or emo blonde girl. Nobody wants to play as Vaan or Lightning.

Final Fantasy XIV, and the upcoming Final Fantasy VII remake, are like the characters in the parade Iger watched go by in Hong Kong. It’s been 14 years since the Final Fantasy series created a character or story that fans found compelling. Like Disney, the company is floundering in remakes and sequels no one asked for, desperately draining its historic relics of their prestige. Any hope left for the franchise lies in a game that will have spent 10+ years in development by the time it’s released. And then? Maybe we’ll have another remake.

All we can hope is that the stories of Disney and Square Enix serve as guidepost and lighthouse, respectively, for new and upcoming developers.

Follow me on Twitter at @_jayholden.


 

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33 comments on “Former Square Enix CEO: “Final Fantasy is Finished””

  1. Avatar Serious_Much says:

    I actually liked both X-2 and XII. They did their own thing, and to be honest X-2 was more original in terms of gameplay and style than all the FFs everyone considers the "best" in the golden era of VII-X.

    XII is hugely underrated by fans. They hate it because the gameplay was different. They hate it because the main character was not one of the two actually interesting characters (Ashe/balthier). They also hate it because it broke the mould. I think it did so in a good way.

    XIII was where it turned bad for me though. It looked so good from early trailers, it looked like it encorporated movement and separate attacks to bring a whole new dimension the fighting with positioning, use of time within attack groupings and really cool animations. What we got was "mash x to automatically play for you". It also didn’t help that all the enemies were robots. It was a victim of some very poor design choices and obvious cloud ripoff for a main character.

    I think FFVII remake could actually be a second coming for the franchise. The thing that fans want is a return to the roots of final fantasy. Turn based systems. Exploration. Actual side quests. Stories that are actually engaging. If a remake of VII is what it takes to get the new generation of square enix devs to understand the soul of final fantasy, I’ll happily accept it.

    P.S. If you had played FFXIV, you would know that actually it has nothing to do with either XII or XIII as it is based on the very early games both in terms of story (warriors of light, crystals) and the class system of character development.

  2. Avatar Forum_Pirate says:

    Square Enix developed Bravely Default and Bravely Second, which are well recieved. Several Kingdom Hearts games have been released and well recieved since then.

    They obviously aren’t completely incapable, and after the successful EU launch of Bravely Default (in 2013, before or right aroun the time the remake was being started) conceded that they’d been screwing up by trying to make RPGs for wider audiences instead of just giving the (currently content starved) JRPG fans what they’ve wanted and not gotten for the last 14 years. (seriously, they straight up evaporated with the PS3 launch.)

    I’m pretty sure at this point saying FF15 has been in development for more than like the last 3 or 4 years is misleading. They probably stole some of the mechanics and art, maybe the engine and canned the rest, with the rename (as opposed to outright cancelation) being a PR move. You can’t have seen the Duke Nukem catastrophe and not learned that it’s a dumb idea to try to release a game so long in development without nuking most of it to start from scratch.

    Did I mention they took the fans response to Bravely Default so seriously that they founded a new studio specifically to make JRPGs?

    Point is, it would only take 1 really good, successful FF to turn things around. They’ve screwed up, they’re hurting, they’ve never recovered from the loss of several talented people, but they seem to see their problems and they aren’t dead just yet.

    Edit. @Serious I think you misunderstand the problems people had with 12. It wasn’t necessarily that it broke the mold, it’s that the story was full of poorly delivered political themes (which square apparently sucks at) and it was extremely anticlimactic and all of the characters were underdeveloped with the character they focus on being even less interesting than tidus.

    Similarly, many, many people love FF X-2s battle system and hate everything else about it, because most of it is either mediocre or just bad.

  3. Avatar XuitusTheGreat says:

    I loved ff xii o.o I just never put the "main character" on my team lol

  4. Avatar DE5PA1R says:

    It’s been in development since 2006. Fact.

  5. Avatar NPC_invader says:

    Image

    I did the same as you. Basch was better suited to be the main character.

  6. Avatar Forum_Pirate says:

    Technically yes. Probabl misleading. I could say I’ve been writing a book for the last 10 years when I completely scrapped most of the initial concept and almost everything related like 2 years ago.

    Technically true doesn’t mean practically true.

  7. Avatar Serious_Much says:

    I have to support forum here. While the character we see is still the main from when the project was versus XIII, it has completely changed. Versus was originally going to have a crisis core esque gameplay style with a sole character being the focus. This isn’t duke nukem forever as forum said. It’s been reformed and now that a demo is out, I hope that within the next year or so it should be released

  8. Avatar DarkNoobz says:

    Good article. I enjoyed reading it. :cheers:

  9. Avatar skarekrow13 says:

    Compelling article and captures the cynicism of many fans well.

    Personally, I think XIII was the one that’s mostly killed the series’ hype for me.

    I LOVED Vagrant Story which meant that XII was actually artistically one of the best (if not THE best) of any FF game for me. While the overall story was "meh" I liked that the game explored the concept of good vs. evil in a mostly new way (for FF), with several of the villains easily sympathized with. Kind of like the movie "Hero" where the idea of good and bad is based entirely on perspective. A person can be both given enough set of eyes to look at them through. This is not to say I count XII amongst the best, only that it left me with enough warm fuzzies to really look forward to the next one. In hindsight I’d call it a small stumble which, let’s face it, every company has.

    XIII though…oh boy…

    I had the game on my backburner for a little while, due to finishing another title you may have heard of called "Demon’s Souls." The last thing I did in that game, which none of you are fans of I’m sure, was to get some weird thing called a "Pure Bladestone." I spent two weeks getting it. At the time I was home from work with my daughter, praise the FMLA, so it was a solid two weeks of gaming. The whole time my mental clock is ticking because I want to get to FFXIII SOOOOOO BADLY.

    I spent ages on what felt like an into area until FINALLY…LORD HA’ MERCY…an open area I could explore. Then I beat the game having found one openish area total and decided that farming for the Pure Bladestone was ultimately the more rewarding experience.

    I tried the demo for Lightning Returns and felt so strongly about it I had to write a scathing review (again, of a demo mind you) because of how awful it was in every category except "purty to look at."

    EDIT: I should add I tried the free weekend or beta or whatever I had access to of A Realm Reborn and it seemed like a good MMO. Generally I’m not an MMO guy thanks to not usually wanting to deal with other people while playing plus having extremely limited playing time. It’s hard for me to judge well, but it seemed pretty good.

    My current stance is that I will not worry about getting any FF game on release, and instead cross my fingers for a demo or take a look at feedback before considering. They’re not OFF my radar, and the good memories of the series actually has me wishing for a return to glory, but I admit to being quite skeptical.

  10. Avatar Serious_Much says:

    I understand that skare. XIII was so bad for me too.

    I was personally shocked when they announced not one but TWO sequels for it. Of course I refused to purchase either because i knew theyd be terrible and also making a stand over the fact that XIII was so bad.

    I didn’t even finish XIII. I got it on release day and "FF fanboyism" kept me playing it because the black guy way cool with the chocobo in his hair and lightning was basically cloud and the visuals distracted me from the fact all i was doing was running down single rooms and mashing "X" repeatedly. I stopped part way into the latter end of the game (post the one and only relatively open area), then lent it to a friend. I have absolutely no intention of ever asking for it back :P

    To be honest, I think it didn’t help the series moving from being on only one platform to being on two. It limited what they could do with HD DVD compared to bluray cross console at a time early in the generation life cycle that there were noticeable hardware differences.

  11. Avatar dn1nd says:

    The unluckiness of XIII really had shown through. The era of FF fall to mediocrity, Started in my eyes with making FFXI an online MMO. They wasted an entire title of the series on something that should have been a spin off. they should have done like their competition Blizzard and called it FF Online.

    ff12 was redeemable it had some good qualities. Then the released it’s sequel on a different platform.

    With how disappointed I was with the franchise I had hope with XIII. It looked pretty and seemed to have an interesting concept. What I got instead was a story half told from Lore Descriptions. (I love the lore in the Souls series. But in FF you’re supposed to be immersed in the story, with cutscenes and dialogues. Abilities locked until you beat the game just for the sake of not being op for the final boss. (Even though exploring the final area was filled with monsters that were OP at time that you needed those levels.) Only to upon beating the game being given a grindfest to acquire those recently unlocked skills and get the 60% of trophies the monster you couldn’t kill unlocked.

    I was disgusted with FF since then. Any halfway decent game was either a remake FFT War of Lions, Or not FF, Last Remnant. When I saw the Sequels that they issued for XIII I laughed and wondered what was wrong with the company I fell in love with playing since SNES and FF2/4 and FF3/6.

    I am doubtful about the Remake they are making. But I will buy it for my love of this game. FF7 and FFT were my favorites to play and have beaten them too many times to remember.

    Since they are remaking FF7 I wonder if they will try to tie in all the compilation games and media into it. If they do and do it right it could be an epic game. But I have a dread they might come up short on this game.

  12. Avatar DE5PA1R says:

    Nice to see lots of discussion. I should point out that when I said it’s been 14 years since the Final Fantasy series created a character or story that fans found compelling I meant per objective measurements (sales).

    Chris Kohler makes a pretty solid argument in this Wired article that the turning point in the Final Fantasy series was Final Fantasy X-2, not because of a lack of quality but because Square Enix saw they could phone in a game (reuse art, story and character assets) and it would still sell: http://www.wired.com/2013/08/final-fantasy-is-still-dead/

  13. Avatar Forum_Pirate says:

    FF 5, 6, 7, 8, 10 and chrono trigger Director: Yoshinori Kitase

    FF 10-2, 13, 13-2, 13-3 Director: Motomu Toriyama

    That is the problem. Even if Hinobu Sakaguchi did a lot of the heavy lifting, Yoshinori Kitase directed and produced FF 10, which was stellar.

    Motomu Toriyama is simply not fit to direct games. Might be a good dev, not a good director. Why that took a console generation to figure out is beyond me.

  14. Avatar Serious_Much says:

    Well looking at objective measures the PS2 games you consider as pointless still shipped over 5 million copies each. I’d say that’s really not bad any way you look at it.

    http://vgsales.wikia.com/wiki/Best_selling_Square-Enix_games

  15. Avatar BlitzKeir says:

    I may be in the minority here (and villified for it), but while XIII may have been… painful, for several reasons, I think XIII-2 and especially Lightning Returns are the best in the entire Final Fantasy series in terms of gameplay, bar none.

    If you’re correct and the men upstairs see FF as dead in the water, then I’m really disappointed. Not many JRPG developers are willing to experiment with the genre. The announcement of Tokyo RPG Factory seems to suggest you’re right…

    I may not have liked many of their recent experiments (not into MMOs, didn’t like XII’s gameplay, and XIII discussions are masturbatory at this point), but the genre is rife with a billion clones and slight modifications to an ancient formula. I appreciate that Squeenix’s internal studio at least tried something new and refined it.

  16. Avatar Forum_Pirate says:

    Wrong Place. Try the Kingdom Hearts boards.

    If I wanted an action RPG I’d be playing them. Star Ocean has been doing basically the same thing 13-3 did for 2 decades and 13-2 straight up ripped of pokemon (which ripped off Megami Tensei.)

    New mechanics are mostly old mechanics better realised. the 13 games are no exception.

    Meanwhile, FF fans want FF games, which are comprised mostly of traditional turn based or quasi turn based RPGs and not this ARPG nonsense we haven’t been asking for because we could always get it in equally good Tri-Ace or KH or Zelda or Castlevania games.

  17. Avatar BlitzKeir says:

    Lightning Returns wasn’t an action-RPG though, it just looks like one. You can directly control Lightning’s movement on the battlefield, in the same way that you can fly if only you believe. The combat is ATB, but there’s very little memorization beyond knowing an enemy’s weak points. Personally, I think it’s a good direction for turn-based combat, if not ideal.

    Bravely Default honestly feels like a step backwards to me. It didn’t experiment enough. The Brave system is cool, but the combat still mostly boils down to memorization.

    We have radically different ideas of where this particular subgenre should go. And frankly, I don’t think either of us understands why the other prefers what they do. Traditional FF games bore me, as did BD. This disagreement may be irretrievable.

  18. Avatar Forum_Pirate says:

    I don’t want them to experiment much. Innovation for it’s own sake is for the indies. Refine what exsists. When it has been pushed as far as possible, then innovate. It’s supposed to be a puzzle, so make it one by giving the enemies decent AI so they target weak or nearby members and/or requiring specific attack typed to bypass defenses like 10 and/or make it fast and (comparatively) technical like 10-2 so you’re trying to run dual trigger happys while also trying to heal.

    Long and short, If you don’t like it, it isn’t for you. I don’t go to KH (just an example) boards and complain about it not being my preference while insisting they change it for me. Why must people do it to FF, or any other series?

    BTW all battle systems boil down to memorization. Your ability to remember things and identify relationships is kinda what all media is built on.

  19. Avatar BlitzKeir says:

    That’s kind of a silly argument. Not the first paragraph, that’s fine, those are some of the reasons I like Lightning Returns as well. But the XIII series is ATB, just like past FF games, but with quicker pacing and an emphasis on roles instead of type weaknesses. By the same line of reasoning, I could say you’re wrong for wanting the old style. You speak as though what Squeenix does with the FF series isn’t my business. No one is making games with the combat approach of the XIII series. And no one will. It’s Squeenix or bust. This concerns me, too. They gave you Tokyo RPG Factory for this very purpose. You’ll get your straightforward turn-based RPGs. Let me have my weirdass hybrids.

  20. Avatar Forum_Pirate says:

    In a series that isn’t the FF series I’d be happy to. Especially in FF7. I dare say the people who liked it the way it was are in the majority and were here first.

    Except FF 10-2 already did that but better, without stripping control away from you and including super 1 dimensional break systems that reduce a strategic affair (when done well) into a mostly mindless weakness spam rush before you get to do real damage.

    There is a bit more to 13, but not untill near max level with all the best gear and the system and/or it’s implementation isn’t good enough to carry it that far.

    EDIT: The way I see it, the creators of an IP have a responsibility to the fans of the IP. That name means something, it carries expectations, it’s to be respected. Long dead IPs and reboots get some leeway to shake things up, but the core of the game should remain intact.

    Grand Turismo, Borderlands and Star Ocean are all very good at appealing to their core audience. They are the same, but more and/or better each time. The Tomb Raider Reboot was done really well. Need for Speed not having an identity is a failure to respect it the IP at a logical extreme.

    FF12 at least delivers some of the core elements, FF13 and it’s sequels fail spectacularly to respect not only the IP and the set of expectations that follow. They’re mediocre at best, but deserving of the FF name? As numbered entries no less? Not a chance.

  21. Avatar BlitzKeir says:

    This is why I didn’t particularly like the combat in XIII. The sequels corrected this and refined the pace. Just clarifying.

  22. Avatar Forum_Pirate says:

    Haven’t played 13-3 (I abandoned all hope at that point,) and 13-2s is infinitely better than 13s but it wasn’t especially impressive either. The interchangeable party member mon had nothing on the dress spheres (my favorite version of the job system to date,) QTEs are dumb, and it’s possible I remember late game FF10-2 being faster than it is but I remember it getting pretty frantic which I don’t remember of 13-2.

    It’s possible my opinion is colored by my hate for the rest of the game but Grandia 3 is a dog **** game with an excellent battle system so I don’t think so.

    (If you haven’t tried it, do so. The system is really good)

  23. Avatar Serious_Much says:

    Well I know that critic scores aren’t particularly good to follow, but if XIII-3 is a game getting under 7/10 from most people, that’s usually a signal that it’s pretty shit.

    Looking at a synopsis on Wikipedia the system sounds quite good, but it sounds almost like FFXIII should havd originally been- free control over the battle.. And they finally got the battle system better while making a steaming turd of a story

  24. Avatar BWO_RazrSrorm says:

    I don’t understand the distaste for 13/13-2 and lightning returns. (though to be fair I haven’t played much of lightning returns yet.) I enjoyed both.

    My favorite FF by far was crisis core. Before that it was final fantasy 6. I also really enjoyed final fantasy 10. and final fantasy 7. Tactics advance was pretty good too.

  25. JinHoshi says:

    I personally disliked FF13 because of the "on-rails" feel to the game. You had zero choice about where to go really and couldn’t ever go back due to level design. Compared to all the other Final Fantasy games with huge amounts of side quests and other things that could be done (FF12, FF10, FF9, FF8, FF7) this game feels overly guided and forced.

    In older games you could miss things because you didn’t explore enough, in FF13 you didn’t miss anything because if you saw a random dead-end on the map that meant there was a "hidden" chest there 100% of the time every time.

    The story of Final Fantasy 13 was good, it was touching, but the gameplay was way too guided and forced and didn’t allow for sinking hours and hours into exploring like the older games did. I mean sure once you get down to the actual surface it’s a bit more open, but it was still more an illusion of being an open world than a truly open world area.


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