Last updated on August 3rd, 2015
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:
— Pedro (@ImPeterBenn) June 16, 2015
To which I replied:
.@ImPeterBenn In some ways 14 was justified. FF11 is the most profitable in the series. But there’s a reason why: all the previous titles.
— Jay (aka pear) (@_jayholden) June 16, 2015
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.
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
Q: What’s the most profitable Final Fantasy ever?
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.
Check out the rest of FextraLife’s E3 coverage right here