Final Fantasy Grows the User Base!
With the New Year ringing in as of the typing of this sentence, it is obviously a time of much reflection. A time for looking back on one’s achievements over the course of the year. This appears to have been the Square Enix mindset when self-congratulating their release of Final Fantasy XV this week.
Sitting down with GameInformer this week Hajime Tabata offered himself some effusive praise for his ability to ‘expand’ the audience by appealing to the twenty-something demographic, which now outnumbers the thirty-something demographic among the series fanbase:
“That’s not saying the fans in their 30s and 40s don’t like the game; they’re still in there as well, but I think it shows the amount of time and investment we put in this game. The fact that we’ve expanded on the demographic of the user base there is a very big achievement and very important to the future of the franchise.”
Did readers catch those weasel words? Square Enix has expanded the demographic of the user base – that is not the same thing as expanding the size of the user base. When Final Fantasy XIII sells 7.53 million copies [not including Steam sales], and then Final Fantasy XV only recently manages to hit 6 million copies sold [VGChartz still lists the game as being under], then that is not an expansion but rather a contraction of the user base. 1.5 million fewer people bought Final Fantasy XV – that is a lot of people! There might be more twenty-somethings among the fan base, but there is now less fan base to buy your shitty games!!
In fact when Final Fantasy XIII easily sells 1.87 million copies in Japan, and then Final Fantasy XV struggles until very recently to hit a flat 1 million units sold, then that not only constitutes a contraction in the size of the user base, but also a contraction in the user base demographic. Final Fantasy XV sold a million copies on the Xbone! Square Enix ignored the diverse tastes of Final Fantasy fans world wide in order to jump on a bandwagon and focus on lowbrow plebs in exclusively Western countries.
So now Square Enix has turned away Japanese fans, and they have also turned away the thirty-something crowd who loved Final Fantasy for what it was in the 90s and early 2000s. They had better remember to make their next game an open world derpfest. They had also better hope that open world games do not go out of style before the release of the next game. This is their new demographic: twenty year old open world fans. They got rid of the audience that actually had a genuine connection to the brand, and instead went chasing after fickle children. That is their demographic. One hopes that works out for them!
“I think since the release of Final Fantasy XV, there are a lot more people now who have played Final Fantasy and even if they haven’t, they have at least heard about it, or they never had any interest at all in Final Fantasy and they got a little bit [curious]”
What a smashing success! You can take that to the bank!
On the Business of an Unfinalised Fantasy
Readers may remember the unmitigated disaster that Final Fantasy XV was at launch, and indeed continues to be. The team was unable to fit the scope of the game’s story into the game itself, and so they commissioned four abhorrent anime shorts, and one truly wretched CG film in order to help tell the Final Fantasy XV story – and they still did not come close to achieving this goal. What has followed has been a travesty of the highest magnitude, with a full year being spent on developing DLC to nickle and dime players with promises of finishing the story, and now the team has committed to a further year of developing paid DLC with the aim of completing the story!
“There is still something missing, not quite satisfactory yet, in the way the story explains itself and the information you get there – that’s what I think I need to still focus on. There’s more of a backstory to this world that this game takes place in than [the game] had”
Well, yes, there is no arguing with that. Final Fantasy XV‘s narrative was a stillborn mess.
Regardless of the appalling state of Final Fantasy XV‘s release, what talks in the business of gaming is hard currency – and Square Enix CEO Yosuke Matsuda is very happy to let the world know that he views Final Fantasy XV as a stunning success. Where we might look at all the bandaids and jerry rigging holding the game together and see a shabby and shameful mess, he looks at this grafted-on support structure and sees only dollar signs! When asked whether he would repeat Final Fantasy XV‘s incomplete scattershot release with other Square Enix titles, Matsuda had this to say:
“Final Fantasy XV was an example of that going very well. As to whether we intend to do that for all titles going forward, I would say no, it’s going to be on a case-by-case basis. There are some instances where that will fit very well and others where it won’t… so I want to make that decision on an individual basis going forward.”
Right. Releasing your game alongside a plethora of supplemental materials because your game cannot tell a coherent story is a sign of its launch ‘going very well’. And one supposes that creating one of the worst CG films ever to be shat from a computer constitutes a situation wherein things have verily gone even weller!
In all seriousness though, the reason that Matsuda is able to look at a franchise release where the audience has contracted by 1.5 million people and still try to spin it as a success is because it was released in an unfinished state that has allowed the company to sell the story back to gamers piecemeal. Final Fantasy XIII is able to eclipse Final Fantasy XV‘s sales by a cool 1.5 million units sold, and yet Final Fantasy XV is likely the bigger financial successs, because that was the game that was able to sell those sweet, sweet DLC expansions!
In fact elsewhere this week Hajime Tabata has said some things which raise a big question-mark over whether releasing an incomplete version of the game was an accident at all. He makes it sound very much like the company had decided before the game’s release to monetise its incomplete status as ‘service-type model’ [note the unironic usage of EA terminology]:
“We felt [that] rather than having the traditional model where you release the game and then say, ‘Okay, that’s it,” we’d rather go for the service-type model and take a bit longer to give back to those people because they’ve been waiting so long – we felt we had to give back to them somehow.”
Hajime Tabata felt like he had to give back to the fans by contributing a few sly fingers to their purse strings!
Final Fantasy XV was a terrible game, and the only reason that it is not being recognised as a huge step backwards for the franchise is because management were able to take a few pages out of EA’s playbook in order to more efficiently fleece the 6 million people who did buy the game. Will this model really be enough to save the Final Fantasy franchise from a publisher that is never happy with the size of their existing audience? Who is to say… It does seem a little bit dubious though.
The Price of Freedom: Takeharu Ishimoto Quits
Honestly, who knew Square Enix still even had salaried musicians on their payroll? One was under the impression that they had divested themselves of their musical staff a number of years ago as the Final Fantasy XIII project was wrapping up. At any rate, with his work on Dissidia Final Fantasy NT finishing up, Takeharu Ishimoto this week took to Twitter in order to announce that he would be quitting the company at the end of the year, and would instead be going into business as a freelance composer:
“I’ve decided to resign from Square Enix, where I’ve worked for many years, by the end of the year. I’m resigning of my own free will. Starting next year, I plan to start freelance work.
Next year on January 11 Dissidia Final Fantasy NT will also release, so please support that as well
Thank you very much!
Ishimoto has not always been given the best games to work on, but nonetheless he does tend to be the best part of those games. He began work at Squaresoft in the late 90s as a synth programmer on games like Legend of Mana, Vagrant Story, Final Fantasy X, and Kingdom Hearts II. He then moved on to composition for games like Crisis Core, The World Ends With You, Final Fantasy Type-0, and the entire Dissidia series.
Looking at that biography, he must be looking forward to doing something other than remixing Nobou Uematsu music! Personally, One still associates Ishimoto most strongly with the original music he contributed towards Crisis Core. The Price of Freedom is still enough to give one shivers!