Unsurprisingly, making a video game takes a long time. Every aspect of the massive worlds players can explore — games like Final Fantasy can take players over 50 hours to finish — must be created digitally. But even taking that process into account, over the past decade or so Square Enix’s epic games have come to epitomize long, drawn-out development periods. The Tokyo-based game maker seems eager to change that perception for its upcoming title on the PlayStation 5, Final Fantasy XVI.
Games are often promoted as they are being made. The problem with revealing games too early in development is that certain ideas or features developers want to implement often change. This can also inadvertently mean that a game studio promises one thing, but delivers another. What’s more, the longer fans wait, the more the delay can build up outsized expectations.
For example, the previous installment in the franchise, Final Fantasy XV, took 10 years to release. The game started life as Final Fantasy Versus XIII, which was announced along with Final Fantasy XIII in 2006. FFXIII also had a lengthy (though comparatively shorter) development period, and when it finally came out in December 2009, for some fans, the game didn’t live up to expectations. It couldn’t.
The shifting media environment also changed expectations. When Square Enix announced FFXIII and Versus XIII, video game blogs were coming into their own and beginning to replace print publications. Suddenly, game news could be reported around the clock to a broad audience. Square Enix was expected to show new trailers and footage at gaming expos throughout the year. The arrival of Facebook and Twitter accelerated these trends — updates about games were expected more frequently, and Square Enix fueled the hype flames by drip-feeding PR to fans. Since players couldn’t yet play the games, they built them up in their heads over the years.
Producer Yoshinori Kitase reflected on how things went for FFXIII, telling website GameReactor, “Personally I think we took a little too long getting it out.” The following year, the massively multiplayer online role-playing game Final Fantasy XIV was released, but was so poorly received Square Enix brought in team member Naoki Yoshida to helm a revamped 2013 version. In the meantime, Versus XIII seemed to fall off the map and vanish into the ether, but was later resurrected and turned into FFXV.
After FFXV, Square Enix seems to have learned from past experiences. Yoshida, the man who rescued Square Enix’s troubled MMORPG FFXIV, is now producing FFXVI. As it always is with any new mainline Final Fantasy game, people are excited! When Square Enix first revealed FFXVI in September 2020, the debut unveiling was different than usual, with Square Enix releasing an elaborate, cutscene-filled trailer and gameplay simultaneously, rather than doling them out separately. It was a smart move, because it immediately managed player expectations.
In a livestream from last year’s online Tokyo Game Show, Yoshida said he didn’t want to show a pre-rendered trailer for FFXVI first, but as much real-time in-game footage as possible instead. He knew if they kicked off with a slick trailer full of cutscenes, then fans, especially those in the United States, would joke that the game wouldn’t be out until 2035. Yoshida has also said that he’s personally sick of drip-fed PR that strings out tidbits of game info over time — historically central to Square Enix’s marketing playbook.
This means Square Enix has already shown a lot with FFXVI’s debut trailer, and hasn’t seen the need to string along fans. Even though there isn’t an official release date, development seems to be progressing well, perhaps because Square Enix waited longer to reveal the game instead of showing it earlier in development. Sounds like the wait this time will be worth it.
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