FFRP for short.
Almost one year ago, I wrote about how I thought that the Final Fantasy series had been badly mismanaged over the last ten or so years and how that mismanagement has hurt the brand. In case you haven’t read that post (you should if you haven’t), I will briefly summarize it here. I essentially argued that Square Enix is to blame for Final Fantasy’s declining popularity. Since the release of the divisive Final Fantasy XIII in 2009 (2010 in the Americas), the series has been in a constant state of turmoil. In 2019, though, Square Enix seems to have finally gotten its act together and has adopted a plan to bring the series back to the forefront of gaming. I have decided to call it the Final Fantasy Revitalization Plan and 2019 is just the beginning (at least that’s what I hope.[i]
So, what led Square Enix to adopt this wide-ranging plan in the first place? I believe the turning point came when Final Fantasy XIV was released in 2010 (right on the heels of the much maligned XIII). It was critically panned and universally hated. In order to save the game, Square Enix brought in a new management team to oversee the game. That team released an apology letter of sorts to the community and promised to fix the game. In that letter, Square Enix itself stated that the Final Fantasy brand had been “badly damaged” by the state of the game upon release. The company had assumed that their venerated series could survive anything (including bad management) which is why they released the game in such a rough state to begin with.
The steps that the FF XIV team took in response to the crisis of its own making, i.e. apologizing upfront and promising to fix it, was necessary in order to save that game.[ii] I agree with the team when it said that the brand had been “greatly damaged.” They, more so than the upper management of Square Enix, realized that the trajectory the series was on was not sustainable and action had to be taken to save it. Luckily for us all, Square Enix’s management seems to have adopted the Final Fantasy XIV team’s mindset and has decided to apply it to the series as a whole.
And this is where the plan comes into play. By all appearances, Square Enix has ripped a page straight out of Nintendo’s playbook. It has decided to release old, beloved games on modern systems. FF VII, IX, X, X-2, and XII have all been re-released on modern consoles in 2019. Even Final Fantasy VIII, which had been noticeably absent from the re-release schedule, was recently remastered and released. Most, if not all, of these titles are loved by gamers everywhere. By re-releasing these games now, Square Enix is reminding people of the reasons why they fell in love with this series in the first place. It’s a smart move.
Simply re-releasing these older titles isn’t the most important part of this strategy in my opinion. Which platforms Square Enix releases these games on is. Traditionally, older Final Fantasy titles were only released on PlayStation consoles. In 2019, however, Square Enix has released these games on both the Nintendo Switch and the Xbox One; systems that have been noticeably lacking in the classic Final Fantasy department. This, to me, shows that Square Enix has finally realized what was so obvious to many of us; that many Final Fantasy fans play games on systems other than PlayStation. These fans want to be able to play their favorite games on their platform of choice. Now, gamers won’t have to go out of their way to buy the games they love and Square Enix will more than likely see an increase in sales. Thus, it’s a win-win situation.
Although Square Enix has brought a bunch of Final Fantasy games to modern consoles, a few notable titles are still missing. All of the titles below VII are still stuck on outdated consoles (I know for a fact that VI is very good and I don’t see why it hasn’t been released on newer hardware). I think Square Enix is missing a huge opportunity here to bring these really old titles to modern audiences. People still talk about how much they love these older entries and I think it would be a good business decision to make them more readily available. Final Fantasy Tactics is another entry that is adored by the community and it hasn’t been re-released since the PSP days (unless you count the mobile versions and, let’s be honest, no one does). Square Enix should really consider re-releasing these Final Fantasy games that haven’t been seen in a while because I think there is a market for that.
Reaching to the past and using nostalgia doesn’t stop with simply re-releasing old favorites. This attitude also extends to new games as well. I’m of course talking about the Final Fantasy VII Remake coming out next year. It appears that Square Enix is treating the Remake as the next installment in the long running series given how much attention it has received. I think it is no accident that Square Enix, out of all of the titles to choose from, decided to remake FF VII. It is one of the most beloved games of all time. It makes sense that it was picked to be remade since it’s guaranteed to sell well. Not only that but it would bring fans who may have been away for a while back into the fold.
Although the Final Fantasy VII Remake appears to be shaping up nicely and is generating excitement for the Final Fantasy series as a whole, I still do have a few concerns with it. For starters, the remake will consist of several parts. The game releasing in March of next year will only consist of the Midgar section of the original game. Having recently played FF VII, I can tell you that it took me all of four and a half hours to complete the Midgar portion of the game. So, how could Square Enix make a whole game just out of that section? I’m worried that each part of the remake will either be lacking in content or Square Enix will drag this remake out for years and years and years just like every other modern project the company has worked on. If there’s anything that Final Fantasy doesn’t need, it’s a game languishing in development for years on end. If VII Remake does just that then I think it will erase any goodwill that Square Enix has managed to build up for the series over the past year.
Additionally, unlike with the re-releases of past games, Final Fantasy VII Remake will only be coming out one system; the PS4. I think this a mistake as it will limit its audience. I know that the PS4 has sold over a hundred million units but I still think it would be wiser for Square Enix to release that game on more platforms. This would allow it to reach more people and, I believe, would get more people excited for the series going forward. I know Sony probably paid a lot of money for it to be exclusive. I would argue, however, that the sales from being on other systems would more than make up for whatever Sony paid for it.
Although Square Enix has had success in repairing Final Fantasy’s reputation with all the re-releases and remakes, I think the company still needs to do more. I believe it’s time for fans to see what a brand-new Final Fantasy would look like. It’s been a long, long time since that’s happened unless you count the mobile games (again, no one does). I’m not saying that Square Enix should announce a new game in the series before Final Fantasy VII Remake releases (since it would be a distraction). What I am saying is that Square Enix should consider announcing Final Fantasy XVI within a year or two of VII Remake’s release to keep the series’ momentum going.
Square Enix, knowing full well that the Final Fantasy brand has been in a near constant state of turmoil over the past decade or so, has been working overtime to get people interested in the series again. By re-releasing classic titles on modern consoles and by remaking one of the most popular games in the series, Square Enix is using nostalgia to repair the series’ reputation. Although I would personally like to see a new numbered entry in the series, I must admit that the Final Fantasy Revitalization Plan has been a success so far.
What do you guys think of the way Square Enix has handled the Final Fantasy series in 2019 (or even over the past decade)? Has it done a good job? Or does it need to do some more work? Are you excited for Final Fantasy VII Remake? Let me know!
[i] Please note that I’m not nor have I ever been an employee of Square Enix. This, to my knowledge, isn’t a real plan. Please do not treat it as such. I’m just one of the thousands of people on the internet watching what Square Enix is doing and trying to make sense of it all.
[ii] It’s important to note that FF XIV: A Realm Reborn (the re-release of the original XIV) is very popular now and is a complete success.