A candid interview with Final Fantasy 15 director Hajime Tabata reveals that things weren’t looking very good for the game when he first joined the team.

While it’s easy to look at Final Fantasy 15 now and see a game that appears destined for success, that perception is a relatively new one that’s a product of the game’s strong public showings in recent months. That hasn’t always been the case, however, and an interview conducted with Final Fantasy 15‘s director, Hajime Tabata, revealed just how dire things were for the beloved RPG series before he restructured the game from the ground up. As soon as Tabata joined the Square Enix development team assigned to Final Fantasy 15, he conducted an analysis of the series’ brand in Japan. Tabata stated:

“The way we understood Final Fantasy after our analysis was that it was a dying IP that had already peaked.”

It’s likely that the decade-long wait fans have had to endure in anticipation of Final Fantasy 15 had something to do with the series’ public perception, but with feedback as disheartening as what Tabata received, it appears to be a miracle Square Enix even went forward with development. According to Tabata in the interview, which took place with GameInformer, the massive and dedicated Final Fantasy fanbase is what kept the team pushing forward.

“One thing I’ve felt from fans is that they are disappointed in the current state of Final Fantasy, but still have hope in terms of where the brand could go.”

That kind of optimism helped Tabata create a criteria he believes every Final Fantasy game should strive to meet going forward. Games have to possess “a willingness to challenge the status quo”, “an exceptional, out-of-the-ordinary experience”, and “cutting-edge technology to use the hardware to its fullest”. There’s certainly been a renewed focus on the technical aspects of Final Fantasy 15 that has resulted in some of the series’ most breathtaking cinematics, cinematics that Square hasn’t been shy about putting on public display in presentations like the Final Fantasy Uncovered event.

Of course, graphics alone aren’t the reason that even gamers without a previous interest in Final Fantasy are purchasing Final Fantasy 15. Tabata and the rest of the team have also mentioned recapturing the sense of an exceptional, unique experience, citing Final Fantasy 7 as the biggest inspiration on Final Fantasy 15‘s world-building and narrative approaches. The depth of the world in Square’s newest game has incidentally allowed the developers to include over 200 sidequests throughout Final Fantasy 15 as well, something that wouldn’t have been possible without a renewed focus on the series’ storytelling.

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In the end, however, Tabata’s tenets for console RPG success will mean little if Final Fantasy 15 doesn’t perform once it’s released. When Tabata refers to the title as a “make-or-break” moment for the series, he isn’t exaggerating – Final Fantasy 15 needs to sell 10 million copies just to break even, and only one game in the series has previously managed to achieve that feat. While Final Fantasy 15 doesn’t appear to be a dying IP anymore, it’s also positioned precariously close to a cliff that poor sales could send it spiralling off of just as quickly as the series’ apparent return to form.

What do you think about Tabata’s assessment of the franchise prior to his involvement in Final Fantasy 15? Do you think Final Fantasy 15 can rejuvinate the Final Fantasy series? Let us know in the comments.

Final Fantasy 15 is scheduled to release worldwide on September 30, 2016 for PS4 and Xbox One.

Source: GameInformer (via Gamespot)