Having been in production since 2006 (when it was officially unveiled as Final Fantasy Versus XIII), Final Fantasy XV has some lofty expectations riding on its shoulders. Said to be a great deal different from other Final Fantasy games in terms of its tone, it will also have to do plenty to prove its worth to fans.
So far, we’ve seen incredible visuals from the game with Final Fantasy XV’s hyper-realistic human characters blitzing a handful of other games out the park, which generated plenty of excitement at E3. And that's amidst concerns that the game lost focus after shifting from PS3 and Xbox 360 to PS4 and Xbox One about halfway through development. Needless to say, Square Enix and Final Fantasy fans are looking for 15 to be huge.
But it’s not just fan hopes that Final Fantasy XV has to carry. According to the game’s co-director, Hajime Tabata, Final Fantasy XV could also be the last great hope for Japan’s console market.
Speaking to Kotaku on the state of the Japanese gaming landscape, Tabata explained that the “Japanese market is shifting toward handheld or smartphone devices,” not necessarily because of the video game business as a whole but because of Japan’s culture.
“It's pretty unique to Japan, where everyone is transporting—they have long train rides and bus rides to work, they have time to play handheld devices, or they're spending more time in their own rooms vs. spending more time in the living room.”
He also noted that there is “this kind of trend to being more accessible” that’s very much the opposite of his own childhood, which was spent in front of the television playing games for hours and hours, appreciating the sort of gameplay that you could ‘delve into’.
So where does Final Fantasy XV come into things? One of the most highly anticipated titles – in both Japan and across the world – the upcoming action RPG could be one of those very captivating video games that Tabata played as a young’un, helping to revitalize what he sees as a dying console market.
“It's not to say that I don't have any concerns at all, but I believe that it'll really depend on how Final Fantasy XV does. Because I really want more people to enjoy games in the living room, on a big screen. If Final Fantasy XV doesn't do well, perhaps there's not much of a future for console games. It kind of really depends on how that goes.”
Statistically, Tabata’s observations are correct. In Japan, the console market is down, while the mobile market is very much up and there’s a gap of over $1 billion between them. Granted, those stats are a little old and don’t account for the PS4 or the Xbox One, but with Sony’s new console said to have less of a draw than the PS3 and with Microsoft’s new console releasing in the territory less than a week ago, it’s unlikely that either of the new game boxes will be able to make up the difference.
There’s also the argument about whether or not Square Enix will be willing to make another Final Fantasy game on consoles if Final Fantasy XV doesn’t perform well. Final Fantasy creator, Hironobu Sakaguchi, admits that the game’s development “is taking too long” and enthusiasm for upcoming releases can’t quell rumors that Square Enix is in a spot of financial trouble. So on the back of this it seems justifiable for the publisher to release future Final Fantasy games on mobile platforms and make a safe bet.
That’s a long way off and there’s every chance that excitement around Final Fantasy XV’s 8-year-long development will carry it to sales success. However, we’ve not heard from the JRPG in over a year now, so for the time being perhaps Tabata’s warning should be heeded.