How Square Enix Is Managing Hype Expectations For Final Fantasy XVI

Illustration for article titled How Square Enix Is Managing Hype Expectations For iFinal Fantasy XVI/i
Screenshot: Square Enix

Wonder how things are coming along with Final Fantasy XVI? You’re not alone. Nier creator Yoko Taro does, too, and today during a Square Enix live stream for the virtual Tokyo Game Show, he brought up the upcoming game.

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Square Enix producer Naoki Yoshida was supposed to be talking up and playing Final Fantasy XIV, but since he’s also producing Final Fantasy XVI, Yoko couldn’t help himself.

“Today, we’re doing a program on [FF]XIV,” replied Yoshida, adding, yes, they announced the new Final Fantasy. “We want to focus on [FFXIV’s] development until 2021,” he continued.

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“There’s no teaser site at the moment,” he said. According to Yoshida, the plan is to launch the teaser site in the latter part of October, including some info about the world and the characters. “After that, we’re going to focus on development.”

“This time,” Yoshida, “we really worked hard. I didn’t want to release, like, a movie or amazing rendered footage with, bam, the logo.”

“As much as possible, I wanted to show real-time in-game footage,” Yoshida said. However, since the footage hadn’t been optimized and tuned, creating the trailer was somewhat exhausting at this point in the game’s development.

“But, if it were just a rendered trailer, there would be comments I’ve seen in America and elsewhere like, ‘See you in 2035!” Yoshida once again stressed how he wanted to show the actual game in motion, instead of something just to sell the game.

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Illustration for article titled How Square Enix Is Managing Hype Expectations For iFinal Fantasy XVI/i
Screenshot: Square Enix

One thing that has always dogged the recent mainline Final Fantasy games is the expectations the Square Enix PR machine creates.

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The launch trailers are stunning, but it’s not much later until actual game footage is revealed. But we should be excited by the actual game, not prerendered trailers. Development takes a long time, but since fans have seen rendered footage right away, they have no idea how far away the game is. Now, as experience has often taught us, the default is to assume they are very far off. Everything becomes abstract, save for the hype. Disappointment can ensue.

Yoshida, it seems, is trying to avoid all that, showing the game in motion right away and managing expectations immediately. This means fans can focus on the world, the story, the characters, and the gameplay earlier in the process in a much more grounded and tangible way.

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Smart move, Square Enix.  

Originally from Texas, Ashcraft has called Osaka home since 2001. He has authored six books, including most recently, The Japanese Sake Bible.

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DISCUSSION

tillmandesign
Randy Randerson

While I appreciate them not showing just a mysterious CG teaser and using in-game footage instead, and I think the core premise is interesting enough, I think the bland visual design of the characters and environments is really tempering my expectations, and not in the way they were hoping for. I’m certainly not one to prioritize raw graphics, but a strong art style goes a long way to creating an intriguing identity, which has never really been an issue for the FF series. But man, check out this bland by-the-numbers medieval fantasy world...and the character designs are just absolutely dull and look like they were pulled straight from XIV. I’m not asking for Nomura belts and patterns, and I love the Matsuno games’ visual style, but it all just looks so flat. Witcher 3 proves you can use a medieval fantasy setting that’s still vibrant, full of color and character, with interesting and distinct character designs. FFVIIR takes place in a dark and grimy city setting, but is still able to bring in lots of distinct tones and color that energize the environments. I know this is the FFXIV team, and my time with that game through the end of Heavensward showed they don’t have the most interesting environmental design (loads of dingy old castles there too), but there’s just very little in this world design that makes me excited to explore it from what we’ve seen.

Certainly doesn’t help that the character models themselves look to be a significant step down in quality from FFVIIR, which is baffling considering it’s the same developer, so why don’t the teams learn from each others’ success? FFVIIR is a visual stunner that’s one of the best of the generation and really puts UE4 to great use, but why would we do something that works well? FFVIIR also finally nails balancing action combat with menu-based strategy and party management, but rather than using something that works well, let’s just make a DMC action game instead (I’ve long been wishing that FFXVI would learn lessons from Persona 5's incredible combat and return to a more turn-based focus, but that was clearly a silly dream).

I know there’s only so much we can gleam from a reveal trailer, but as a lifelong FF fan I am so skeptical. I want to love this game, but there are so many flags going up in my mind already. It’s all keeping my expectations exceedingly low.