Final Fantasy XV was a “last chance” for the entrenched franchise to prove its relevance in today’s video game marketplace, and against some daunting odds, the decade-long development for it surprisingly paid off. The game managed to ship five million units digitally and physically on release day and has “archived” 6.5 million units to date, making it the best-selling title in the series. If you’ve also been paying attention to its post-release content within and without the game, it’s easy to see that Square Enix has been trying to capitalize on this success with even more DLC that’s proved there are no boundaries that Final Fantasy XV cannot cross. This extends to ventures into the mobile game space with Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition and Final Fantasy XV: A New Empire along with others. With these projects in mind, the publisher’s actions make more sense in light of its 2017 annual report claiming that Square Enix will be offering games more as services moving forward.
President Yosuke Matsuda argues that “multiplayer games have taken the lead, and it is standard for games to be designed for long-term play.” Citing the growing nature of streaming and eSports, he believes there’s business to be made in these spaces that value long-term engagement with a single title/franchise in various ways.
Gone are the days in which single-player games were of primary status and multiplayer games secondary.
It should also be noted that Square Enix is taking notice of digital sales and offering games across more platforms. Matsuda-san cites figures that show how, respectively, 20 and 30 percent of Final Fantasy XV and NieR: Automata sales were made digitally in the US. Because of these numbers, he writes that Square Enix “intend[s] to undertake a variety of initiatives, including the overhaul of our sales sites.” It’ll be interesting to see what a “variety of initiatives” entails, whether this will involve more aggressive digital marketing, less physical production, and other hypotheticals. As for more platforms, this philosophy is already evident in how Final Fantasy XV and the upcoming Final Fantasy VII Remake and Kingdom Hearts III will not be exclusives like previous entries in the series.
…[O]ur guiding principle will be to offer our content on all available platforms to make it possible for our customers to enjoy our content in the ways that best suit their diverse lifestyles.
When it comes to Square Enix’s idea to tackle “games as a service,” I can see this being a double-edged sword. In terms of extending the livelihood and worlds of great hits like Final Fantasy XV, this is great for more story DLC. For example, the new multiplayer Comrades is a great example. I thought it was originally going to make the campaign playable with three other players as Gladio, Ignis, and Prompto, but it’s actually about a new cast with new solo and multiplayer missions to go on. However, a lot of the aforementioned events and mobile content do seem like a waste that could be put toward more substantial content and new projects. It looks like NieR: Automata might be a target for more post-launch content as well, but as for what that entails? It could be great or disappointing.