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Will the PlayStation 4 Bring About Annual Final Fantasy Titles?
Toward the tail end of Wednesday’s Sony press event, Final Fantasy brand director Shinji Hashimoto took to the stage to deliver possible Final Fantasy news pertinent to the PlayStation 4. After a repeat showing of the Luminous tech demo, the only tid bit of information revealed was 1) there would be a new Final Fantasy 2) it would be available on PS4 and 3) we will hear more at E3 2013.
This might not be much, considering the other announcements featured at the event, but it got me thinking. With Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII set for a fall launch, possibly on next generation consoles, and Final Fantasy XIV: Realm Reborn currently in alpha and a tentative summer launch, will the PS4 introduce annual Final Fantasy titles?
When Square first brought the Final Fantasy franchise to a Sony console, development had been very sporadic. Since Final Fantasy VII’s launch in 1997 for the original PlayStation, it would be another two years before there would be another titular entry. Final Fantasy VIII hit PlayStation a little over a year before the PlayStation 2 would hit shelves. Coming ever closer to the annual development, Final Fantasy IX released 18 months after the previous entry. Unfortunately, Final Fantasy IX would release on PlayStation four months after the PlayStation 2 hit shelves.
PlayStation 2 would result in an odd time for the Final Fantasy franchise. Square would release their first PlayStation 2 title, Final Fantasy X, in 2001, a year after the console’s debut. The PlayStation 2 would introduce the first numbered sequel to a series, a feature we would see expanded in the current generation. Final Fantasy X-2 debuted 20 months after its predecessor. Then…radio silence. As the PlayStation 2 would progress, we wouldn’t see anything on console from the newly merged Square Enix. Final Fantasy XII would release 3 full years after Final Fantasy X-2, a mere 8 months before the PlayStation 3 hit store shelves. This release cut it down to the wire, but they had clearly learned a lesson from Final Fantasy IX’s release.
At last, we arrive at the current generation, the most divisive generations among fans and critics. As we now know, the PlayStation 4 will launch this holiday season and the entire generation will have been consumed by a single Final Fantasy and its sequels. Final Fantasy XIII would debut 3 years into the PS3 life cycle, but began a pattern of releasing Final Fantasy titles every other year. Sure there was a disastrous PC launch of FFXIV, but console development was focused on this singular series nonetheless.
With the announcement of the PlayStation 4, we come to an interesting time in the Final Fantasy brand. Many people have written it off as something better left in the past, and the entire JRPG genre has become niche over the current generation. As mentioned earlier, there are already 2 Final Fantasy titles slated for a 2013 release. It is also likely Square Enix will unveil, or at the very least tease Final Fantasy XV to take advantage of their Luminous Engine and the next generation of consoles at E3.
If the yet unannounced Final Fantasy XV can come out by holiday 2014, it is possible that Square can release a title every year. But just because Square Enix can release an annual title, should they? For a brand with such a fragile reputation outside of Japan, I believe an annual release would do more harm to the brand and consumers than would help Square’s pocketbook. If they were to switch to an 12-18 month launch schedule, it would hamper any innovation and likely lock the company into a series of sequels. Otherwise, creating new worlds every year or two could be difficult for development, and releasing consecutive titles in the same universe can be equally taxing on consumers. Ultimately even for the most ardent of Final Fantasy fans, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. If Square Enix wants to fully embrace the next generation, I would hope they take care to make every entry the best entry ever, otherwise, the people who argue Final Fantasy died with the PlayStation 1 may very well be right.