Before I even start, let me be clear: I’m not saying they’re great games and I’m not even saying that you should play them, I’m just saying that they are important. While I do personally find myself to be a fan and we have hope for the lack of suck in Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, everyone can judge for themselves whether or not they like a particular game. The argument that I do want to make, however, is that these games are actually very important for Square Enix both in the long-term and short-term.
First of all, let’s talk facts. Collectively, the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy has sold over 10 million copies, globally, at less than a week from launch of the third entry. Let me put these numbers in perspective for you: the entire Killzone franchise hasn’t even sold those many copies yet. The blockbuster hit reboot Tomb Raider has, to-date, sold less than half that many units. After the massively devastating flop that was the original Final Fantasy XIV, I would wager that the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy has been instrumental in keeping Square Enix financially stable. MMO development wreaks havoc on a publisher and developer, so much so that many that fail end up completely collapsing from the inside out. In the span of time most companies develop and launch an MMO, Square Enix has had to do that twice. Obviously the Final Fantasy XIII games were far from the only thing to happen at Square Enix in the last decade, but they were important nonetheless.
One of the key aspects of these games is how markedly different they are from their predecessors (except for Final Fantasy XII. People seem to forget that also quite different, but I digress). On message boards, comment sections and Facebook posts, it seems like the entire world is in an uproar over the changes done to the franchise. Are people so afraid of change to what they hold dear, that they refuse to try something different? While I agree that the games have taken a, shall we say, less than conventional approach to many facets of JRPGs, it shows Square Enix’s ability to evolve.
Anyone familiar with what it takes to run a consumer-faced business, particularly a gaming company, can attest to the fact that not only do you need to continually deliver quality products, but you have to evolve to survive. While some companies have gotten as far as they are by continually iterating on the same products year-over-year — *cough* Nintendo *cough* — those are rare cases that simply cannot be replicated. The vast majority of the industry has to rely on the illusive and potentially imaginary idea of “innovation” to survive. Even though I enjoy the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy, I’m not going to lie and say they are perfect or that I appreciate all of the changes made.
I’d be one of the first people to tell you that I’m tired of Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed, personally, but that doesn’t change their level of importance to the gaming industry. Without those two franchises, I wouldn’t be surprised if the industry were at the risk of suffering from another collapse akin to the 80s. For clarification though, I’m not saying that quantity is more important than quality, or that people should ignore whether or not they like a game, but gaming is an art form full of subjectivity.
The beautiful thing about the industry is the incredible level of diversity on display. If you don’t like the direction the Final Fantasy series is going, but you love the franchise and name brand, maybe Final Fantasy XIV would be more your style, if you want to give an MMO a chance. Better yet, check out Bravely Default on the 3DS – it’s literally an old-school Final Fantasy game with new school upgrades. Square Enix has become such a large publisher now, that they have the luxury of offering experiences in a wide range of genres from the obvious Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest universes, all the way down to Just Cause and Deus Ex. This level of diversity is what helps keep the industry alive and, like it or not, Final Fantasy XIII has been an important part of those endeavors.
Remember how I said I wasn’t a big fan of Call of Duty? Well, I really enjoy the Titanfall beta on PC, from the original creators of Call of Duty, and I dismissed it at first. I expected it to just be another boring shooter with robots. I really do like Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag as well, even though I truly did not enjoy every other game in the series. What I’m trying to say is that the great thing about gaming is that it’s never too late to give something a second chance. Or in Final Fantasy XIII’s case, a third.