As part of a Final Fantasy XV panel at the Games Developer Conference in San Francisco, game director Hajime Tabata confirmed the high stakes that his production was facing, as Square Enix was losing its faith on the project and the RPG series as a whole. There were even talks of the main series being in danger if the new entry didn’t sell over 5 million copies, which is a mark that the game passed in its release.
Tabata sure seems more relaxed now that he has successfully gone through one of the most problematic game developments of all time. Final Fantasy XV is now a big success for Square Enix, as the game already covered development costs on release day, and last night it was announced that it had sold more than 6 million copies in its first month.
Enjoying this success, Tabata now feels comfortable to share some confidential and personal stories about the development, like a conversation that he had with the series creator Hironobu Sakaguchi right when Tabata took over the development. Sakaguchi told him that he needed to make the series a challenger again, meaning that he should see the game as the last chance for the series.
The series was seen as a diminished brand that was in danger
But what was meant as a metaphor turned out to be very real, as Tabata recalls having a conversation later with the head of sales at Square Enix, who confirmed to him that the company’s forecasts for the game were not positive, fearing the title would not even achieve 5 million of copies sold in its lifetime. The reasons for this were that the shift from turn-based gameplay was seen as “unwise” and that the series was seen as a diminished brand that was in danger.
The Final Fantasy series had some real issues at the time, indeed, as the online multiplayer FFXIV was a critical and commercial failure, FFXIII had expanded with two profitable but unwelcome sequels, and the other big title in development, FFXV, had wasted nearly a decade before the arrival of Tabata without making any real progress.
What Tabata did at that moment, he says, was setting the goal for the team even higher, not just the minimum of 5 million copies sold, but 6 million, which he was very happy to confirm they had achieved in the first month since the release. And that’s the personal lesson he has got from this experience: That the highest goals can only be achieved by taking big risks.