Square Unleashes Information Explosion

After a lengthy silence, Square has revealed its development plans during a management press conference that featured a number of significant announcements. Foremost among the announcements was the company's confirmation of 23 games currently under development, eleven of which are remakes. Among these remakes are every game in the Final Fantasy series to this date, and some of the plans for these titles come as a bit of a surprise.

It seems that each successive trilogy is being remade for a separate system. The Playstation installments in the series, namely Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy VIII, and Final Fantasy IX, only recently released, are all being redone for the Playstation2. Square confirmed Final Fantasy II and Final Fantasy III will appear on the Wonderswan Color, where Final Fantasy I was recently released to resounding success. The three titles that appeared on the Super Nintendo (Final Fantasy IV, Final Fantasy V and Final Fantasy VI), will be remade for handhelds. The question is, which handheld system will see the games? Hironobu Sakaguchi, director of the Final Fantasy series and Square's Vice President, has admitted it would likely be impossible to do the games for the Wonderswan, and stated he would prefer to see them on the Game Boy Advance, if possible. As relations between Square and Nintendo have been somewhat strained in recent years, this is the first official announcement of interest in developing for Nintendo since Square jumped ship for the Playstation. It looks, however, as though Square is willing to put their differences aside; Square CEO Hisashi Suzuki said that "We are doing whatever effort is needed, in order to release the games on it."

Interestingly, Square also announced there are plans for an original Final Fantasy title, which will appear on an as-yet unannounced handheld system. The reason for this explosion in titles bearing the prestigious Final Fantasy name is, according to Suzuki, that "The fact must be accepted that middle-rank games are no longer selling these days...this year, we will use the brand name of 'Final Fantasy' to its full extent."

Sakaguchi went on to make a number of announcements concerning the three latest Final Fantasy titles, Final Fantasy X, Final Fantasy XI and Final Fantasy XII. Final Fantasy X's North American release date is now targeted for November, and it will be simultaneous with the game's European release. Square is targeting sales of up to 6.8 million units worldwide on Final Fantasy X, including 3-3.5 million in Japan alone. Final Fantasy X will be released in Japan in July 2001.

The next announcement concerned Final Fantasy XI. Sakaguchi revealed the game will be headed up by Hiromichi Tanaka, the producer of Chrono Cross, and Koichi Ishii, who worked on both the Saga Frontier and Seiken Densetsu series. Finally, Sakaguchi confirmed that the PC and Playstation2 versions of Final Fantasy XI are scheduled for simultaneous release.

There was also light shed on the recently revealed Final Fantasy XII. Sakaguchi has announced the title will not be an online game, and, in an unexpected move, he will be sharing his position as director of Final Fantasy XII with Yasumi Matsuno, director of Final Fantasy Tactics and Vagrant Story. Joining this directorial duo will be Hiroyuki Ito, who directed Final Fantasy IX.

As if the 23 games weren't enough, the company is also planning to step up their production of movies. As production costs are likely to go up, however, Square will shift towards responsibility for production, rather than funding it themselves. With this initiative, combined with the development plans they have released, it appears as though Square will continue to move forward, building itself into one of the premier names in not just gaming, but in entertainment.

by Andrew Long    
Source: [Madman's Cafe]
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