What is 'Final Fantasy disease,' and do you have it too?
Square Enix's Hajime Tabata does not have an easy task ahead of him. He needs to somehow turn Final Fantasy XV, with its extremely protracted decade-long development cycle, into the biggest money-maker the company has seen in years. Refreshingly, he seems to be taking his job pretty seriously, if this new article on 4Gamer is anything to go by.
"It refers to people within the company who can’t imagine anything other than their own view of Final Fantasy," Tabata explained, when asked what he meant by 'FF disease.' "Around that time [when I took over as director], I realized that among fans as well, there are people who’ve caught FF disease." He continued:
Since the root is a strong self-affirmation, one’s own view of Final Fantasy takes more priority than the team’s success. If that view of Final Fantasy isn’t fulfilled, then they’re convinced that it’s bad for Final Fantasy. They think, ‘Since Final Fantasy is a special team, then we are also special because we are making it. When the new Final Fantasy comes out, everybody is going to be so into it.’ But that’s not the reality of the situation, is it?
[...] Because of that, there was a time I told off the team, saying, ‘We’re not special. Wake Up.’ Yet, I realized that when Final Fantasy XV news was made public, this wasn’t only inside the company. Everyone has FF disease.
Tabata's words might seem callous, but this is probably the sort of wake-up call the Final Fantasy developer needs these days. What he's talking about here is basically nostalgia paired with a cognitive fallacy, the belief that what you like and grew up with is what everyone else wants.
By contrast, Tabata's spoken a few times now about breaking with tradition in order to broaden his game's appeal. For instance, he recently mentioned the team was considering including an 'easy mode' in Final Fantasy XV -- extremely conventional wisdom by Western game development standards, but not something Square Enix has implemented in a main Final Fantasy title before. Surely a move like that is going to upset some fans, who for whatever reason believe 'easy modes' somehow dilute a game (even if you aren't playing it on that difficulty), but that's the other half of Tabata's point: it's not about those fans. To succeed, Final Fantasy XV has to cut across a much wider demographic than recent series entries have managed.
Final Fantasy XV is out on September 30th for Xbox One and PlayStation 4.