Why Square Enix will rely more on cross media to sell their biggest games0 Comments
On March 30, 2016, Square Enix finally threw the curtains back on Final Fantasy XV and revealed just about everything there was to know about the game that didn't veer into spoiler territory. Needless to say, there were quite a few surprises — who could guess that they would also announce a full, CG movie prequel, an anime series, and mobile game to support the game's release?
If you really think about it, however, none of that should have come as a surprise. After all, the game now known as Final Fantasy XV originally began its development as Final Fantasy Versus XIII back in 2006. Though it's unclear exactly how much of Versus XIII will make it into XV's finished product, the fact stands that 10 years is a very long time to have a game in development. Each year the game goes unreleased, the costs continue to escalate, eating into the bottom line when it comes to the game's eventual sales.
Square Enix have reason to be worried, too. While games in the Final Fantasy series have never reached the sales echelon of series like Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty (reaching 30+ million sales with each installment), the series was a sales powerhouse back in the late '90s and early '00s, peaking with 11 million units sold with Final Fantasy VII. In recent years, however, each game has seen a dramatic decline in sales. The Final Fantasy XIII trilogy alone sold the same amount as VII, but each of the installments sold less individually than the one before it. Lightning Returns alone has barely sold one million units as of this March; what exactly would change that would make Final Fantasy XV sell much more than that?
It's clear that the franchise is not quite as strong as it once was (sales-wise), and though Final Fantasy XV has gained notoriety through its unusually extensive development, that alone will not guarantee the goal of 10 million sales that Square Enix has said it hopes to achieve. In order to reach that number, they realized something significant had to be done in order to give the game a much needed boost.
Enter the cross-media plan.
So what does the company stand to gain from a CG movie, anime series, and mobile game?
Hype, for one thing. The game already has a good amount of hype behind it, but the world needs to be reminded why this is something they should be excited about. The CG movie and anime series help to establish a lore for the world and serve to make fans more anxious to experience the actual game for themselves. But even more than that, they would serve to bring a greater amount of something the company really wants: exposure.
With its all-star cast of Sean Bean, Lena Headey, and Aaron Paul, Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV will no doubt attract the attention of people who love Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, and other popular shows and movies. Brotherhood Final Fantasy will catch the attention of those who who love anime, many of whom may have been huge Final Fantasy fans at one point, but have drifted away from the series for one reason or another. The mobile game Justice Five will penetrate a vast casual market, perhaps exposing the series to many people for the first time. Even if it's mostly people who already have some knowledge of Final Fantasy that respond to these projects, Square Enix stands a good chance of drawing them back in and making them even more curious about the game.
On its own, Final Fantasy XV probably could have topped 4-5 million easily, but even with the current hype behind it, Square Enix was wise to go all-in with promoting it this way. It's double or nothing, and while Final Fantasy XV's success isn't necessarily assured, Square Enix has set the stage for it to become the biggest success the series has seen since Final Fantasy VII if everything pans out the way they want it to.
Needless to say, if the numbers work out in the end, it would make sense for the company to start cross-promoting some of their other big games as well. Tomb Raider, Deus Ex, even Dragon Quest — a series that sells extraordinarily well without help — would all be ripe for their own cross-media projects (especially in regions where the series don't typically sell as well). Perhaps this is what Square Enix finally needs to propel their games into that upper echelon of tens of millions of sales. And perhaps, if the cross-media strategy is successful, this will set the stage for Square Enix to become a third-party publishing powerhouse with the same massive success that Activision, EA, and Ubisoft routinely see with their biggest franchises.