Final Fantasy XIII Developers Couldn't Cater To Western Tastes

While we'd be hesitant to use the word "failure" in relation to Final Fantasy XIII, "disappointment" works just fine. If only Square had known people wouldn't like the game before they released it! Oh, wait. They did.

The latest issue of Game Developer magazine has a fascinating insight into the development of Square Enix's latest role-playing epic, which despite costing millions and taking years to develop, wound up letting many fans down thanks to its linearity.

While there's talk of engine troubles and the lack of a creative vision for the game, most interesting is the developer's revelation that a decision to test the game in non-Japanese markets was only made at the 11th hour.

"Even before the current generation of consoles was introduced, it was obvious that the game market in the West was gaining momentum, and we couldn't ignore it," wrote developers Motomu Toriyama and Akihiko Maeda. "The sentiment that stood out the most to us at the time was the increasingly harsh criticism towards JRPGs."

"Linearity and command-based battles were two of the features being perceived negatively. This was something that the team was very conscious about, and there were concerns about whether JRPGs would still be accepted in the West. Because Final Fantasy XIII's mission was to succeed worldwide, we could not ignore this issue, as we felt it could deeply affect the future of the franchise."

So focus-testing sessions were held in Western markets. And they achieved... well, nothing.

"Unfortunately, we were already quite far along in development, and knew it would be too late to implement most of the feedback from the player test sessions. Even so, we still signed up for the opportunity, as this would be our only chance before the game's release to see how Western players would respond to all that we had been working on."

"There were some minor hiccups, as we did not have much time to prepare for the focus group sessions, but we were able to successfully conduct player tests and interviews globally. Even though it was too late to apply the majority of the feedback, most team members felt the tests were worthwhile, as it gave them insight into what players wanted globally."

Despite feedback from Western gamers coming too late to make fundamental changes to the game, it still caused problems back at Square Enix, as the new information "resulted in conflicts within the team on whether it was worth forcing certain changes into an already tight schedule".

What. A. Hot. Mess. And Square have nobody to blame but themselves. Even the most basic form of focus-testing would have involved looking at how well received Final Fantasy XII had been with Western media and consumers. How did they think scrapping the radical changes made to that title and reverting to a more tradition style of Japanese role-playing game would go down?

Game Developer October 2010 [Game Developer via GameSetWatch]


    JRPG isn't necessarily a bad genre, Square just made a bad JRPG. They really should take some responsibility

    Final Fantasy has always been JRPG, Square. Changing the formula not only upsets your people at home but also fans that grew up with the series. Whoever made that decision to make it more appealing to Westerners should be shot.

    The battle system wasn't something that troubled me. It was the feeling of being all alone in the world...

    FF12, while I wasn't a huge fan of the story-line, provided a world that was ALIVE... Just the amount of NPC's wandering around while in a city, little side-quests you could take. It was a world that you could immerse yourself in, just like 7,8,9 & 10. To me, ff13 just felt so lonely, and empty, caused in no small part to the developers choice to not include towns, shops etc. For me, it's that kind of 1 on 1 interaction with NPCs that makes an RPG and RPG, whether it be japanese or Western.

    Rant, over.

      Also, does anyone else think that they seem to have placed too much emphasis on graphics? It seems to me like Square Enix think "Well, look at the graphics, they're beatiful", therefore we shouldn't need content.

      When talking about a potential FF7 remake, they mentioned that in order to remake ff7 with the same level of graphics as ff13, it would take 12 years. I for one, could have settled for less impressive graphics if the game itself was more in depth...

      It never helps when for the first few hours of the game you don't know who you are, where you are, or whats actually going on.

      FF7,8 and 9 at least stuck to providing a working identity and a rough description of where you are and going.

      The fact that Square didn't include towns sure didn't help, but it was also their decision so you can't interact with anything. I was describing the game to a friend and the best analogy was an aquarium, it's pretty, but there's glass in between you and doing anything.

      The worst part was that FFXIII had some really goddamn horrible storytelling. Not sure if this is a translation issue or the story was just THAT bad, but the first few hours were all fal'cie, l'cie, Sanctum, Pulse, Cocoon etc. What the hell?

    The battles themselves were actually fine... The Paradigm Shift kept me on my toes for that split second where the boss is gonna do his super duper attack. What really disappointed me was the linearity! Soooooo boring that you do nothing but move in one line. There isn't even random encounters along the way to break the monotony.

    30 hours of boring gameplay until it became sort of OK is NOT OK Square.

    Why are they talking about a failure for western gamers? It was considered a failure globally wasn't it? If i recall correctly, the game's price dropped to under a quarter of its RRP in Japan within a month because so many people returned it.

    I guess this only proves that Square doesn't recognise why FFXIII was a failure, which can only mean bad news for the future of the franchise.

    ^ Indeed, the Japanese audience hated it too. I've been incredibly disappointed in Square in their handling of FFXIII. They simply refuse to admit that after 4 years work they made a bad game. I remember initially, they were trying to push it on the Western market not having the same tastes as the Japanese (although anyone that was on Gamefaqs at the time of FFXIII's initial release knows otherwise), and then they tried to use that stupid power-point slide which showed Japanese RPGs (like FFXIII) and then Western Tomb Raider and Uncharted. The fact that they refuse to admit they made a bad game (instead blaming failure on the player's tastes) makes me particularly worried for the upcoming Final Fantasy games. If they don't accept that FFXIII was bad, what's to stop them doing it all again once more?

    I really don't understand how anyone could not like FF13. It was visualy stunning, had a great story, great characters and a fun combat system. What's not to like?

      I loved it to bits as well.

      Haters gonna hate.

    I love all the DS games they did recentley. 13 was boring as shit to play.

    The DS games FF3, FF4, Tactics A2 and Crisis Core on PSP all were fun to play.
    I also loved Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey. None of these game broke new ground, they were just fun.

    It's true they just made a mistake this time.

    I liked it...I mean, wasn't as good as some of the others in the genre but I wouldn't call it a failure. Though my view is definitely in the minority so *shrugs*.

      Sorry for replying after a year but there are actually tons of people who enjoyed the game (like myself) it just don't seem that way because of a loud bunch complains a lot. and really I play rpg because I like jrpg, not the other way around so I hope ff do not become westernized cause otherwise I would buy western games (those don't suit my taste).

    I blame stupid Enix - the games were fine when it was still Squaresoft...

      I don't know, DQIX was heaps of fun and it was an Enix game.

    Square Enix have completely lost their shit over the last few years. It's sad to see how far they've fallen from the days when Squaresoft especially (but also Enix on occasion) DEFINED the JRPG.

    I was going to post my 2 cents, but looking at the comments, I don't want to start a debate ;>_>

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