Adam Boyes, head of third-party developer relations at PlayStation, told me at E3 that he's known about Square's Final Fantasy VII remake for a year. It was a fun secret to keep.
"Our publishers take us through their slates," he said, recalling a meeting with Square from earlier last year. "When he said 'FFVII remake', I said, 'uhhh excuse me'? At first, I assumed it was the PC one, the PC one wasn't a remake.
"They said: 'We're doing the full one.'
"I was like: 'Uh that's going to melt people's brains. I can't wait for that moment and we had it on Monday.'"
Boyes describes the FFVII remake project as a "partnership" with Square. He's not saying if they are helping fund it or really what the partnership entails, just that the game is that it is making its console debut on PlayStation 4 first. It seems the door is open for it to come to PCs and other consoles, presumably Xbox One. In fact, Boyes said gamers will know how long the PS4's timed-exclusivity lasts relatively soon. "We'll be disclosing that to everyone before the game comes out, so everyone will know." (Boyes said he didn't know what Square's plans are for a PC version, so it's unclear if such a version could come out the same time as PS4 or not.)
Sony officials knew about the forthcoming remake for about a year, well before the notorious December announcement of the port of the PC port of the original FFVII to PS4. What was supposed to be a fun announcement about the polished PC version of the '97 PSOne classic coming to PS4 became a moment of dashed expectations. Final Fantasy producer Shinji Hashimoto at appeared on stage at the big PlayStation Experience fan event, started introducing something FFVII-related to suddenly-shocked fans... only to then reveal that he was just talking about a PC port, not the long-demanded remake. Fans in the audience seemed bummed. Teased, maybe. Trolled, perhaps. It was unintentional, Boyes said. "You learn with these things."
Boyes jokingly describes himself as a "vault of secrets", saying that, because of his job, he's aware of third-party publishing slates for years. Curiously, when I asked him at E3 about whether the new Xbox-debuting Tomb Raider would eventually come to PlayStation, he said he didn't know and was going to try to find out. But other stuff, yes, he said, he knew and tried to keep secret. One personal rule: don't write things while on aeroplanes, for one. Another: don't let people see who you're meeting with.
He said that that to keep the pending creation of Shenmue III secret — that other massive third-party gaming surprise of Sony's E3 press conference — he had been having clandestine meetings with Shenmue creator Yu Suzuki for years. They'd slip into the same meeting rooms at conferences at different times to keep people from putting two and two together. The Shenmue surprise almost got spoiled at the last minute, by Suzuki himself. During Sunday rehearsals for Monday's PlayStation press conference, where the Shenmue project would be revealed, Suzuki tweeted a photo of a forklift, an iconic vehicle from that series:
— Yu Suzuki (@yu_suzuki_jp) June 14, 2015
Boyes saw the Tweet and got nervous. "I was like: why did you do that?
"He's like, 'I always tease about Shenmue.'
Laughing about it now, Boyes recalls himself saying: "I'm like, 'Please don't.'"
Boyes said Sony is already talking about how their show at next year's E3 will go. No doubt he's already aware of more pending surprises.