That Time Final Fantasy Ditched Nintendo For Sony

That Time Final Fantasy Ditched Nintendo For Sony

Final Fantasy shows up on every platform under the sun these days, making it hard to remember the RPG juggernaut used to be one of gaming's biggest exclusives. But over the course of Final Fantasy's more than 30 years of video games, it's twice shifted alliances in ways that had huge rippling effects.

That Time Final Fantasy Ditched Nintendo For Sony

That Actually Happened is a weekly series at Kotaku in which we highlight interesting moments in gaming history. So far, we've revisited when Sonic kissed a human, a live game show on Xbox 360, and Sony throwing a God of War party with a dead goat. If you have any suggestions for future entires, please let us know in the comments!

That Time Final Fantasy Ditched Nintendo For Sony

The first Final Fantasy hit Japan in December 1987 for the NES, and didn't show up anywhere else until nearly three years later -- the summer of 1990. Famously, it was called Final Fantasy because there was no intention to make a sequel; Square was facing bankruptcy, and Final Fantasy was, really, a last-ditch effort.

Of course, Final Fantasy went onto be a hit, and the company has been making sequels, remakes, and spin-offs ever since. The series entered ridiculous naming territory a while ago, with Final Fantasy XV (15) on the way...someday.

Final Fantasy XV will arrive on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 simultaneously -- there have even been rumours of a PC release -- and that's now what we expect.

It wasn't always that way. Final Fantasy used to be a loyal Nintendo franchise, and it was nonsense to expect Square would ever ditch the company. They did.

Yes, that actually happened.

The first six Final Fantasy games were released across the NES and SNES, back when JRPGs dominated the sales charts. The release of a new Final Fantasy was a tremendous event, and was considered a reason to buy Nintendo's consoles over the competition. The NES and SNES raked in millions and millions, making both Nintendo and Square pretty happy. As Nintendo planned its next platform, the Nintendo 64, Square was plotting to have Final Fantasy VII show up there.

Back in 1995, Square released this demonstration of what it might look like, using Final Fantasy VI as a base:

That looks a little bit different than the Final Fantasy VII that shipped in 1997:

As the Final Fantasy series progressed and became more ambitious, its cinematic aspirations grew, too. (Remember the famous opera scene in Final Fantasy VI?) when it became clear Nintendo would stick with cartridges for the N64, this gave Square pause. It made sense for Nintendo to double down; cartridges had been enormously profitable for Nintendo because they controlled all production.

While the exact conversations between Nintendo and Square are unknown, the result was Square cancelling whatever was in development for the N64 and reshaping Final Fantasy VII to take advantage of the PlayStation's CD-ROMs.

If this all went down in 2015, there'd be a fancy press conference where Sony took a bunch of public digs at Nintendo, but things were different back then.

Still, this was the beginning of a close relationship between Square and Sony, which spilled over to the marketing for Final Fantasy VII. The ads regularly touted the gorgeous cutscenes and pre-rendered backgrounds that populated the game.

Oh, and they took digs at Nintendo.

That Time Final Fantasy Ditched Nintendo For Sony

Damn, son.

For nearly 10 years -- 1997 through 2006 -- what had once been synonymous with Nintendo was now synonymous with Sony. I spent my teenage years as much more of a PlayStation person because I was obsessed with Square's RPGs.

In the last 10 years, the idea of exclusivity has started to disappear. It makes more sense for third-party companies like Square to make games for every possible platform, in order to maximise profits. This was never clearer than when both of PlayStation's biggest exclusives -- Metal Gear, Final Fantasy -- decided to embrace the idea of being available on both PlayStation on Xbox.

The news of Final Fantasy XIII coming to Xbox 360 happened during an especially awkward conversation between Microsoft and Square executives at E3 2008.

Hey, I recognise that logo!

Final Fantasy coming to Xbox 360 was not quite a betrayal on the level of leaving Nintendo. Rather, it simply goes to show how the JRPG series has regularly been at the center of change. It was only supposed to be one game, but Final Fantasy lives on, doing its best to adapt to the times, regardless of the roman numeral.


    Famously, it was called Final Fantasy because there was no intention to make a sequel; Square was facing bankruptcy, and Final Fantasy was, really, a last-ditch effort.

    Could have sworn that was debunked. Kotaku even reported on it.

    Edit: although reading the comments where I linked seems to suggest he did a different interview on the FFX bonus discs saying it was him thinking of leaving the industry.

    Last edited 12/10/15 12:25 pm

      Yeah, it was Final Fantasy's creator Hironobu Sakaguchi (not Squaresoft) that was thinking of dropping out of the industry and was giving it one last effort - although despite that, that's not actually the reason they went with the name of Final Fantasy.

      Last edited 12/10/15 12:51 pm

    When FF7 released in Japan, I was so excited I downloaded the guide just so I could put a story to the scant online images.

    I remember the ads in gaming magazines at the time that convinced me to sell my N64 and pick up a PSX. Ended up buying it too early, living off the Tekken 2 demo, Destruction Derby and the original Need For Speed for months.

    When it finally released I played it to death, multiple times, loving every minute of it. One of the few games that did not disappoint in the slightest. Such wonderful memories.

    8, 9, 10 and 12 were also great, and I got hyped for them too... but nothing beats the raw energy surrounding FF7 upon its release.

    But over the course of Final Fantasy’s more than 30 years of video games

    The first Final Fantasy hit Japan in December 1987 for the NES

    Maybe I can't math good but that doesn't seem like over 30 years to me

    Last edited 12/10/15 1:21 pm

    Man, that tech demo really shows off where a balance started to tip. Square (-soft, back then) really wanted to do bombastic cinematics in their fights and is easy to see how the capabilities of the in-game graphics -advanced for their era as they were, which is hard to appreciate 20 years later- were not up to the task.

    Sadly I think that this represented a breaking point for Final Fantasy and Squaresoft. By choosing to abandon a long-time ally in favour of one that offered no particularly better graphics, better architecture, nor better gameplay, but simply, the ability to insert lengthy pre-rendered CG animations, SS showed their ever-increasing infatuation with style.

    If we knew better back then, perhaps we would have started to worry, but alas, we too, were too blinded by the awesome graphics to care. Don't get me wrong, most of the Playstation 1 FFs, and other Squaresoft games (such as Chrono Cross) were still great in all other areas, but if you squint a bit while using hindsight vision, you could see the start of the trend. Hironobu Sakaguchi's departure (the man is clearly a plot-driven storyteller) would also mark the point where substance started to falter. That brings us to what we have today: all style, almost no substance at all.

    As an aside, Squaresoft's breakup with Nintendo also marked the start of the exodus of other, previously Nintendo-loyal gamemakers such as Capcom and Konami. They had less reasons to want to leave Nintendo, so it could be presumed that they were aggressively bought in by Sony, who could use their (back then) massive industry muscle as leverage to offer greatly increased publicity and distribution. That was the year that shaped what Nintendo would be even nowadays. It's really inspiring how after being dealt such a rough hand, Nintendo pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and found themselves a working niche that has allowed them to survive and even thrive in an industry that became eventually dominated by multinational corporations with incredibly deep pockets.

    Last edited 12/10/15 2:08 pm

      I think the absence of Capcom and Konami hurt them a lot more. In fact the lack of fighting games was a huge detraction for the N64

      I wouldn't be that sympathetic to Nintendo. Their business practices were draconian in the 90s.

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