After 10 years of waiting, Square Enix have finally announced that Final Fantasy XV will be launching on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on September 30th 2016. The game was originally announced as Final Fantasy Versus XIII for the PlayStation 3 back at E3 2006 but the game quickly ran into development issues and so the name, platform, director and game engine were changed a few years back. Final Fantasy XV is set to be the ultimate Final Fantasy experience and we believe that this new title will help reverse the decline that the series has seen in recent years.
Hajime Tabata, the director for Final Fantasy XV, noted at a press conference last week that he would like to see the game sell 10 million copies worldwide to be considered successful. A Square Enix representative did clarify that the 10 million comment is not meant to be referred to as a minimum to recoup the investment made on the game, but instead as a sales goal that the development team set themselves. It is worth noting that 10 million is more than every other Final Fantasy game has sold (When excluding re-releases and remakes). Final Fantasy VII has sold over 11 million units worldwide but this only came after the game was re-released many years later on multiple platforms. The game originally sold less than 10 million units when counting the original PS1 release back in 1997.
Final Fantasy is the flagship franchise for Square Enix with more than 110 million copies sold worldwide across 45 unique titles. During the peak years we saw games like Final Fantasy VII, VIII & X sell in more than 8 million units each on their original release platforms and even the recent Final Fantasy XIII has sold in more than 7.5 million units on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 & PC making it somewhat successful. The JRPG series clearly has worldwide appeal but the games have been on a decline recently with the XIII saga. Whilst the first game in the series sold in over 7.5 million, the second game titled Final Fantasy XIII-2 has failed to exceed more than 4 million unit sales and Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII has sold in even less despite the expanding console install base. Many fans of the series were left disappointed after the release of XIII and criticised the game due to its linear design and the sequels did not do much to bring fans back to the Final Fantasy universe.
We have seen a huge effort from Square Enix to make Final Fantasy relevant again and everything they have been doing up until this point has been very positive for the series. For one, Square Enix have learnt a lot from the development of Final Fantasy XIII and have now started adopting agile development processes. Square Enix are working with external studios to help with Final Fantasy XV to shorten the development cycle and enhance overall quality. Not only this but Square Enix have made a concerted effort to bring prior Final Fantasy games to old and new fans through ports on STEAM as well as through HD re-releases of Final Fantasy X/X-2 and Type-0 HD. Square Enix have also kept core fans up to date on the development of Final Fantasy XV through regular Active Time Reports and recently the company announced that they are developing a Remake of Final Fantasy 7 which has had a hugely positive response from fans and has even has non fans excited.
Final Fantasy XV has been geared to appeal towards the Western audience, from design choices to announcements, all of Square Enix’s promotion around the game has been aimed at those in the West as the company knows that the majority of their sales will now come from outside Japan. Games such as Final Fantasy VII and VIII were able to sell nearly 4 million units each on the original PlayStation in Japan thanks to the large install base and popularity of the series at the time, even Final Fantasy X sold 3 million units on the PS2 in Japan. In recent years the home console market has declined sharply in Japan and it is now expected that the PlayStation 4 will have an install base of around 3 million units by the time Final Fantasy XV launches. This is compared to the more than 6 million unit install base of the PlayStation 2 around the time of Final Fantasy X’s launch.
Final Fantasy XIII had a very front loaded launch with more than 1.5 million units sold on PlayStation 3 in Japan during the games first week but sales dropped off very quickly with only around 2 million being sold in total. The sequel, Final Fantasy XIII-2 saw lifetime sales of just under 1 million units in Japan and Lightning Returns sold even less with just under 500,000 units sold in. As Final Fantasy XV is a long awaited title, the game has the opportunity to sell in big numbers to fans who have been waiting for the release but sales will ultimately be hindered by the install base of the PlayStation 4 in Japan. It is likely that the game will be the first million selling title for PlayStation 4 but we would not expect it to reach the heights that Final Fantasy XIII did, instead tailing off just south of 1.5 million units sales.
Final Fantasy XV is the first title in the series to see a simultaneous launch worldwide. Square Enix announced that the game would be localised into Latin American Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese text. German and French versions were also announced to have their respective voice overs, players able to switch between German/French, English and Japanese audio. A Chinese version was also announced to launch on the same date worldwide with an exclusive partnership to bring the game and related media to the mainland. Final Fantasy has had a large fan base in South America & Asia and the simultaneous launch will help drive sales in these regions and help offset the decline in sales that is expected in Japan.
The game also has a huge fan base in North America, with most mainline games exceeding 1 million unit sales during the first few months. Final Fantasy XIII opened with unit sales of over 1.3 million units in the US during its first month on sale and just like most other mainline games, went on to easily exceed over 2 million unit sales. Square Enix have been heavily promoting the game in the USA and I would expect that the game has the potential to once again sell more than 2 million units and could even reach 3 million or more should the game review well and receive positive word of mouth.
The game will also act as a major test for Square Enix as it is the first major mainline JRPG game that is launching on 8th gen home consoles in the West. Nintendo have shown that big JRPG’s can still sell well in the West if positioned right, as with Fire Emblem Fates on 3DS. We’ve seen that Western RPG’s such as The Witcher 3 are succeeding in the West with nearly 10 million unit sales on PlayStation 4, Xbox One & PC to date. The Witcher 3 is a much more Western friendly game, however it is clear that Square Enix have tried to make Final Fantasy XV appeal to the west through design choices and marketing. The game is also open world, similar to the Witcher 3, which is a popular trend among many games today. If the game does sell well in the West then XV will have the advantage of receiving a sales boost from Japan (where The Witcher 3 did not sell well) but it is important to remember that Final Fantasy XV does not have a PC port just yet (Whereas the Witcher 3 saw a lot of sales thanks to the PC version). Other Japanese games aimed at Western audiences, like Metal Gear Solid V, have also seen success with more than 6 million unit sales worldwide. This is already equal to what Metal Gear Solid 4 sold during its lifetime and more than any other prior mainline game in the series.
The worldwide install base of PlayStation 4 and Xbox One,at the time of Final Fantasy XV’s release is set to be higher than the install base of PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 at the time of Final Fantasy XIII’s release with most gamers today spending more on Video games than they did previously. Final Fantasy XIII was able to ship 5.5 million units worldwide during its first month on sale (March 2010) and I expect that Final Fantasy XV could be on track to match or even beat that opening due to the simultaneous worldwide launch. Square Enix are also heavily marketing the Final Fantasy XV brand right now with a brand new movie (Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV), anime (Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV), multiple demos and a mobile game due to release this year. Square Enix have also been promoting the Final Fantasy brand through the continued Final Fantasy PC ports (Prior titles) and the remake of Final Fantasy VII that has got old and new fans of the series excited.
These various promotions, along with the simultaneous launch, will help the game achieve a high sell in number during the first month. In regards to lifetime sales, the game has the potential to sell in around 1 to 1.5 million units in Japan, over 3 million units in North America and a further 3 million+ units in Europe and Asia. A total of 8 million could be sold in the first 12 months across PlayStation 4 and Xbox One according to our forecasted ‘Realistic’ scenario. The pessimistic scenario is that the game should at least ship 6 million whilst the optimistic scenario would see the game selling in over 10 million. The game certainly needs to do better than the pessimistic scenario in order to see a return on investment.
Whilst promotions for the game will help sales, there are a number of other factors that need to be considered, the first being review scores. The ‘realistic’ sales figures quoted below are only possible if Final Fantasy XV receives an above average score on Metacritic (Over 75) and if the game has good technical performance at launch. Positive review scores, along with promotions and marketing from Square Enix, will help spread positive word of mouth and have a positive impact on lifetime sales of the game. The final factor to consider is a late PC port. A PC port is rumoured to come out after the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One release date and should this happen before the end of the 12 month period then it would be extremely likely that the game would benefit from a further 1 million unit sales and could potentially exceed our realistic expectations and even reach the 10 million unit goal set by Square Enix.
A PC Port will serve the game well as it will not be a huge cost for Square Enix and the port will sell to the audience who are currently purchasing the prior Final Fantasy games being brought to PC. The PC version will also encourage a certain number of gamers to double dip, despite already owning the game on PS4 & XB1. The PC versions of Final Fantasy games do not traditionally sell very well with Final Fantasy XIII having only sold just 600,000 units according to SteamSpy. However, Final Fantasy XV could benefit from a late port on PC due to the reasons above and could provide a boost of 1 million or more unit sales.
Because Final Fantasy is a well known franchise, the game stands to do well due to the brand name alone and pre orders for the game are already looking positive with all 30,000 limited editions having been sold out in a matter of days. Square Enix are currently looking in to releasing more units due to popular demand. The September release is just before the Christmas rush and so the release date falls into a fairly light window with not much big competition to go up against. The various promotional activities from Square Enix such as the movie and anime will allow the game to reach maximum exposure during launch and could potentially allow the game to have the biggest launch the series has ever seen.
We are fairly optimistic that Square Enix can see a turnaround with Final Fantasy XV, but to what extent remains to be seen.