Gaming

Final Fantasy XVI’s delay is the best thing that could have happened

A new recipe for success.

Square Enix

After its surprise announcement nearly a year ago, Square Enix has delayed Final Fantasy XVI by roughly six months. It’s the first official delay the game has had, even though Square Enix has never shown any footage after that initial reveal trailer from September 2020. It’s honestly the best thing that could have happened to the Final Fantasy franchise right now, and it’s indicative of Square Enix learning from past mistakes. Here’s why.

Art from Final Fantasy XV: Dawn of a New Future, a novelization based on a scrapped second DLC bundle for the 2016 game. Square Enix Books

The last mainline entry in the series, Final Fantasy XV, was notorious for its troubled development cycle. The game first started as Final Fantasy Versus XIII, first revealed all the way back in 2006. Years of tantalizing cinematic trailers and muddled messaging ultimately led to the game being rebranded as Final Fantasy XV at E3 2013, with a new development team and new vision. Even still, Final Fantasy XV saw more development trouble and multiple delays, even after Square Enix had a grand unveiling for the game’s release date.

Unfortunately, this also led to a disconnect when Final Fantasy XV was released, with the game’s quality simply not stacking up to the standard that trailers set for years, and some areas of the game feeling unfinished despite the creative team’s clearly sky-high ambitions. Final Fantasy XV does a lot right, but it’s easily one of the more divisive entries in the franchise, especially considering the movie, anime, and DLC media that were needed to fully understand the story.

Final Fantasy XV was revealed in 2013, after Versus XIII saw years of troubled development.

Final Fantasy XVI, on the other hand, seems to be taking a different approach to its marketing and release. Outside of that initial reveal trailer, Square Enix hasn’t done anything to build up expectations. There’s no flashy concept trailer showing gameplay we’ll never see.

Part of this approach is undoubtedly coming from the game’s director, Naoki Yoshida. During a panel at Tokyo Game Show, Yoshida commented that the team deliberately chose to have a reveal trailer filled with in-game footage so players wouldn’t worry about the release date, joking that with pre-rendered trailers “people would say something like 'well, guess I'll see you in 2035.”

It’s almost ironic considering Final Fantasy XVI’s delay, but it shows a willingness to admit there are problems and tackle them head-on. Yoshida has won a lot of goodwill as the director of Final Fantasy XIV, and it’s easy to see him as the potential “future” of Final Fantasy. The team behind the MMO has been exceptionally good about transparency with its communication, and how logistical issues have impacted development over the last year. It seems like that transparency is now translating to the development of Final Fantasy XVI, and the game’s delay is the perfect sign of that.

Final Fantast XVI’s reveal trailer is still the only major piece of media out there about the game.

The delay means that the development team is willing to take their time to iron out issues. It’s not clear exactly where the game is in its development timeline, but a report in July 2020 said that the main scenario and voice recording for Final Fantasy XVI was almost finished.

Because of this, we know development is pretty far along, meaning it might mostly be refinement and bug fixes left. Even so, Square Enix is delaying the game by roughly six months, and not even showing a new trailer or anything in the meantime, which is a good thing.

“People would say something like 'Well, guess I'll see you in 2035.’”

The next time a trailer for Final Fantasy XVI releases, it’ll likely be with the reveal of a release date, which is exactly when Square Enix will want to start building expectations. This could lead to a much strong marketing campaign as a whole. The other aspect, of course, is that it gives other Final Fantasy games, like FFXIV’s Endwalker expansion, more room to breathe. It also, hopefully, gives Yoshida and the development team a bit of a break and avoids the studio from crunching.

Yoshida has done a great job of managing fan expectations, and it’s clear Square Enix is trusting him and his team to take the reins here. So far nothing about Final Fantasy XVI feels rushed, and let’s hope that same feeling translates to the game, no matter how long it takes.

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