Why Final Fantasy XIII Failed To Excite Western Gamers
Written Monday, October 18, 2010 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
Final Fantasy XIII arrived to a mixed reception in the West, and while the game wasn't exactly a bomb, it was a disappointment that could have performed so much better outside its native Japan. But here's the kicker: Square Enix did some focus testing for Western markets at the last minute, but didn't have enough time to implement the feedback.
The latest issue of Game Developer magazine offers up some insight into Final Fantasy XIII's development, which saw Square Enix sink millions into development and years into creating the game amid engine troubles and other issues, only to deliver something resolutely linear and relatively archaic. However, failing to use that focus testing feedback was perhaps most damaging due to the all-too late decision to test the game for a non-Japanese audience.
"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", note 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."
But ignore the issue they did, as FFXIII was too deep into development for changes based upon focus testing feedback to be made to the game.
"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."
The fact remains however, that had Square Enix done its focus testing much earlier, while allowing time for adjustments for its Western market, Final Fantasy XIII might have been much better received outside Japan. Alas, it was not to be, and Square Enix must be kicking themselves.