Will Final Fantasy XV make its development costs back?

Short answer? I doubt it. Although it might just scrape through.

Kotaku has reported that Final Fantasy XV sold 670,471 copies in Japan at retail in its first week. That might sound a lot, but it’s well down on the sales figures of previous entries. Final Fantasy XIII sold 1,516,532 copies in Japan in its first week, Final Fantasy XII sold 1.8 million and Final Fantasy X sold 1.7 million. Meanwhile, the behemoths that are Final Fantasy VII and VIII sold 2.03 million and 2.5 million, respectively, in their first week on sale in Japan.

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Admittedly, the 670,471 figure doesn’t include digital sales, and Square Enix noted that the game has broken the record for first-day digital sales in Japan. But even with those included, it seems unlikely that Final Fantasy XV topped the million mark – which must be worrying for Square Enix, considering that the game cost millions to make and was in development for ten years. And then there’s the huge marketing push in recent weeks, which will no doubt have cost a pretty penny.

There are no official figures on the total cost of development and marketing for Final Fantasy XV, but at a guess it’s likely to be above $100 million. Final Fantasy XV director Hajime Tabata revealed earlier this year that the game needs lifetime sales of 10 million copies to recoup its development costs, which, to quote this Kotaku article, is “more than any Final Fantasy game has ever sold except Final Fantasy VII, almost twice as much as The Witcher 3 has sold so far, and twice as much as Metal Gear Solid V has sold to date”.

Judging by the initial sales in Japan, it seems like it will be hard for them to get anywhere near the 10 million figure needed.

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However, it’s not all bad news. In the UK, Final Fantasy XV was the second-fastest-selling game in the Final Fantasy series to date, and worldwide, the game’s combined shipments and digital sales topped 5 million (note that’s shipments, not sales). So it seems that although the latest Final Fantasy game has seemingly underperformed in its native Japan, it has benefited from a strong following in the rest of the world.

The lower than expected Japanese sales aren’t particularly surprising. The country has seen a shift away from consoles towards mobile gaming in recent years, even though the gaming sector continues to grow in size overall. And it’s seeming increasingly unlikely that PS4 sales in Japan will eclipse Japanese sales of the PS3, even though the PS4 is selling like hotcakes everywhere else – the latest global sales figures put global PS4 sales north of 50 million.

There’s also the waning popularity of the Final Fantasy series as a whole in Japan, as shown by the gradual decline in sales figures through the years. And the switch to real-time combat in Final Fantasy XV could have put off many Japanese fans, even if it might appeal more to gamers in the west – but this is just speculation.

Whatever the reasons behind the sales figures, it will be interesting to see where Square Enix takes the series next – and I wouldn’t be surprised if the next numbered Final Fantasy entry was exclusive to mobile. Square Enix might not go the whole hog and mostly abandon console development, like Konami did, but it would make sense for them to follow the money. The majority of their revenue came from mobile last year, and with mobile development costs so much lower than console, it makes sense to invest less yet make more money.

After the years of development and spiralling costs for Final Fantasy XV, I’d be surprised if Square Enix took such a big risk again for number 16.

6 Comments

  1. I was talking about this with someone else, and we agreed that Final Fantasy seems to be getting away from its roots of turn-based strategy. While I never really got into the series myself, it does seem that way: it’s turned into another large open-world game, but was a little late to the party with games like The Witcher III and Dragon Age: Inquisition on the table, meanwhile losing what made it fairly unique in a sea of Open-World Games.

    However, it’s possible with the new style of play a different audience will pick it up now, like you mentioned. I guess Square Enix will just have to hope and see!

    1. It’s true – during that decade of development, the RPG world moved on, and now FFXV is just one of many similar games. But there aren’t too many really notable recent turn-based RPGs…

      1. I think sometimes developers are so worried about being “new” they try and fix things that aren’t broken. New graphics? Cool, thanks. Immersive storyline? Yes, please. You’re a Final Fantasy Game? Be turn-based, it’s what you do well.

        It’s like a Zelda game not having puzzles because it wants to be more open-world… sorry for the rant, but it really bothers me when games forget what made them memorable (and good) in the first place.

      2. I hear you! I had a similar reaction when I played Lost Planet 2. Suddenly it was all about team matches and area domination, when all I wanted was a single player game about blowing up giant glowing monsters.

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