Final Fantasy 16 director says series is 'struggling' to adapt

Final Fantasy 16 Shiva
(Image credit: Square Enix)

One of the most iconic franchises in videogame history is having a hard time staying relevant, according to Final Fantasy 14 and 16 director Naoki Yoshida.

“In terms of whether Final Fantasy is successfully adapting to industry trends, I believe the series is currently struggling," Yoshida told Inverse. "We’re now at a point where we receive a wide variety of requests regarding the direction of our game design. To be honest, it’d be impossible to satisfy all those requests with a single title. My current impression is that all we can really do is create multiple games, and continue creating the best that we can at any given time."

The director, who has worked at Square Enix for the last 18 years, could be referring to a lot of trends that have taken hold of gaming or that threaten to. In February, he addressed Square Enix and the gaming industry's growing interest in NFTs and 'play-to-earn' cryptocurrency mechanics, confirming that the FF14 won't incorporate them. And, while the MMO is memed as having a free trial that you can play up through its Heavensward expansion, it's still not a completely free-to-play live service game like a Genshin Impact or what Ubisoft's upcoming Assassin's Creed Infinity promises to be. Final Fantasy 16, the next main entry in the series won't be either, nor will it be open world, but it will include genre-bending battles between its iconic summons—a first for the series.

Outside the numbered entries, Final Fantasy games have slightly pushed things in more modern directions. There are several Final Fantasy mobile gacha games; Brave Exvius hit 45 million downloads last year. Final Fantasy 7 Remake and the other spin-offs continue to break away from the original game's trajectory, like the battle royale shooter that launched last year. But none of them have truly taken off or had as much of an impact as the series had in the late '90s and early 2000s.

Yoshida told Inverse that the series isn't about chasing trends, but setting them, and that FF16's storytelling will reflect that. But it sounds like he wants to do much more than that. The long development cycles for its past few numbered entries probably make that difficult.

The side projects could push further out into the unknown, but it might be hard to convince Square Enix, a notoriously risk-averse company, to let a team do that. Yoshida seems interested in pushing further after Final Fantasy 16 is out next year. 

"I am the kind of person who’s happy as long as they can make games, so while there isn’t anything in particular, I occasionally think that I would like to make one more MMORPG title, from scratch, before I die," Yoshida said.

After the clever and historic ending of FF14's original incarnation and its recent explosion in popularity, I hope he gets his wish.

Associate Editor

Tyler has covered games, games culture, and hardware for over a decade before joining PC Gamer as Associate Editor. He's done in-depth reporting on communities and games as well as criticism for sites like Polygon, Wired, and Waypoint. He's interested in the weird and the fascinating when it comes to games, spending time probing for stories and talking to the people involved. Tyler loves sinking into games like Final Fantasy 14, Overwatch, and Dark Souls to see what makes them tick and pluck out the parts worth talking about. His goal is to talk about games the way they are: broken, beautiful, and bizarre.