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Lightning's Return Fizzles, Final Fantasy in Steady Decline

Square should know that lightning never strikes more than once.

Once upon a time, Final Fantasy was a juggernaut video game franchise. For many gamers, their earliest (and greatest) RPG experience was one of the Final Fantasy games. Then the series started to suffer an identity crisis by splintering off into a MMORPG and series of sequels, all set in the same universe. 

Final Fantasy XIII was one of those games that showed a lot of promise at the beginning of this generation. Making its debut at E3 2006, it faced some scrutiny after Sony had debuted pre-rendered footage of games like Killzone 2 the year before... and FFXIII looked almost too pretty to believe it was in-game footage. The series was already facing quite a slump, having broken 10 million in sales with Final Fantasy VII... and five games later, down to only half that amount with Final Fantasy XII.

Final Fantasy XIII did give a temporary boost to the series with a respectable 7 million copies sold. Things have not been so rosy in the land of Chocobos and Moogles since then. Final Fantasy XIII-2 barely broke 3 million in sales. 

The conclusion to FFXIII--Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII has been out in Japan for a week now... and the numbers are not good. The game only sold 277,082 copies, a record low for the main FF series. In comparison, XIII-2 sold 524,217 in its first week, and XIII sold 1,501,964. Despite receiving a good 37/40 score from Famitsu, interest in the series seems to be at an all time low. 

Perhaps the JRPG is just a dying game genre. With Persona 5 coming to PS3 next year and Namco teasing a new Tales game, I would say the genre still has many amazing places to go.

A next-gen Final Fantasy XV is also in the works, which appears to drastically overhaul the series.  Lightning Returns will be out in North America on February 11th.

Published Nov. 27th 2013
  • Nick_1987
    Final fantasy itself isn't the problem.. The problem is the terrible XIII trilogy that no one wanted, or asked for. This should have been ended after the first terrible game, but they tried to milk it, even though the fans didn't like it. If they really want to bring the fans back in, they need to show production on an HDTV remake of VII. That's how they'll get us excited again. Listen to your fans, Square, quit shooting yourselves in the foot.
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    Entirely agree with the article.

    Final Fantasy used to be something special; now it's just a shadow of its former glorious self. The Lightning Returns demo was mediocre and that's shocking to me. Even if it's not technically a true RPG anymore - more of an action/RPG, as I see it - the game could've still been good. It's not even that.

    I have been confused by Square Enix for years. Each game from the previous generation sells less and scores lower than the one before it. So, you're just going to keep doing it...? It defies logic.
  • nowayinhell
    Recent FF games have been coat-tailing on name alone. Making money on tone-deaf rtarded fan boys isn't really hard to do. They'll buy a flaming pile of shit in a bag if the FF logo was branded on it and then say it was good.

    Point is, enough with the generic getting by shit SE, what happened to the titles you broke the molds with? Such as Secret of mana and Final fantasy 6?
    And no, i'm not talking about the shitty SoM's that were released on GBA and mobile.

    Get with it Square.
  • Ryan Kerns
    Featured Columnist
    They have made a new RPG that's a return to classic form (ie it is REALLY good). The game is called Bravely Default... the US version is releasing very soon and there's already a sequel in the works.

    Definitely gives me hope for Square Enix's future.
  • k0ng
    Considering your chosen title, which don't include the enormous investment in FFXIV:ARR and it's continuing success, I don't see how you can make (even a subjective) presumption that Final Fantasy is in decline..
  • Ryan Kerns
    Featured Columnist
    Numbers don't lie. FF7 sold 10 million copies on the original PSX and every game since has been lower. FF13 didn't even sell as much as FF8 or 10. FF14 hasn't even broken 2 million in sales.

    Sooooo going from a higher number of sales to a lower number of sales is a "decline" if I'm not mistaken?
  • k0ng
    This kind of reasoning is the problem with free speech imho.. misleading to say the least!

    FF7 - released in 1997. Sold 10 million copies by 2010. (This number includes digital downloads which does not take into account individuals re-purchasing on a current console)

    FFXII - released in 2010. Sold 7 Million copies by 2013.

    I could go on to include the other poorly presented data, however the lack of valid fundamental analysis displayed in your first comparison debases the rest of your article, rendering any such examination pointless. I'm trying to remain objective here, simply put more effort into your research before making any conclusion that represents itself as anything other than subjective opinion.
  • Ryan Kerns
    Featured Columnist
    That's the beautiful thing about GameSkinny, if you feel my article is incorrect... you are more than free to write an article yourself on why Final Fantasy is doing better than ever.

    If you look at the sales of the Grand Theft Auto series or Call of Duty series you'll see the more current games have far outsold their early iterations, so I don't know why you feel Final Fantasy is some kind of exception to this.

    By all means write up an article, you have my blessing to quote anything I've said wrong here.
  • Steakth
    Final Fantasy is still a juggernaut and judging the series by a side game is not really fair

    "Perhaps the JRPG is just a dying game genre. With Persona 5 coming to PS3 next year and Namco teasing a new Tales game, I would say the genre still has many amazing places to go."

    The JRPG is stronger than ever, and bravely default is basically final fantasy.

    FF 12 was amazing
  • Ryan Kerns
    Featured Columnist
    in comparison to Call of Duty or GTA numbers... it's really not. The series peaked in sales on Final Fantasy VII and have been consistently lower on almost every game.
  • Ryan Kerns
    Featured Columnist
    You bring up a very good point with Bravely Default... without a doubt many of the best JRPGs in the last couple years have been on portable devices. It seems Japan in general the market has shifted more to mobile games than console... so maybe I should have said the "console JRPG" was the endangered species here. ;)
  • Ashley Gill
    Associate Editor
    I definitely wouldn't say stronger than ever, we definitely don't get the same number of high quality of JRPGs we got 10 ~ 15 years ago.

    That said, I did like FF12, but I prefer the International Zodiac Job version for the job class system and Mist system changes.

    I'd prefer they not have Toriyama (FF13, its sequels, and FFX-2) as director on a mainline FF title (or spin-offs) ever again, though.
  • Ashley Gill
    Associate Editor
    LR was basically for Toriyama to get one last hurrah in for his waifu, as depressing as that is.

    Square Enix's problem is that the merger of Squaresoft and Enix basically nullified any competition the two companies had.

    I guess they figure why put forth effort to create stellar games when you have Square with the biggest JRPG series in the West (Final Fantasy) and Enix with the biggest in Japan (Dragon Quest) on the same team? They have no one to compete with on such a large scale since other JRPG series have much smaller fanbases.

    It's depressing to watch the genre I used to love so dearly cannibalize itself, sans a few exceptions.
  • Zachary Welter
    Featured Contributor
    Perhaps the JRPG is just a dying game genre.

    Or perhaps people are tired of the same formula being repeated over a dozen times.
  • Ryan Kerns
    Featured Columnist
    Ni No Kuni and Tales of Xillia definitely are not retreads of old formulas.
  • Zachary Welter
    Featured Contributor
    Right. But that has nothing to do with the fact that, hey, sales tend to die out when you copy-paste the same formula 12+ times with better graphics, as is happening with Final Fantasy.
  • Ryan Kerns
    Featured Columnist
    oh yeah definitely, and the JRPG genre as a whole still definitely has room to grow... I have no doubt that Persona 5 will be an amazing game. Even though I'm not a fan of Kingdom Hearts, I'd dare say that's a more popular franchise than Final Fantasy at this point.
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    Uh...part of FF's legacy is the fact that each entry was almost completely different from the one before it. Saying the copy and pasted the same formula a dozen times is just plain ridiculous.
  • Zachary Welter
    Featured Contributor
    So the mechanics are completely different for each of the games? None of them are Turn-Based Japanese RPGs with the same character archetypes being used over and over to create the same basic story over and over? My bad.
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    Yeah, it is your bad. Unless you're actually trying to tell me that every single turn-based RPG plays exactly the same, which is ridiculous.

    Utilizing Espers in FFVI was nothing like using the Job system in FFV. Materia presented a host of completely different strategic options when compared to the Sphere Grid in X. FFVIII didn't even use armor; it used the magic you held as "armor," in fact (the Junction system). Gambits and the License system in FFXII (which, by the way, wasn't entirely turn-based and presented major changes) weren't anything like how the costumes (which represented classes) in X-2.

    The worlds are completely different in each, the stories are completely different (Sephiroth's history and motivations hardly being the same as Ultimecia; Jecht/Sin hardly being the same as Kefka or Kuja, etc.), and if you actually played the games, the characters are very different. Zidane was nothing like Cloud, for instance, Terra was nothing like Tidus, and the supporting casts also had plenty of diverse relationships and interactions.

    As far as turn-based RPGs, the combat mechanic of Shadow Hearts and Legaia were the same? Suikoden and Wild ARMs? I mean, the level of ignorance you displayed concerning this genre is pretty amazing.

    So yeah...your bad.

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