Not For a Full Console Generation, At Least
I loved Final Fantasy VII: Remake. That game consumed me like a fire in a chemical plant. I originally purchased a PS4 with that game in mind, all those years ago. But mark my words, this project is doomed. Between Square Enix’s new franchise philosophy, Tetsuya Nomura’s ambitions, and the enormous source material, the remake will be a project ten years in the making. Don’t believe me? Of course, you don’t, you optimistic straw man, you. Let’s look at the facts:
Every Game A Franchise
Final Fantasy VII marked a turning point for Square Enix. This was the first 3D entry in the Final Fantasy series, the biggest game they’d ever made, and an absolute monster hit. At first, it seems they capitalized on this by making every FF game a colossal affair, spanning dozens of hours and multiple discs. Then, they came to a brand new realization: what if they just made more FF7 content forever? From this was born Crisis Core, Before Crisis, Advent Children, Last Order, and Dirge of Cerberus. That’s four games and a full-length movie, all born out of one release. If we’re counting Remake, there are now five separate games expanding and re-telling the story of Final Fantasy VII. This demonstrates a remarkable ability to milk a franchise dry. But wait, you say. What about Kingdom Hearts?
If FF7 was the practice run, then Kingdom Hearts is the first full-powered burst in the ‘every game a franchise’ experiment being run by Square Enix. There were 11 separate releases between Kingdom Hearts 2 and 3. That’s 11 different side stories, prequels, remasters, and prologues. Square Enix turned two games into 14 over a period of 17 years. Since Final Fantasy VII is only one game, maybe this project will only take seven years. Maybe I’m being entirely too rash with my predictions. But we’re forgetting an X factor here. The one man who serves as the connecting tissue between Kingdom Hearts and the Remake project: Tetsuya Nomura.
Nomura And The Never-Ending Story
Now, I’m not saying that Nomura is wholly to blame for all these games being such massive, bloated projects. That would be rude, and also reductive. Video games, especially AAA ones, are the work of hundreds of talented people, from marketing teams to coders to artists to writers. However, consider his resume. Final Fantasy XV began development in 2006 under a different name: Final Fantasy Versus XIII. Nomura was the director of that project for six years, until Square Enix did some re-shuffling. He stayed on as a transitional consultant for another year, before Hajime Tabata took over the job. The final product was eventually released in 2016. Next up, we have Kingdom Hearts III. Concepts for the game were cooked up as early as 2005, although the game wouldn’t be announced until 2013. The final release date was 2019. Since we have less concrete data here, we can’t be sure of the total development time. Conservatively, we can put this one somewhere between seven and 14 years. Finally, there’s the first phase of the Remake project. Full production of this game started in 2015, with the full release happening in 2020.
We can’t pin all of this on Nomura, convenient as that would be. These are huge games, with producers, directors, writers, and more all collaborating and contributing. Nomura had a huge hand in the Kingdom Hearts series, but Final Fantasy VII is a slightly different beast. Plus, nothing is set in stone regarding the timeline. On the one hand, five years is the shortest development time yet, especially considering that they changed development teams in 2017. On the other hand, this is only part one. There is no road-map available to the public about how many installments we’re getting, and no word from the developers regarding the size of part two. They’ve also been very cagey about this being a trilogy or not, merely admitting that fans are expecting a trilogy release. But all of this ignores the elephant in the room, that being the original game.
So Much More Than Midgar
This is where things get slightly more speculative, so let’s start with a couple of facts. First, the team has been very clear about wanting to expand the scope of the game, giving players more access to sections that were previously walled off. Second, Midgar only represents 20-25% of the complete game. If this is accurate, then Remake is at least a four part project. Let’s assume that the actual development and production time of part one is only 2017-2020. Let’s go one step further, and take a whole year off. After all, we’ve already got the engine, along with all (or most) of the assets required. This clunky math assumes that everything goes perfectly and no delays occur whatsoever. The absolute earliest we could see the project completed would be 2026. Unfortunately, all of the projects I have referenced up to now have had massive delays. Once a release date is set? It’s never off by more than a couple of months. Assuming this is indeed a project average, let’s tack another eight months onto our total time. Now’ we’re looking at late 2026, early 2027. And yet, all of my estimates are based on size, not content. What if we divide the game into major events?
If Midgar functions as part one, what is part two? Better yet, what small scenes will be made into full-sized sections? If part one is any indication, the answer is ‘all of them.’ Three hours exploring Wutai could become a full game breaking down the war, and the history of Midgar’s infamous enemy. The Kalm/Nibelheim flashback could be almost an entire game in itself. Chasing Sephiroth and the Black Materia? That could be a whole game. Gold Saucer and Corel, including the underground sections? That’s a full game. Of course, all of this -all of it- assumes that Square is following the original game, beat for beat. If the ending of part one is real, and not a vivid fever dream, Nomura and company could take part two in any direction whatsoever. That means writing a completely new scenario, which will beef up those development times. Also, my projections are based on Midgar being 25% of the game. If we go by the upper range guess, it’s only 20% of the game. That alone puts my perfect release schedule up to nine years.
Ten Years, Is It?
Now I’m not saying I’ve got this on lockdown. I have no concrete idea about when this behemoth will be fully slain, and no delusions about my predictive powers. Yet I ask you to consider that my sunniest, most optimistic, and most unrealistic projections have this thing wrapped up in six years. Six years that assume nothing goes wrong, and that my rough math regarding the original game’s size is correct. Consider this in conjunction with Square Enix as a company famous for delays, famous for scope creep. Think about how this company turned two games into fourteen with Kingdom Hearts, and how they turned 5-7 hours into 35-40. Finally, remember me, for saying it first. For being pretty damn sure that ten years will pass between part one’s release and the finale’s release. Here’s hoping I’m dead wrong.
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