Sakaguchi on Final Fantasy. A short history

sakaguchiIf I had a chance to meet anyone from the gaming industry, it would have to be Hironobu Sakaguchi, the world renowned creator of the Final Fantasy series. Since the first FF game debuted in 1987, the franchise has sold over 80 million units worldwide.

Sakaguchi co-founded Square (currently known as Square-Enix) with Masafumi Miyamoto in September of 1983, and quickly became the Director of Planning and Development.

The company, however, was going through a major downward spiral; their financial statements were lower than expected, mainly due to the lack of any good games. As a last result, Sakaguchi took all of the money that was left in Square and created what would’ve been his last video game, hence the final in Final Fantasy.

After the hit that was Dragon Quest arrived on the scene, Sakaguchi saw that the NES was capable of creating fun and profitable RPG-type video games. However, even after Dragon Quest was released, it was hard to bring the focus to Final Fantasy.

"I took an in-development ROM to the editor of ‘Family Computer Magazine’, but was turned away. They told me they didn’t deal with games like that. Only Famitsu dealt with Final Fantasy in any grand way, for which I’m still very thankful."

But even producing Final Fantasy wasn’t going as planned. With a team of only seven, he was competing with other parts of the same company.

"Hiromichi Tanaka [producer of Final Fantasy XI as well as various other Square titles] was heading the other team in Square, and they had about 20 people. That’s how I knew we really weren’t popular. I probably hit the staff with that pretty harshly. But Kouichi Ishii [who worked on planning Final Fantasy, before going to create the Mana series] and Takamura [who worked with Sakaguchi on publicity] took it the other way – me saying ‘It’s impossible with this team’ actually spurred them on."

Creating the game, along with being bombarded by the thought that it wouldn’t sell because of the shortage of staff and finances, this was literally the last personal push of Sakaguchi’s career.

"The name ‘Final Fantasy’ was a display of my feeling that if this didn’t sell, I was going to quit the games industry and go back to university. I’d have had to repeat a year, so I wouldn’t have had any friends – it really was a ‘final’ situation."

He persisted and persisted to make this game work, wanting the game to be the 400,000-selling hit that it would eventually become.

Initially, only 200,000 copies of the game were going to be shipped. At that time, manufacturing the ROM took two to three months, so your initial shipment equalled the number of copies that you could potentially sell.

"So I argued within the company, and pleaded: ‘If we only make this many, there’s no chance of a sequel – please make it 400,000′. But the costs were high, so as a company all they could think was ‘that’s a lot of money!’ despite having this great game. So the reason it became such a hit was thanks to Square’s management taking a chance – for which I’m really grateful."

Finally, when asked what Final Fantasy means to him, Sakaguchi – who left Square during the development of Final Fantasy XI – said: "Way back then, the spirit was that we weren’t making a product but a creation. It was putting our soul into the production – pouring all of your ideas into the game, even if they crop up during development; not saving anything for the sequel.

"So when you finish, you’re empty – you’ve got no idea what to do next. But by pushing yourself forward, new things come to light. I think it’s good if that spirit is continued forward with Final Fantasy from here on."

Hironobu Sakaguchi is currently the president of Mistwalker, making such games as Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey exclusively for the Xbox 360.



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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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