Update: We've received a statement from Square Enix clarifying Tabata's comment.
We’d like to make a comment on the news reports that state Hajime Tabata, Director of Final Fantasy XV, commented that Final Fantasy XV needed to sell 10 million copies to recoup the investment at the press conference held yesterday in LA," a Square Enix spokesperson told USgamer. "We believe there was a communication problem during the conference. In fact, Tabata was referencing 10 million copies only as a high goal which the development team set to realize their ambition to make the ultimate Final Fantasy game. And the comment was never meant to be referred as a recoup line of the investment."
Original story: After the heady revelations at last night's Final Fantasy XV Uncovered event, it was clear that Square Enix is betting a lot on the game. Final Fantasy XV is not only a single game, there's an additional mobile title, animated series, and planned CG film. Today at a press conference attended by Kotaku UK, game director Hajime Tabata mentioned that Final Fantasy XV needed to sell 10 million copies over its lifetime to break even.
To put this in perspective, the Final Fantasy franchise as a whole had sold over 110 million units worldwide as of March 31, 2015. Dragon Quest is around 66 million. The last round of the main series, Final Fantasy XIII, shipped 11 million copies across all three titles - Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy XIII-2, and Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII - prior to the launch of the second title on Steam in 2014. Of that, 9.6 million had been sold by 2012. Final Fantasy VII, arguably the biggest game in the series, had sold 9.72 million worldwide as of August 21, 2014.
That's just within Square Enix. Looking at the biggest games of the past few years, Square Enix has it's work ahead of it.
- Fallout 4 - 12 million shipped (as of November 2015)
- The Witcher III: Wild Hunt - 6 million sold (as of September 2015)
- Watch Dogs - 10 million shipped (as of February 2015)
- Assassin's Creed Unity/Rogue - 10 million shipped combined (as of February 2015)
- Far Cry 4 - 7 million shipped (as of February 2015)
- Super Smash Bros - 7.9 million sold (as of February 2016)
- Pokemon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire - 11.4 million sold (as of February 2016)
- Pokemon X/Y - 14.46 million sold (to date)
- Mario Kart 8 - 7.2 million sold (as of February 2016)
It's possible that Final Fantasy XV could hit 10 million sold, but Square Enix has to dive hard into the marketing. That's why Kingsglaive Final Fantasy XV has actors from Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad, despite some of those characters appearing in-game with different voice actors. Square Enix is hoping you'll watch Kingsglaive for those folks and then you'll turn around and buy the game. It's why Brotherhood Final Fantasy XV, anime tie-in, is readily available on YouTube. Everything is flowing back to the game.
Square Enix has had developers working on Final Fantasy XV for a decade at this point. Final Fantasy Versus XIII was announced for the PlayStation 3 in 2006, as part of the Fabula Nova Crystallis Final Fantasy project. The adjoining games in that project, Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy Agito XIII (Final Fantasy Type-0), were released December 2009 and October 2011 respectively. Final Fantasy Versus XIII was shifted into Final Fantasy XV sometime in 2012, after 20 to 25 percent of the game was complete. A year later at E3 2013, Square Enix announced the new title.
While Square Enix may not have had all hands on deck for the entire ten years, it was still paying some senior development staff to work on the title the entire time. Final Fantasy XIII cost Square Enix $65 million for 5 years of development on the PlayStation 3. Final Fantasy XV is probably at least double that and the open-world nature of it all means Square probably spent more just learning a different style of development. Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto V spent around 137 million on development over 4 years and FFXV looks to be aiming for a similar scope.
It's not hard to believe that Square Enix and the future of Final Fantasy is riding on the success of Final Fantasy XV. It's a game fans have been waiting years to play and hype is high, but that hype needs to ultimately turn into solid sales.