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Hironobu Sakaguchi Clears the Air on Final Fantasy VI

The creator of Square-Enix's legendary RPG series shatters a widely believed misconception.

Analysis by Bob Mackey, .

The greatest part of writing about games is just how accessible the most legendary figures can be.

Someone who writes about movies may never get a chance to meet Scorsese, Spielberg, or Nolan, but we're regularly led into rooms where some of the most amazing talents sit, ready to answer our questions. The one downside, though, is that our questions are rarely permitted to stray from the subject of current releases—which can be pretty frustrating if, like me, you happen to help run a classic gaming podcast.

So, when I had the opportunity to speak with Hironobu Sakaguchi about his mobile RPG Terra Battle earlier this year, I knew I'd have the chance to sneak in one question about Final Fantasy, at the very least—so I wanted to make it a good one. At some point in time, it was accepted as conventional wisdom that Final Fantasy VI met with disappointing sales in Japan and moderate success in America, most likely due to its dark themes and unconventional structure. It's a factoid I've heard tossed around plenty of times in the 20 years I've been reading about the game on the Internet, so I decided to go right to the source and ask Sakaguchi himself.

Thankfully, he set the record straight:

"In terms of numbers, [Final Fantasy VI] didn't sell in the States. It actually did very well in Japan. I'm mystified, because I see [Americans] are playing the [mobile] version. I think size of the characters really matters to an American audience, so from Final Fantasy VII onward, we used bigger characters. [I think] that's why Final Fantasy VII took off. But I am kind of mystified [by VI's current popularity in the West], because [Americans] didn't buy Final Fantasy VI back then."

So, there you have it. Not the most groundbreaking news for your Friday, but still, an interesting revelation about a time when video game sales numbers weren't so concrete.

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Comments 25

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  • Avatar for Monkey-Tamer #1 Monkey-Tamer 3 years ago
    So what he's saying is size does matter to Americans. I bought it on SNES and PS1. I still love Amano's art, and would kill for a full size poster of Terra to hang on my wall.
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  • Avatar for Lord-Bob-Bree #2 Lord-Bob-Bree 3 years ago
    Huh, I had never heard people say this sold badly in Japan, or that it did better here.
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  • Avatar for Natabuu #3 Natabuu 3 years ago
    I didn't buy it when it first came out. I got Dragon Warrior I and II and Final Fantasy on NES, but didn't play another turned-based RPG until FFVII. After that, I went back and bought a used FFVI (well, III) cartridge.
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  • Avatar for franciscovillarrealh #4 franciscovillarrealh 3 years ago
    I haven't been around Final Fantasy fans in ages, but if anyone had told me FF6 had sold better in the US than in Japan, I wouldn't have believed them, and not just because it flies in the face of "FFVII brought in a bunch of new fans" (didn't FF6 cost like, 90 dollars?).

    I have heard that FF6 is more fondly regarded among fans in the US than in Japan, where it's seen as more middle-of-the-road than "competing with VII for best ever", however. Not sure if Sakaguchi could confirm or deny that, though...
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  • Avatar for cldmstrsn #5 cldmstrsn 3 years ago
    Damn. I clicked on this thinking I was about to have some awesome info released about one of my favorite games ever but sadly I already knew this. oh well!
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  • Avatar for schalmers #6 schalmers 3 years ago
    Love love love this, all of this. If feels like we're hearing lots of great nuggets of trivia dropping with the releases of Super Mario Maker and Metal Gear Solid 5, and now with Hironobu-san's comments.

    As a day-one purchase, the characters in Final Fantasy VI seemed positively huge to me, coming off of endless hours spent with Cecil and his band of merry folk.

    And it makes sense sales wise: my friends with SNES's had moved on, and were busy drooling over the Japanese releases of Saturn and Playstation. Exciting times all around!
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  • Avatar for pdubb #7 pdubb 3 years ago
    It probably didn't "sell" like it should because it was $85 in mid 1990s.

    People forget how stupid expensive SNES games were in that golden age.
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  • Avatar for nitro322 #8 nitro322 3 years ago
    just for the record, I saw Sakaguchi and Final Fantasy VI mentioned in the same headline in my RSS feed and actually interrupted a conversation I was having with someone at work so I could immediately read the details.

    Sigh... I'm jonesin' way to badly for a nice, modern, FF6 remake on the 3DS.
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  • Avatar for Stepout #9 Stepout 3 years ago
    This surprises me. I always thought it did well here. Me and all my friends had it at the time. I used to have fun just watching them play it (and be jelly when they found secrets I had missed).
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  • Avatar for theblacklaser #10 theblacklaser 3 years ago
    I bought it and played it a bunch of times. It was my favorite.
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  • Avatar for SkywardShadow #11 SkywardShadow 3 years ago
    As a kid with no job, I traded in my other games and spent my saved up allowance to pay the 90 dollar price. It did seem that more of my friends owned IV than VI though.
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  • Avatar for Y7748837 #12 Y7748837 3 years ago
    I imagine many players, like me, bought it used.Edited September 2015 by Y7748837
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  • Avatar for Makgameadv #13 Makgameadv 3 years ago
    I had heard before that Final Fantasy VI (Final Fantasy 3) was expected to sell millions based on NA's population.

    I bought Final Fantasy VI when it came out from Toy's R' Us for $66 (USD) because I had rented Secret of Mana after reading about it in Nintendo Power (which advertised "From the makers of Final Fantasy on the box"), and then rented Final Fantasy 2 (IV), and read the multi-issue coverage of Final Fantasy VI in Nintendo Power. It seemed like everything Final Fantasy 2 was and more.

    I think its the kind of game that left a lasting impression on the number of people who played it when it came out even if it didn't meet sales expectations.

    According to Power+Up (Kohler), Final Fantasy VI sold 2 and a half million copies in Japan and was the 15th best selling game ever at the time. It was a top selling game in the U.S. for 1994 but was expected to sell millions in the U.S. based on the population.Edited 7 times. Last edited September 2015 by Makgameadv
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  • Avatar for sean697 #14 sean697 3 years ago
    I'd never heard that anecdote myself. But it makes sense. RPG's really didn't hit mainstream appeal anyway here till FF7. So it's all relative. Compared to FF7 and later of course it didn't sell well. They were still a niche thing among console gamers. Even if in my console gamer circle of friends I knew a lot who got it. I'd like to know how it sold here compared to FF 2(5) or the original FF.
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  • Avatar for muhammadarsal #15 muhammadarsal 3 years ago
  • Avatar for presidentcamacho #16 presidentcamacho 3 years ago
    The console market in America didn't give much of a damn about RPG's until FF7.
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  • Avatar for jeffcorry #17 jeffcorry 3 years ago
    Well. At least he can't blame me. I pre-ordered this at Software Etc., saved up my $90 (almost!), bought it at launch, and fell in love. So to speak.
    Great game, great characters, great story. Locke and Celes are my favorites...just sayin'...
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  • Avatar for peacefuloutrage #18 peacefuloutrage 3 years ago
    I enjoy Sakaguchi's games.I only wished they produced more of the recent Nintendo ones or that they were multi-platform.
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  • Avatar for SargeSmash #19 SargeSmash 3 years ago
    Very interesting to know that he acknowledges this, because I was never really under the impression that FFIII did phenomenally over here. I think time and emulation has really helped it a lot, plus the mega-popularity of FFVII leading folks to try out other entries. Which is a good thing, because I'd been evangelizing Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest/Warrior for years!
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  • Avatar for cldmstrsn #20 cldmstrsn 3 years ago
    @jeffcorry man I miss Software Etc. That was and will always be my favorite game store.
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  • Avatar for jeffcorry #21 jeffcorry 3 years ago
    @cldmstrsn It was just a little magical to teenage me. Especially in the days before Amazon and Ebay.
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  • Avatar for riderkicker #22 riderkicker 3 years ago
    @pdubb And used Japanese copies are quite cheap. Besides, most of the time if games sell very well, we wouldn't have to pay like $50 for a copy 20 years later.
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  • Avatar for alexb #23 alexb 3 years ago
    He can't really think that it's doing better in mobile form because the character sprites are larger, can he? It's cheaper, it has a legacy, and market demographics have changed enormously in the last 20 years, Gooch. It has nothing to do with the larger, more badly drawn sprites.
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  • Avatar for bobservo #24 bobservo 3 years ago
    @alexb He claimed FF didn't catch on in America until the characters were made larger in FF7. I don't think he ever implied this is why the mobile version is popular.
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  • Avatar for bishchan36 #25 bishchan36 2 years ago
    RPGs were still novel back then even if a few did relatively well. They didn't become mainstream till later. FFVII really changed that and many people got into the older FF games due to newer RPGs and have gone on to play some of the classics. Sports, beat em ups, platforms were the most popular.

    The price tag was high too so even for those of us in the know, it was far too expensive. Also it never made it to Europe so the price of a US import was even higher... for a little bit more we could just buy the new 32Bit consoles.
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