Well, I'm eating crow.
When Gamnesia first reported rumors that the release date of Final Fantasy XV would be pushed from September 30th to November 29th, I joined in with some others on the internet decrying this report as ludicrous. My rationale was largely driven by two factors.
First, I presumed that not even Square Enix would have gone through all of the ridiculous extravagance of dedicating an entire theatrical live event to a reveal date they weren't absolutely certain they would hit. Not after nearly ten years in development, right? You'd think they're pretty much done with the game and just spending these last couple months on optimization and minor fixes.
But instead, Director Hajime Tabata recorded a video to formally announce the delay, citing that the master version of the game has been completed and they are delaying the game to ensure that the day-one patch that is being worked on actually ships on the disc and is not a required download. Now, as I mentioned last night, this could certainly be an issue where what I'm about to saying is coming from a place of ignorance, but wouldn't this just mean that the "master version" of the game isn't really the master version and this version with the patch (which apparently isn't complete yet) would be the real "master version?" It all seems like a case of semantics, where he is saying a version of the game has gone gold but it's not actually the version of the game anyone will receive because everyone will be getting this day-one patch.
Given the timing of the announcement, I imagine a lot of people will try to connect this to all of the recent drama surrounding No Man's Sky's reality where a day-one patch drastically altered aspects of the game and didn't publish to servers until right before launch. But I would argue that this decision was made well in advance of the No Man's Sky stories that hit in the last week or so, as evidenced by collateral having already been sent out to Gamestops showing out to update their in-store displays. So while the two games represent opposite sides of the same coin, I don't imagine these decisions were at all made in response or even with knowledge of one another.
As to my second reason. My argument via Twitter (in a tweet shown below) was that the decision to shift the release date from the Friday, September 30th release to Tuesday, November 29th makes terrible business sense. This timeline has it releasing right after the busiest shopping weekend on the year in the United States (arguably one of the top two markets for the game). So when people like my mother who still line up for Black Friday deals go out to do their holiday shopping the game won't be on the shelves yet.
Would pushing the game for a global release of Friday, November 25th really been that much harder to manage?!
Speaking, once again, from my completely uninformed and certainly naive perception of game development, here are four things I presume Square Enix could have avoided in order to at least hit the November 25th release date, if not the embarrassingly loudly touted September 30th.
- Episode Duscae patches: When Final Fantasy Type-0 HD launched on PlayStation 4, many people (myself included) purchased it for the sole purpose of experiencing the pack-in demo of the long-awaited Final Fantasy XV Episode Duscae. It was very reminiscent of purchasing Dragon Quest VIII to also get the Final Fantasy XII demo (though I thoroughly enjoyed Dragon Quest VIII as well) or perhaps even more apropros: buying Zone of the Enders for the Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty demo back on the PlayStation 2. Great! It gave a good feel for where the game's mechanics were headed and players were able to provide feedback. But then Square Enix devoted resources to building patches for the demo when, I would have to guess they could have been working on the core game instead.
- Final Fantasy XV Platinum Demo: One of the night-of takeaways from the March Uncovered event was the release of a second demo. This demo showed off a slightly more up-to-date take on the mechanics of the game albeit with a very cutesy childlike aesthetic. It also included interactive plates showcasing things like day-night cycles or weather effects. It was, very much, a true tech demo. But not really necessary. The entire experience was roughly a half-hour. Sure, it featured a couple Easter Eggs hidden for those who spent even more time with it. But again, this entire project could have been scrapped with the resources instead dedicated to the proper game.
- Final Fantasy XV PS VR Experience: Revealed during Sony's E3 press conference, pretty much every account I've read or heard of this has been negative. The experience has you playing as Prompto in the climactic battle against the Behemoth from the aforementioned Episode Duscae demo. You can warp to a few locations around the battlefield and shoot at the Behemoth until he dies. Then apparently you can sidle up nice and close with Cindy, the mechanic who seems to be wearing too small of a jacket. Why did this need to be made? Will I actually be playing this when PS VR releases in October ahead of the game itself at this point?
- Final Fantasy XV Season Pass DLC plans: Cleverly announced last week, just ahead of the rumors of the delay, the Season Pass will include a Booster Pack for some powerful weapons, a Holiday Item Pack, Episodes focused on party members Gladiolus, Ignis, and Prompto, and an unspecified Expansion Pack that may or may not refer to the aforementioned VR experience (though I'm not quite sure how that would work for Xbox versions of the game). Now I'm not looking to go down the rabbit hole of Season Passes or DLC and when they should be announced in relationship to a game's launch. For the most part, I view them as a way for publishers to artificially increase the price of the game since prices are, for the most part, the cheapest they've been in years having been largely locked at the $60 price point (U.S.) for a decade or so now. They're effectively selling "the full game" for $85 with the season pass. But if the DLC plan directly impacts the schedule of the core game's release (as may have been the case here), then they are a problem in my eyes. And adding to the dubious nature is the timing of the announcement. Knowing that they wanted to push the season pass just days before announcing the delay leaves a really bad taste in my mouth.
I long ago let my expectations for this game fall off a cliff. Hopefully, if I am expecting so little from it, I'll be pleasantly surprised by even a mediocre game. I know it isn't the return to form I would love to see from the franchise (god I'd love to see something like a Final Fantasy IX in the modern era). And on the whole, I have no problem with game delays as a game is theoretically never going to be a worse game because it got delayed. The delays might not make it a great or even good game but they will make it a better game that whatever shape it would have been in.
That said, this delay and the entire story surrounding it seem really dumb. But we'll see how this 10-year journey plays out November 29th.