How Final Fantasy XVI respects the series’ past and embraces the future

Developing a new numbered Final Fantasy game is a balancing act. Players have expectations of what they’ll encounter but still crave elements that change up and build upon established series traditions. But even those have to start somewhere: many elements commonly associated with Final Fantasy as a whole–Chocobos, Moogles, summons, and beloved job classes and abilities–were, at one point, completely alien to the series. Finding a delicate balance between tradition and innovation is always challenging, especially so with Final Fantasy XVI, the first numbered game in the long-running series to fully eschew menu-driven battles in favor of real-time combat.

From active time battle to fighting in real-time

Elements of action gameplay have evolved in Final Fantasy over time, beginning with the implementation of the “Active Time Battle” system in Final Fantasy IV. This upped the pressure on players by forcing them to respond quickly and consider the order in which enemies and allies would be able to act. Waffling on crucial decisions could prove costly, as foes would continue their onslaught no matter how long it took you to input your commands. (If you want to check out the genesis of Active Time Battle, you can play the Final Fantasy IV-VI Pixel Remasters now available on PlayStation.)

Active Time Battle would serve as the mechanical basis for most numbered Final Fantasy games going forward, with the positioning-driven open-field combat of Final Fantasy XII and the dynamic, on-the-fly role-swapping battles of the Final Fantasy XIII saga building on many of the concepts ATB solidified. Final Fantasy XV moved many of the typical menu commands to face buttons, shifting combat in a decidedly action-focused direction.

Even with this gradual evolution, many modern Final Fantasy games, notably the Final Fantasy VII Remake series, still use some hybrid of menu- and action-driven gameplay. FFXVI going full-on action-RPG surprised many hardcore fans, who wondered how this may impact the “essence” of Final Fantasy. To talk about developing FFXVI to evolve the franchise while satisfying existing fans, we sat down with producer Naoki Yoshida and director Hiroshi Takai to dive deeper into their process.

Action and drama make for great stories

Yoshida’s love for Final Fantasy blossomed from the very beginning of the series. “Final Fantasy I was an important gaming experience for me,” he says. “I bought it on launch day, and I remember how confused I was when I booted it up and there was no title screen. Then you leave town and cross the bridge, and up comes the Final Fantasy logo! I was blown away that a video game could feel so cinematic, and that’s what I wanted to recapture with this new game—the feeling that you’re playing the leading role in an epic movie.” 

“So yes, I grew up on turn-based RPGs, and they still have a special place in my heart,” he remarks.

“We decided to go with real-time combat in FFXVI for two main reasons. The first is simply that most of the members of our development team are gamers, and recently, most of us have been into action games. The controller-gripping combat in those games really makes you want to pour hours into them. The other reason is that, in today’s market, going with an action combat system that anyone can get to grips with quickly and easily was our best way of appealing to the largest audience.

“By interweaving the real-time action with a fantastical story, we believed that we could create a game that was still Final Fantasy at heart. And, of course, when we say we want to appeal to the largest audience possible, that includes stalwart fans of turn-based games and those who aren’t the greatest at action games, too. We’ve put systems in place so that anyone of any skill level can enjoy the game just as much as a seasoned action gamer—maybe even more.”

Soul of Final Fantasy

Yoshida, a veteran producer who helmed the universally praised reboot of Final Fantasy XIV, also recognizes the expectations that come with the Final Fantasy name. “Making things different for the sake of it is the easy option,” he says. “For me, the key elements to an FF game are the cinematic presentation, the gripping story, and the battle system that underpins it all–not to mention the cutting-edge graphics and evocative soundscape. The combination of all those things, plus the fact that the world, story, and characters change with each installment, makes it feel like a series that is always breaking new boundaries. As Hironobu Sakaguchi, the father of the series, once said, ‘Final Fantasy is what the director at the time thinks is best.’”

LeBron James Limited Edition PS5 accessories launch in select markets on July 27

From Akron to the global stage, LeBron James continues to inspire the world with his tireless work ethic, championship spirit and remarkable achievements on the court and in his community. Today, we’re excited to share details on how players in select markets can secure our first design collaboration with LeBron and the first ever limited-edition PlayStation accessories co-designed with a cultural icon.

On July 27, the LeBron James Limited Edition PS5 console cover will launch in the U.S. exclusively through direct.playstation.com for $64.99. Players will be able to pre-order directly from PlayStation starting this Thursday, June 29, while supplies last.

The LeBron James Limited Edition DualSense wireless controller will also launch on July 27 in the U.S. and additional countries, including the U.K., France, Germany, Austria, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Benelux. Preorders for the controller will be available in these countries starting this Thursday, June 29, exclusively through direct.playstation.com. Additionally, fans in Canada can preorder the controller from participating retailers, starting this Thursday.

The controller will be available for a suggested retail price of $79.99 / €79.99 / £69.99 / $99.99 CAD, while supplies last.

Featuring elements inspired by LeBron’s love for gaming and community, the LeBron James Limited Edition PS5 accessories are a true passion project co-created with LeBron. With memorable phrases such as, “Nothing is given. Everything is earned,” the accessories feature personal imagery and adages that have been meaningful throughout LeBron’s journey as a game-changing athlete, global inspiration for millions, and PlayStation Playmaker.

PlayStation Mobile has lost another top exec

PlayStation’s mobile division has lost another top executive, weeks after confirmation of a change of leadership.

As reported by MobileGamer.biz, Michail Katkoff, who was the managing director of recently-acquired Savage Game Studios, has announced he’s leaving the company less than a year after it was acquired by Sony.

“I’d like to believe I’ve done my fair part in taking the company from zero to one,” he said on LinkedIn. “Now I’m eager to watch from the side as Nadjim and Mike take it from one to one hundred.

“In the same breath, I wish nothing but the best to Olivier Courtemarche and Kris Davis who are leading PlayStation’s charge onto mobile. Can’t wait to play all the amazing games from all the fantastic developers!”

Although Savage is a relatively new studio established in 2020, it was co-founded by veteran mobile developers Katkoff (Rovio, Zynga), Nadjim Adjir (Wargaming, Rovio) and Michael McManus (Wargaming, Insomniac).

Confirmation of Katkoff’s exit comes just weeks after news of a leadership change at PlayStation Mobile. Nicola Sebastiani was a high-profile appointment when he joined in 2021, having previously led Apple Arcade.

Over the past two years, SIE has quietly built a team of experienced mobile talent, hiring people from Apple, Kabam, Meta, Tencent, Super Evil Megacorp, Samsung, Niantic, Zynga, Riot and more.

Speaking during a business briefing last year, SIE president Jim Ryan said the company expected half of its annual releases to be on PC and mobile by 2025.

Disney Speedstorm confirmed for free-to-play launch in September

Disney Speedstorm will officially release on September 28 as a free-to-play title on PC & consoles, completing its Early Access period.

The kart-racer launched in April 18 in Early Access via three separate premium versions, each offering different additional content.

The game was always planned to release as a free-to-play title at a later date.

“Since the launch of Early Access, we’ve received invaluable feedback and support from our incredible community of players, who have been instrumental to the improvements made during Early Access,” developer Gameloft said.

“Moving to a free-to-play experience will also allow for more players to share in a fully robust competitive and co-op racing experience. We can’t wait to continue this journey together as we enter this exciting new phase. Stay tuned for more details!”

Premium Founder’s Packs will remain available until Early Access closes, the developer said.

Sony accidently reveals confidential Call of Duty player and revenue data

Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) has inadvertently revealed highly sensitive details about the PlayStation business.

In addition to laying bare the scale of its budgets for modern blockbusters like The Last of Us Part 2 and Horizon Forbidden West, poorly redacted documents published as part of the Microsoft vs. FTC court battle have shone a light on the importance of Activision‘s Call of Duty business to Sony.

As reported by The Verge, the confidential information was seemingly redacted with a pen, but when the documents were scanned some details remained clearly visible. After this was realised, the documents were pulled from public viewing.

One document provided by SIE boss Jim Ryan to the FTC, which is seeking to block Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard, highlighted the level of engagement of Call of Duty players on PlayStation consoles. It appears to read:

“In 2021, over [14?] million users (by device) spent 30 percent or more of their time playing Call of Duty, over 6 million users spent more than 70% of their time on Call of Duty, and about 1 million users spent 100% of their gaming time on Call of Duty.

“In 2021, Call of Duty players spent an average of [116?] hours per year playing Call of Duty. Call of Duty players spending more than 70 percent of their time on Call of Duty spent an average of 296 hours on the franchise.”

It was recently confirmed that Call of Duty software accounted for over $1 billion in sales on PlayStation consoles in 2021.

According to The Verge, Sony’s redacted document suggests Call of Duty games were worth $800 million for PlayStation revenue in the US alone that year — and seemingly $1.5 billion globally.

That figure jumps considerably when also factoring in Call of Duty players’ average annual platform spending on PlayStation hardware, accessories, subscriptions and services. The Verge claims the redacted figure appears to be $15.9 billion a year (or perhaps $13.9 billion).

Additionally, the document confirms that Sony’s existing marketing deal with Activision includes only one more Call of Duty game. “[T]he last game covered by the contract is a Call of Duty title to be released in late 2023,” it reads.

The next mainline series entry will reportedly be a continuation of last year’s Modern Warfare 2, developed by Sledgehammer Games.

Sony has previously suggested that Microsoft could release degraded versions of Call of Duty games for PlayStation consoles should it acquire Activision – claims the Xbox maker has rejected.

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