This past weekend, during PAX West 2016, I got the chance to sit down and speak with producer Hiroki Fujimoto about his latest game: Final Fantasy Brave Exvius.
Fujimoto’s previous work includes Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen, Pokémate, and the smartphone versions of Final Fantasy III through VI. He is also responsible for bringing the Russian, Brazilian, Portuguese, Thai, Korean, and Chinese languages to those titles, which were previously unavailable in the series.
Since Final Fantasy Brave Exvius launched worldwide at the end of June on iOS and Android phones, Fujimoto was able to talk about the reception the game in the West, discuss future plans to support the game and expand it to new storefronts, as well as one of his daily routines as producer.
Steven Santana: Many consider Brave Exvius the best mobile Final Fantasy. Is there any chance that it might appear on consoles (even just portables like Vita and 3DS) or even PC?
Hiroki Fujimoto: We don’t have anything planned at this moment. Especially because this game is created specifically for a touch-controlled device. We would have to try to figure out how to overcome, or how to create a UI for different devices as well as change the controllability for devices. That being said, if the question is, “Are you not considering it at all?” then the answer would be no. I would like to have this world, the Brave Exvius world on different devices. I am thinking in the future for a way for this world that we created to become available in different mediums.
SS: How was the reception of Brave Exvius in the West?
HF: It has been a little over two months since we released the title in the West but we have already acquired six million downloads over the course of two months. And we have gotten more than a hundred thousand likes on our Facebook pages and other community sites that we have. I am just very glad that we do have a lot of users that appreciate and are enjoying this title.
We currently have two versions of the game, one is the Japanese version that we launched October of last year. Then we have the global version. Not only did we bring over the Japanese version, we did also add new mechanics and change a little bit for the Western version. For instance the Facebook login or the daily quests we added in for the Western audience. Even for the game balance, all of our updates, and live balance, we did use the Japanese version as reference but we did adjust from what we have been seeing in that version and changed that for the Western version as well.
And we do have a little bit of information to reveal for you that we have planned for the fall. What we have not done in the Japanese version but are planning to do is take a favorite character poll on our social networks and whatever character had the highest popularity, we are thinking of adding them in as summons. The characters you see here are the ones that have been the most popular recently.
SS: Where are those polls pulled from, how is it dispersed to the community?
HF: We actually already started taking this poll on Facebook.
This poll started today, from yesterday at midnight, but we did add new characters into the title from Final Fantasy VI. These characters, not only are they really popular as a character, but also have unique techniques that they use in the game and it will be interesting to see how the players use them.
SS: Are you potentially going to have a community event centered around Final Fantasy XV upon its release?
HF: I do think about the possibility to do that, but at this time right now all we have is the want to do it and nothing concrete yet.
We do have various events that we are planning for in the future, from Final Fantasy IV, a Final Fantasy Tactics event. We are developing the game alongside the developer Gumi and will be doing a collaboration with their game called Brave Frontier. And we also have a Halloween event which we have never done in Japan. Since it is a more Western market we were thinking of doing a Halloween event.
SS: Are there any Japan holiday events that you could compare to the Halloween event?
HF: About a month ago, because it is summer, we had a bathing suit character event. And we did do a Valentines event this February. In Japan, culturally, it is a day where a girl gives a chocolate to a guy. The event then was about getting chocolate from these different characters, trying to collect chocolate from them.
In the game there is a thing called the Trust Master which if you get it in the game you can get new abilities and items. This Trust Master is really hard to acquire, and it takes a lot of time to obtain everything you want through this Trust Master. Now we have this new feature named the Trust Moogle. If you get it, it will help you gain these abilities and items much faster.
Lighting is a character that is very popular from the Final Fantasy XIII series. When we released her in Japan we received great feedback from users, and she is a very strong character in the game as well so we plan on bringing her to the app very soon. Right now currently in Brave Exvius we don’t have any characters from Final Fantasy XIII, so she will be the first Final Fantasy XIII character to appear in our game.
For the future plans that we have, currently our title is available on iOS and Android but we plan on releasing in the Amazon App Store in mid-September, so in a couple of weeks. This kind of goes along with what I mentioned earlier about bringing this world of Brave Exvius to different mediums. And because we are going to have it on the Amazon App Store we are thinking about selling some shirts for Brave Exvius through Amazon.
This is more about the gameplay mechanics… We are planning on implementing PvP battles in there as well.
SS: That must be very tough for balancing.
HF: It won’t be a real time battle between the players. You will be battling against the other player’s party that they have set up. There will be a ranking system, so you will be battling another player who has a higher ranking to reach a higher ranking in that chart. And if you just do a simple ranking chart, you will end up having one character as the strongest, or you will have a party of characters that everyone will try to get. I believe that wouldn’t be as interesting, so we are going to have different sets of rules, or different types of requirements for different types of rankings. Every week we will have a different set of rules that you would have to follow. You will have to use that set of characters or that set of party, so there will not be a single party that is the strongest. Instead you will have to have different types of characters for different kinds of parties to reach these rankings.
Right now there may be some characters that you don’t think are as important or as strong, that you wouldn’t use as much. Depending on the ranking or requirement for that week, it would become the strongest. We want to add more strategy, and that would add more value, to these certain types of characters and increase the interest in gameplay for this title.
SS: At the moment the free to play model with optional purchases seems to be the most widespread among mobile games, especially at Square Enix, with the buy to play model more or less limited to re-releases of older titles. Do you think there is still room to release fully new mobile games that you fully buy like a console game, or free to play remains the way to go for the future?
HF: I do think that there is more possibility for us to release these premium or purchase to play types of games. For example we just released Adventures of Mana a couple of weeks ago. I do believe there is a possibility to release more of those in the future. I do feel like more of the customers who are downloading theses games are wanting more free to play titles and that is why we lean towards that more right now. That being said, I don’t think there won’t be any more purchase to play games.
SS: Has free to play been successful compared to selling games at a premium on mobile devices?
HF: This is actually a very important topic that we are constantly thinking about. Currently most of the titles have that business scheme, where you look for the whales within the large users. I feel that is not the only shape that these free to play games can take. I am constantly thinking about how to create a game where everyone that is playing the game will pitch in a dollar to play the game. Or there is something in there that the users will want to pitch in a dollar to play the game. I feel like everyone who is creating free to play games are constantly striving to look for that app model. If someone even comes up with a successful model, everyone is going to start making that kind of game and that is something we are all looking for right now.
SS: What is your day to day job like as a Producer for Final Fantasy Brave Exvius?
HF: First off all of the life outside of this game is Gumi, which is our partner in this title. I always talk with them and discuss with them how to make this an enjoyable game for the user, how to create something that wold be more enjoyable. As I discuss that with them. I also discuss with our marketing team how to promote this title to bring it out in front of everyone. I also play games from other companies to see what is successful, what i like doing, what is great, and how to incorporate that into this title. That is the gist of my work.
There is actually one important thing I do every morning. KPI [Key Performance Indicator] is very important for apps or mobile titles, so every day when I come into the office the first thing I do is take a look at these KPI numbers. I take a look at that, and send them to Gumi who is doing all the live ops, and discuss with them. “This KPI is like this so why not try this?” I try to create a discussion and I do that every morning. That is an important part of my job.
SS: What is an example of another game that you have wanted to incorporate into your own work?
HF: One game I was very into was Clash Royale. That is because the rules are very simple, one game is very short. What I felt from playing that game is it is very fun to play with others, and it is very exciting in such a short time. I am constantly thinking how to incorporate and how to enjoy playing with others, so that is something I thought from playing that game.
SS: Are there any significant region-to.region differences looking at the data for the app and comparing them?
HF: The first thing that I noticed was just the sheer amount of downloads was different. When you think about Japan compared to the rest of the world, it makes sense, but just looking at the speed of download numbers the increase in speed was very different. I think the greatest difference is the A.R.P.P.U. It is the average amount of money that users will spend. It’ss much higher in Japan, it is actually about three times higher in Japan. I think that is the stark difference between Japanese mobile game players and the rest of the world.
SS: Final Fantasy Tactics is perhaps my favorite game in the series so I was curious if the event will just be introducing characters from Tactics or something more involved?
HF: Until now all of our events have been like Final Fantasy Brave Exvius original. For Tactics we are actually planning to not recreate a scene, but create an event where you can take a look at the Final Fantasy Tactics world and be able to experience that world and that story once again. Just to give you a brief on the setting of Brave Exvius, there is a element called vision. All the characters you see from previous titles are visions from the previous titles. What you will be able to do is have a vision of Final Fantasy Tactics. The world of Final Fantasy Tactics will be recreated within the world of Final Fantasy Brave Exvius, just the way this app is, the aesthetics of this app. You will be able to see the world of Final Fantasy Tactics through the game, and you will be able to summon the characters as visions.
SS: Where would you like to see Final Fantasy Brave Exvius go forward from here?
HF: This title is actually the first Final Fantasy title with an original story that had a worldwide release for the smartphone. Because of that we have six languages available in this title, but I want to increase the languages available. Like I mentioned earlier, we are releasing on the Amazon App Store but I want to be available through any kind of platform. To increase the places this will be available for the future. I just want more people in the world to experience Final Fantasy. Of course this title as well, but just experience Final Fantasy and touch upon the world of Final Fantasy.