Yoshinori Kitase is a name that many will recognize as being the director of major titles like Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy X, and Final Fantasy XIII. He’s also a producer for the upcoming Final Fantasy VII Remake. In addition to all of these roles, Kitase-san is the executive producer for Mobius Final Fantasy, a Final Fantasy game that began on mobile and has since expanded to PC.
Mobius Final Fantasy recently reached the first anniversary of it’s release on the global market, and at PAX West 2017, we got to speak with Kitase-san about the game’s first worldwide year.
Jordan: Mobius Final Fantasy has been released on mobile platforms and on PC. Is there any possibility of the game coming to consoles?
Yoshinori Kitase: So, we do only currently have it on PC and mobile and we don’t have any detailed plans to expand that to console. One issue that we would have to overcome is that in Mobius Final Fantasy you can purchase currency for in-game items.
For PC and mobile we could link the save data so that you could have one account for both platforms and just play it on whichever platform you would like to at that time, but other platforms have their own policy when it comes to in-game currency and purchases you make on games and so we would have to overcome that barrier first.
So, as long as we aren’t able to do that, we won’t be able to release on any other platform.
J: Mobius Final Fantasy just celebrated its first anniversary. With one year behind it, what do you consider to be its greatest triumphs?
YK: As a mobile title for Square Enix, this is actually the first time when we, ourselves as developers have directly released to all of the regions: Japan of course, but North America, Europe, and Asia combined.
So, to be able to release this mobile title globally from our own in-house development team is one thing that I think is a triumph.
J: Was there any concern that releasing across a global market might cause certain areas to not translate quite as well to individual regions?
YK: Before we released the game globally, the system where you were able to obtain cards for your deck was different. The Japanese version had the gacha system implemented. Before we released the global version, we felt that maybe the Western market was not really fond of the gacha system, so we had a different type of card-obtaining system in the game when we started.
However, as we moved along with the game, there were a lot of fans who already had knowledge of the Japanese version, which was a little ahead of their system since the game had already been released Japan for a year. With that information, they were telling us that they just wanted to have equal opportunities to the Japanese market.
They wanted to have the same system. So, we gradually shifted our card obtaining method from what we had in the global version to be really similar to what Japan has with the gacha system. I was very surprised that that was what the western audience wanted, but we did make that change.
J: Again, with the game’s first anniversary, you presumably have had time to reflect on the game’s progress. As a flipside to its success, where do you think the game has misstepped?
YK: This isn’t really something we feel was a mistake. However, the way that you were able to obtain currency within the game was a little different in the Japanese version to the North American version when we released globally.
Ofcourse aside from purchasing it, in the Japanese version, you were able to obtain the in-game currency by way of a random drop or loot. For the global version, we felt that the western market might not like that system because it was random. So, we had a system in-place where after a little bit of time has passed, you would be able to obtain currency no matter what.
We had that system implemented at first, and as we moved along within the year, we received a lot of feedback from the western audience that they actually wanted that random drop as well. They wanted it to be similar to Japan’s system. So, with the one-year anniversary update that we just had, we changed the game so that you are able to obtain in-game currency by monster drops.
In the North American version, it’s not that we did away with that system where the currency will charge and you will be able to obtain it. It’s still there and you’ll still be able to get the drops from monsters on top of that, but we don’t have that timed-charge system in the Japanese version, so please don’t tell our Japanese players that in the global version you’re able to get in-game currency that way too [laughs].
J: I make no promises!
J: So, in the past year, Mobius Final Fantasy has seen a few crossovers with upcoming titles. Any hints for what we can expect from the next one?
YK: We have a Final Fantasy XIII collaboration going through October and it features Lightning in very high quality content.
What’svery unique about this collaboration is that, although Final Fantasy XIII and all of the characters from it have collaborated with other titles, in this case, the development team that is working on Mobius Final Fantasy actually worked on Final Fantasy XIII before Mobius Final Fantasy. So, we’ve used the original in-game data from XIII and converted for Mobius.
Not only that, but all of the creators from XIII are involved with this collaboration. We are creating it in a way where it is a new storyline for Final Fantasy XIII.
J: It, of course, makes sense that the team would want a collaboration with Final Fantasy XIII, but what other kinds of factors go into deciding on a collaboration with Mobius Final Fantasy?
YK: It really depends on the title. For instance, we did have a collaboration with Terra Battle, which is not a Square Enix title. However, Mr. Sakaguchi, the creator of Final Fantasy, is working on Terra Battle at his company, Mistwalker.
Since we are friends, or more like master and student, we talk with each other and decided we wanted to do this collaboration, so we went ahead and did it. So, it really depends on the title.
J: It seems clear to me that Square Enix is dedicated to the continued support of Mobius Final Fantasy. What kinds of major updates or plans can we expect from the game over the next year?
YK: It’s really difficult to envision what will happen one year from now, but the Japanese version was released a year before the global version and it’s further ahead in terms of storyline and content updates and we just finished the first season there.
We are currently in the midst of preparing for our second season. With the second season, we are thinking of adding more playable characters, more system implementations, but we’re actually right in the middle of planning that right now, so nothing has been finalized.
I do anticipate that we will have a big update when we release Season 2, but because we still don’t know, I don’t think we have a concrete answer as to what kind of big updates we might be able to expect one year from now.
J: Mobius Final Fantasy seems like a game that will continue to evolve over time. Do you expect it to continue evolving into the future or do you see a sequel being released at some point?
YK: With the release of our second season, we will continue to utilize the base mechanics of Mobius Final Fantasy, and it will only be slightly changed or updated. From there, we really don’t know what we will do. I’m not even sure if we will utilize our experience with Mobius Final Fantasy to create another title. I don’t have any plans at this moment.
Now that we have finished one year in the West and two years in Japan, and we are releasing part two of Mobius Final Fantasy in Japan, this is actually our first experience with all of this.
With Season 2, we’re introducing new characters and storylines, but because it’s our first time doing this ever, we don’t even know if players from the first season will come back for Season 2.
Wedon’t have any insight as to what will happen, so that’s something that is new ground for us. We don’t know what lies ahead. That’s something we have to explore.
J: You might say that mobile players tend to be a more casual kind of player. Is there any concern that Mobius Final Fantasy might grow so large that it turns off that casual market?
YK: We’ve found that a lot of the players of Mobius Final Fantasy are hardcore gamers. They aren’t really casual users. I’m not sure if I should say it this way, but our game is a little difficult to tackle to begin with. It’s made for core gamers. It’s not made to be casual. I do think that’s okay for us.
When we released this game, the mobile market was so full of casual puzzle games and action games. We wanted to create a Final Fantasy experience that was a meaty game on the mobile platform. We made it in a way so that it is for a hardcore gamer. It is a hardcore game, and I’m okay with that.
I have meetings every morning to look at player data and all of the other data from the day before. We look at that data and we discuss what we should do next, what content we should create next. Every time, the topic comes up that we don’t have enough content for the casual gamer.
Wealways talk about what we can do to create the content for the casual gamer, or something that is easier for the first-time player. It always comes up in that discussion, but in the end we end up creating something that is more for the core gamer, so that’s where we stand right now.
J: Bringing a full Final Fantasy game to the mobile market must have been a difficult endeavor. Since mobile isn’t traditionally considered conducive to story, Final Fantasy players might not look to a mobile platform for their games. Do you feel Mobius Final Fantasy has been successful despite this preconception?
YK: It was actually because of that preconception that we released on the mobile platform. Because no one else was doing it, we looked to mobile to release a content-rich, full RPG.
The hardware itself has enough specs as a gaming platform, so it is possible to create rich content on mobile. I think other teams probably don’t reach out to the mobile platform to create such a game because they either don’t have the technology, technique, or experience to do it or they don’t have the courage. I feel that our team is actually the only team that has been able to do that, at least at this moment in time.
When we released Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster on console, we had the opportunity to communicate with North American fans, and they told us that even though it’s been ten or fifteen years from when that game released, they still felt moved and touched by that story.
Werealized that the story was something that just lived on in their memories. The history isn’t really there yet, but when we looked at mobile gaming, there didn’t seem to be any title there that had that kind of storyline or potential where people would look back and say that they were moved by it.
Wewanted to be that first title where ten years from now, when looking back at your mobile gaming history, this is the game that you look at and say, ‘I was so moved by that title.’
J: Based on what you’re saying, it seems almost like you were trying to pull hardcore gamers to the mobile market, but would you say that you found hardcore gamers in the mobile market?
YK: When we were first creating Mobius Final Fantasy, when we looked at the specs for mobile devices, they were strong enough where we felt able to create a high quality game there. At that time, there weren’t that many hardcore gamers on the mobile platform, but we envisioned the future two years, five years, ten years from that moment where hardcore gamers would begin to play on the mobile platform.
They will of course play on their dedicated platforms as well, but we felt that the mobile device would become a platform where hardcore gamers would start to play, that they would use it like any other gaming platform. We wanted to really get into that market as early as possible.
Right now, not only our titles but other AAA titles, like Call of Duty, Battlefield, or Uncharted, release the main game on console and then release some kind of app on mobile as some kind of promotional material. That’s where we are currently standing, but I do feel that five years or ten years from now, there will be a AAA title that will release its numbered title on a mobile platform. I do see the possibility of that happening.
J: I imagine that many from the Mobius Final Fantasy team are working on other projects and not necessarily supporting the game full-time. Is that an appropriate assumption?
YK: Most are actually still working on Mobius Final Fantasy. However, since the division that I oversee also works on Final Fantasy VII Remake, there has been a little bit of overlap there.
J: Has any of the game’s continued production or development moved outside of Square Enix over the past year?
YK: Graphical resources, like background art or character modeling does get outsourced from time-to-time, but that’s not because this is a mobile title. We do that for our numbered titles as well.
That’s the normal process for us. But the core development team members, like the programmers, the planners, the developers, they are all in-house. We’ve never outsource that.
Wetake the same workflow or team composition [for Mobius Final Fantasy] as we would do any console title.
J: Do you feel the experience developing and supporting Mobius Final Fantasy will encourage the development of other Square Enix mobile titles?
YK: Aside from Mobius Final Fantasy, at Square Enix, there’s only one other title that is actually completely in-house developed. This is not to say that we aren’t sharing our experiences or that there isn’t any other team learning from us, but I think it’s impossible for them to take our experience and work on another title because they mostly outsource with their development partners. They just take a different approach into creating a title.
I think that it would be impossible for another team to create a mobile title of this quality with an in-house development. I think that that is something only our team can do. That is unique to our team. I don’t think that our experience would actually be useful for any other team.
That being said about the development experience, other elements for the game such as events and collaboration of content, we do share information with other teams about what kind of content players or fans of our titles are responding to the most.
Forexample, Final Fantasy: Brave Exvius is another title that has been released globally, and we do receive information from them and we reference that when we decide what we want to do with our title.
J: With the free-to-play model, the concern for most players is that it becomes pay-to-win, so much so that “free to play” has almost become a dirty word in gaming culture. How do you feel Mobius Final Fantasy has fared in avoiding a pay-to-win environment?
YK: It’s not that we looked at every single game in the market, but when we were releasing the game in Japan, we looked at how in-game currency was obtainable in a game. In our game, we made sure that you would be able to get it from monster drops. You wouldn’t have to pay to get that currency.
Ofcourse, if you do pay to purchase in-game currency it will make you stronger faster, giving you a slight shortcut than if you don’t do that, but you don’t necessarily have to pay.
Aslong as you keep fighting monsters, you will get that in-game currency and you will receive and enjoy the same functions and mechanics as paying users. I think that was something that we did that was unique when we started the game.
J: To those out there who have yet to try Mobius Final Fantasy, what would you say is the game’s strongest aspect?
YK: There are two things that I would note. First, it is a Final Fantasy title on a mobile device, and because it is a Final Fantasy title, it is created in top-quality as much as possible: graphics, scenario, sheer volume of gameplay. It’s something that surpasses all mobile titles in the market right now.
Whenyou compare it to other Final Fantasy titles, it feels similar. It doesn’t feel different, so that is one unique quality that our game has.
Second, we feature collaborations with past titles, one example being the Final Fantasy XIII collaboration. While Lightning has appeared in other Final Fantasy titles, she appears there more as a guest.
Theyuse her character and stay within the lore of Final Fantasy XIII, but they bring her into a game as a special guest. Because the core members of Mobius Final Fantasy are the actual developers of Final Fantasy XIII, she’s not a guest here. It’s more of a new story for her. I feel that is a unique aspect of this game that only we can do.
J: Do you feel there is something here even for those who have never played a Final Fantasy game?
YK: The gaming system, as mentioned earlier, is not simple. There is a bit of a learning curve, and that is the same for all of our numbered [Final Fantasy] titles.
As we progress along, the game systems become more complicated, but the first thing you would notice in any of those games, or in our game, is the story and the characters and the drama that we create. That’s what everyone gets into and it’s something that’s not too complex and something that everyone can enjoy.
Forour title, the story and character have a draw that pulls you in and once you get into it, the gameplay becomes something you gradually get used to. I believe that, in that sense, it’s a game that anyone can enjoy.
Mobius Final Fantasy is currently available on iOS and Android devices, as well as on PC. It started its Final Fantasy XIII crossover event back in September, but it has also had collaborations with Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy XV, and Terra Battle.
For more information on Mobius Final Fantasy, definitely check out Square Enix’s dedicated webpage for the game.