The publishing house “Peter” this January released on the shelves “500 years later: Final Fantasy VII“, a book on the history of the creation of one of the most commercially successful and highly valuable parts of the series. We tell you about the book and share a small excerpt from it.

In the original, the work is called 500 Years Later: An Oral History of Final Fantasy VII. It was originally published as a special on the pages of Polygon in honor of the 20th anniversary of the game. The article was a set of interviews with the developers of Final Fantasy VII about various aspects of working on it.

Its author, the journalist of the publication Matt Leon, spoke with more than 30 speakers. On the basis of conversations with them, he prepared material that turned out to be quite comparable in volume to books. At least, this is the conclusion reached by readers who asked Polygon to release the volume in physical format.

The publication decided that publishing the article as a book was a good idea, and launched a campaign to raise funds for the release of a print edition on Kickstarter. During the campaign, instead of the requested £38,000, £72,000 was raised. Thanks to this, the work appeared in book format in English.

The book is published in Russian by “Peter”.

3.7 Square enter the Western market

Judging by previous Final Fantasy, Square’s executive management had no doubt that Final Fantasy VII would sell well in the country. And so it happened: in the first week, more than two million copies were bought, and in total more than four million copies were sold in Japan for the PlayStation 1. But North America and Europe are completely different markets. At that time, Japanese role-playing games had their own specific audience in the West, and the Final Fantasy series could not go beyond this small but loyal audience.

The western release of FFVII was approaching, Square closed its sales office in Washington and hired two newcomers to the gaming industry to open a new office in Costa Mesa in California, launching the company and the series from scratch in the West.

Yoshihiro Maruyama, Executive Vice President of Square USA: At that time, more than 95% of Squaresoft’s revenue came from the Japanese market, and the remaining 5% from the American market, although perhaps 1% or 2% of them came from Europe. The company also wanted to take the business outside of Japan. That’s why I was invited.

Jun Iwasaki, Vice President of Marketing, Square USA: I knew [producer-publisher FFVII] Shinji Hashimoto from Square has been working at an advertising agency in Tokyo ever since. One day he called me and told me: “We are launching a big project, Final Fantasy VII, and we want to sell it all over the world.” Then he said that he was looking for a person who would be engaged in sales in the American market.

And I asked: “What? The American market?” because he didn’t speak English very well. [Laughs] But he replied, “It doesn’t matter. If you are interested, please contact me.”

Yoshihiro: My first assignment at Squaresoft was to move the office from Redmond, Washington to California.

Jun: The timing was well chosen, as Square moved from Nintendo to Sony. Square’s office used to be in Seattle because the Nintendo office was nearby. But Sakaguchi-san decided to close the Seattle office, and everyone who worked there left.

Yoshihiro: Square USA Executive Vice President Sakaguchi-san opened a development studio [originally called Square L.A., and then Square USA] in Marina del Rey [to work on other projects], so we opened a publishing office [nearby] in Costa Mesa.

Jun: Normally, an office in San Francisco would make sense, because Sony’s office was nearby. But at that time we were in Los Angeles and we were assigned a place in Sony’s American headquarters, because Final Fantasy VII became an exclusive product. We were responsible for marketing, but we asked Sony to deal with the budget, publishing and similar issues.

Tomoyuki Takechi, president and CEO of Square: Final Fantasy VI did not sell well abroad, and therefore, when we released Final Fantasy VII for sale in the foreign market, I thought we needed to change something. Then I wondered: what is important for the game outside of Japan?

The Sony brand was known all over the world, so I thought it would be great if the game was released under this very brand <…> Japanese RPGs had a small audience outside the country. People didn’t perceive them as something of high quality. Going under the Sony brand could change their attitude.

Yoshihiro: I think it was the third year on the market for PlayStation. In the US, they still did not compete with Sega and Nintendo. In comparison with them, the PlayStation portfolio was weak. So as soon as we decided [to develop FFVII for PlayStation 1], Sony strongly requested publishing rights to the game in America and in Europe.

Jun: You and I didn’t have much experience. Sony pressed Square with the release of Final Fantasy, and then Sakaguchi-san decided to give in.

Tomoyuki: They really wanted to release the game under their own brand. And that’s why we signed a contract on good terms for us, according to which Square would earn as much as if we had released it ourselves.

Kyoko Higo, Marketing Assistant at Square USA: For the USA, the contract was concluded for six games [starting with the fighting game Tobal No. 1, then a package of the next five]. Therefore, the first six games that came out under the Squaresoft logo were published by SCEA, as well as SCEE.

Tomoyuki: Sony has also agreed to jointly promote the game worldwide. They invested a lot of money, as did Square, and the marketing campaign took on a huge scale.

Yoshihiro: Sony’s policy was that they didn’t want to market consoles. The entire budget allocated for marketing had to be invested in the promotion of games. So as soon as we gave the publishing rights to Final Fantasy and other games to Sony, they spent huge sums to promote the Final Fantasy franchise in America. I think it was a good move, because they invested well in promotion (on television, in print, etc.) <…> I think tens of millions <…> It was a huge amount at that time.

Tomoyuki: In the North American market alone, we have spent perhaps more than $ 20 million on marketing <…> in Europe — 30 million, in Japan — 40 million.