Sometimes the wait for a new entry in a favorite gaming franchise can be unbearable. There’s a cycle not dissimilar to the human grieving process, in which hype is established, built, nurtured, and in some cases grows old, dies, and never returns. In other cases there’s an ebb and flow, carefully managed by publishers and developers who keep close watch, making sure that fans’ anticipation is healthy and wanting rather than tortuous and unpleasant. Too much excitement can yield disappointment while staying too lowkey might rob a game of its potential, so clearly there’s an art to navigating the months and years leading toward a major title’s release.
Nintendo and Rockstar Games are probably the current reigning champions of this, trickling out information precisely when they intend to and not a moment sooner. In the case of Rockstar, there’s a fair chance so-called “leaks” are intentional or at the very least expected, while with Nintendo (in particular new mainline Zelda titles), years often elapse without a single detail about the next major franchise release. Then, suddenly, we learn of existence, we wait, we’re fed details about the game, and before you know it launch day has nearly arrived. Silence can be deafening if you obsess about it, but if you’re distracted by other things then it’s really not that bad. The dormancy of the Metroid series is oft complained about, but imagine how much worse it would be had you been following a carrot on a string the entire time?
I consider Square Enix more effective than most at this very same approach, but the prevalence of leaks and the internet (not always explicitly related, by the way) has made things more difficult in recent years regarding some of the company’s larger forthcoming titles. Recently a transcript of Square Enix’s recent earnings Q&A was published online by Square itself, and as you might expect, denizens of the internet poured over it almost immediately. In addition to a handful of worthwhile info-bits extracted regarding the success of Nier: Automata and the localization of mobile apps for the West, fans noticed a slide regarding upcoming releases. Contained on the slide were logos for Kingdom Hearts III, Final Fantasy VII Remake, and others. The caption? “We plan to launch each of these titles in the next three years or so.”
Now I don’t know about you, but I haven’t forgotten that we learned about Remake in 2015, around two years ago. Something of a wait after an announcement is fine, but to be suddenly slapped with a potential three year wait, and one that includes the words “or so” at the end of it, is a tough pill to swallow. Add to the mix that a remake of Final Fantasy VII was attempted and scrapped as far back as the early 2000s, and this is a dream that’s been knocking arounds fans’ collective brainpan for quite some time. With the latest development, I’m feeling like I’d best remove the game from my radar for awhile and focus on something else.
When it comes to Kingdom Hearts III, the game has been officially alluded to as far back as 2010 via the Birth by Sleep Ultimania guidebook, published the very same year. Soon after we were told by Tetsuya Nomura that KHIII would release after 2012, and well, it’s now 2017. That’s all well and good, as top-notch gaming experiences take time, but to tack another three years onto the already lengthy wait? That puts as at 2020, a full decade removed from official acknowledgement of the game’s existence. Kingdom Hearts fans are an understanding bunch, but just too long.
I’m not sure if others feel the same way, but I’ve now re-entered a hype-less state, where I will remain for likely a year or two (for each game respectively) in an effort the pass the time quickly and not think about it too much. Perhaps I’ll be reinvigorated as the next three years or so unfold, but depending on what I’m playing in the future, how my interests evolve, and the sort of time my future self’s lifestyle may or may not afford, who knows what the situation will be. Waiting a decade for something simply isn’t fun, even if the end result ends up being thoroughly excellent.
While I do deeply appreciate that Square Enix is among the Nintendos and Rockstars of the world in its willingness to delay releases until they are truly ready (as opposed to hitting release dates at all costs), the company could learn a thing or two from each regarding execution. The gap between Zelda: Skyward Sword and Breath of the Wild was quite lengthy, for example; the game took a full five-to-six years to develop. With that said, there was a multi-year period where we heard and knew nothing. There was also a period where we were distracted by A Link Between Worlds, and then finally, the following year in 2014, a teaser arrived. More silence, more teasers, a delay, and then, the floodgates of info opened for everyone. The wait was decidedly long, but importantly, it was also exciting and managed not to be painful. Square Enix in theory has the resources and know-how to execute just that, but for its biggest titles of late, I’m not seeing it.
Such a thing takes practice, so perhaps after the “next three years or so” elapse a clean slate will be afforded when it comes to seeding and stoking Square Enix’s blockbuster hype-cycle. Popular mid-level releases-turned huge successes like Nier: Automata certainly help, and if the future sees more of them coming to light then it will no-doubt be easier to forget Final Fantasy VII Remake and Kingdom Hearts III’s respective endless sagas. When KHIII does finally arrive, my one wish is that Square Enix simply say nothing about a fourth game, ever, other than “we intend to create it” if they do in fact intend to do so. Obviously the relationship with Disney complicates things, but sometimes relative silence and restraint pays off in the long run. Either way, I’ve little doubt the company’s most devoted fans would deeply appreciate it.