It was nearly 20 years ago that I played Final Fantasy Tactics for my first time. Little did I know when I picked up the game from a local shop without ever having heard of it before that it would become one of my favorite games of all-time. During my journey to beating the game five times, I've grown an incredible fondness for its story and characters that has lasted through multiple generations.
Final Fantasy Tactics fans such as myself were the prime target of a Kickstarter campaign initiated in 2014 by the name of Unsung Story: Tale of the Guardians. The original idea was for the game to be the spiritual successor to Final Fantasy Tactics that Square Enix hasn't bothered to invest in. Industry veteran names like Yasumi Matsuno, Akihiko Yoshida, and Hitoshi Sakimoto were thrown around, giving the impression that this was a very real project with incredible ambition.
Alongside more than 15,000 other gamers, I pledged $30 toward the project knowing that it wouldn't meet the timeless quality of Final Fantasy Tactics, but may just provide the sort of strategy RPG experience I've been itching for.
It's been a tumultuous journey since then. For nearly 18 months following the project closing at $660,000 pledged, Carlsbad-based developer Playdek was very non-commutative. Concerns were abound as we were kept in the dark about development progress, although most of us pledgers had a feeling this was due to the studio being too busy with development to type up a few paragraphs of information.
At around the 18 month mark things became much more dire as the originally anticipated release date hit without a single screenshot having surfaced. At this point pledgers began talking about the game being in development hell, and some even claimed that it was a scam.
The original concept art for Unsung Story inspired undeserved confidence.
Shortly thereafter, Playdek announced a multiplayer component, in addition to the game moving to an episodic format that would introduce a staggered release. Following intense lashback, Playdek supposedly soldiered on as red flags were raised across social media and gaming forums.
It's been another 23 months since then, and Playdek has nothing to show for it. In-fact, the studio just sent out an e-mail confirming that it won't be able to complete development of the title. The e-mail reads:
To All Unsung Story Backers,
Thank you for the support you have shown to make this project happen. Through the trials we have had as a company over the last few years, Playdek has strived to keep the project alive, as we believe in the game and the story that Yasumi Matsuno designed to set it in. To that, we want to let you know that the project is going to continue forward, but our involvement is coming to an end.
Effective immediately publisher/developer Little Orbit has taken over all the rights and assets to Unsung Story from Playdek, and is now the project creator. They believe strongly the game can be an amazing Tactics RPG, and they are excited to carry on and bring Matsuno’s story to life. They will be bringing you project news from this point on to update everyone on their plans for the game.
Again, we want to thank you for your support of this project, and though we are sorry that we were unable to complete it for you, we believe the project is in good hands, with people who have the same passion for the game. Please send all questions concerning the project, backer inquiries and development discussions to email@example.com. Thank you.
Coming to the—supposed—rescue is Little Orbit, a mobile game developer that has published more than 20 games. It's excited about the opportunity to take over a project that, truthfully, has incredible potential.
A spiritual successor for Final Fantasy Tactics is in hot demand.
Naturally, many of us backers are skeptical. Little Orbit has no experience with major releases, and has a very small team that is simply incapable of delivering anything close to a true Final Fantasy Tactics spiritual successor. At this point, it's likely that its goal is to meet all the base requirements of the project and get it out the door as to avoid the game from technically being labeled a wash.
Little Orbit had some good news and bad news to share as part of its announcement, as follows:
First the bad news.. Little Orbit is starting from scratch. We have spent hours going through the Kickstarter comments and researching all of the project materials, and I feel the backers have made one thing clear – we need to focus on the original single player game and Matsuno’s design that was promoted during the campaign. And that is exactly what we are going to do. At this point, our primary goal is to separate the years of modifications and changes that were made while Playdek attempted to deliver something to their backers.
Second the good news.. And I want to make this absolutely clear - Little Orbit will honor the Kickstarter backer rewards at no extra cost. I can't know how frustrating this has been for the many fans of this game. But over the coming weeks we will be reaching out to make sure we have all the current information for each of you, so that rewards can be delivered properly as we make progress.
With that, another Kickstarter campaign has ended in disaster. A large chunk of over three years of work will be tossed aside as backers are unable to claim refunds, and will have to wait a long time before playing the game they invested in more than three years ago. In the case of the four backers who pledged $2,500 or more, this is particularly upsetting.
As I look back, I don't necessarily regret supporting the project. I want a new Final Fantasy Tactics game so badly that I would probably fund another similar project if it came up in the future. This is a style of game that, even in an era when Metroidvania games and remakes seem to be announced every few months, no developer wants to touch except for the team behind Fire Emblem.
If anything, this should be a signal for Square Enix to make a move. Final Fantasy Tactics has sold more than five million copies across PlayStation and mobile, despite all its game and difficulty imbalances. There's a huge opportunity here to make money, as indicated by more than 15,000 backers supporting Unsung Story: Tale of the Guardians, which admittedly never sounded good to begin with.
Lastly, this is a reminder to never back a crowdfunding project unless you're willing to lose your investment. This isn't the first time a Kickstarter has made thousands of dollars only to fail, and it won't be the last.