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- Final Fantasy XII
Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? Not this guy. But still!
A little over a week ago, Distant Worlds: Music From Final Fantasy conductor Arnie Roth let the world know that Final Fantasy XII is being brought into HD. And it might be one of my favorite PR head-scratchers of all time, because there are so many different hypothetical scenarios for how and why things could have happened the way they did. We'll never know for sure, because they'd never admit to any case and might be just lying through their teeth if they did. So let's take a look at what might have happened here.
First off, let it be said that Final Fantasy XII HD Remaster is totally happening. That's not in dispute here. What I'm looking at is how the announcement happened.
Scenario A: Conductor Spilled the Beans Prematurely
(This is the most likely case.)
Square Enix already has a lot of different Final Fantasy games confirmed to be in production, and dividing up the attention can at times be damaging to hype. That's why we often don't hear about one game until the other has been on shelves for some time. Production begins way earlier, but the marketing team doesn't want to take the spotlight away from a current release.
Final Fantasy XV is out there, the Final Fantasy VII remake is finally happening, World of Final Fantasy just got revealed at E3, and updates continue to roll out for Final Fantasy XIV. Square Enix PR probably doesn't want Final Fantasy XII HD to become public knowledge until at least one of those three unreleased projects arrives on shelves.
However, Arnie Roth isn't really a Square Enix dev or PR team member, just the guy that conducts the orchestras at the Final Fantasy concerts. He's probably not in on marketing strategy talk beyond, "Final Fantasy is great." I imagine no one ever thought to make him sign an NDA or tell him, "Hey, by the way, here's what you can and can't talk about on stage…."
So he probably thought that if he knew about it, the world probably already knew about it too — or at least that it was okay for them to know.
If you watch the announcement video, his posture and everything seem incredibly natural and not at all like he's presenting hot news. His tone and delivery are way different from when an E3 presenter gets up and says stuff like it's gonna blow your mind. Nah, Mr. Roth is talking like we knew. It matches his Final Fantasy XV statement, which we definitely already knew about.
This notion is strengthened by the correction on Facebook. Roth issued a statement which was clearly proofed by Square Enix PR, but the only thing he said was the "the word remake" was used in error. You know what word that leaves open?
Ah, yes. So here's the meat of the Facebook post:
"Following conversations with composer Hitoshi Sakimoto regarding new concert arrangements of music from Final Fantasy XII, regrettably, the term ‘remake’ was used in error during one of the announcements that took place from the stage during the concert.
We sincerely regret any confusion this has caused."
Were nothing in the works, Square Enix would come right out and say that. They might treat customer like idiots from time to time, but deep down somewhere, they know there's a limit to that. It's one thing to say "no plans" on a project that had no company leaks or whatever and then turn around and release something next year, but it's another to release it after outright denying any form of a game's existence. The company was careful with its wording so as to make a few people think there's no new version of Final Fantasy XII coming, all while not denying that it's getting HD remaster treatment.
Square Enix even shared this post, meaning every word meets the company's careful, rigid standards. Those guys know what they're doing here. (We're talking about a company that embargoes news more often than I notice others doing.)
Scenario B: The Mess Was Intentional, to Gauge Interest
It's no secret that Final Fantasy games are divisive. Parts XII and XIII stand out as particularly large targets of criticism. The situation could be that Square Enix told Arnie Roth to go ahead and let that news fly as a sort of test, planning all along to deny it later in some form.
That way, if the project gets delayed, they can claim they only started making it because of the generous outpouring of support they got from fans after that slip.
And if the reaction was more negative than positive? Great, no need to proceed, because the leak test indicated that FFXII HD wouldn't sell.
Intentional leaking is nothing new. A few musicians have even "leaked" a few tracks from upcoming albums online themselves, and then acted angry about it. It draws attention, and a special kind of attention; we all love forbidden things. There's always a draw to "The _______ That Company XYS Doesn't Want You to See/Know/Hear."
Square Enix, if feeling particularly crafty, could have seen its own crowded E3, gamescom, and Tokyo Game Show lineups and decided to let this info debut first by a little slip of the tongue. If you're a conspiracy theorist, this might be the belief for you.
But what seals Scenario A for me is the total blackout of coverage in Japanese media. Roth's comment was translated into Japanese and shared on a few Japanese blogs, but those are independent sources without big funding or connections. Mainstream game websites like Dengeki, 4Gamer, and Famitsu, whose news and reviews are bought and paid for by game publishers? Oh no, there's not a single hint of this news to be found.
In Western games press, sometimes writers have to deal with embargoes on news or reviews, but in Japan, the standards are even crazier. Not only do you get press releases and screenshots whose contents can't be shared weeks for weeks or months, but publishers also want to read and approve your review before it goes out. Games media in Japan is like, downright dystopian 1984 shit compared to elsewhere. If they're not reporting something as big as a new Final Fantasy game, it's because the suits at Square Enix have told them not to report it.
What exactly was Roth told to say on stage, if anything at all? Was he told to say "Remaster," but instead said, "Remake?" Or did he really have insider information that he didn't realize he wasn't supposed to reveal?
We might never have all the answers about this weird turn of events, but we got the most important bit: Final Fantasy XII is being remastered. Now we just need to wait and see which version will be upgraded, what system(s) it'll come to, and a release date.