Square Enix’s return to its role-playing roots has paid off.
The publisher has sold 1 million copies of the 3DS RPG Bravely Default worldwide since its 2012 debut in Japan, and that is a big reason Square Enix is looking at it as the answer to what ails its huge Final Fantasy franchise. In its home country, Bravely Default reached 400,000 copies sold, Square Enix revealed to Japanese gaming site Dengeki Online (via NeoGAF). In the rest of the world, Bravely Default, which plays a lot like a classic 16-bit Final Fantasy, surpassed 600,000 copies sold. In recent months, Square Enix confessed that it got away from what made Final Fantasy popular in the first place. With Bravely Default performing nearly as well as some “real” Final Fantasy releases, the company is looking to its new RPG as a model for the future.
Bravely Default is a turn-based fantasy RPG that borrows a lot of elements from early Super Nintendo-era Square Enix games. Developer Silicon Studio, the company responsible for the Zelda-like PlayStation 3 release 3D Dot Game Heroes, set out from the beginning to make a spiritual successor to games like Final Fantasy V that first debuted in 1992. While Square Enix was confident that the game would do well in Japan, it was surprised that it went on to find an audience in the West as well. Its success is especially impressive considering it is a new property with no previous brand recognition.
All this has Square Enix examining and reconsidering its modern strategy for Final Fantasy.
“In the past, when we developed console games with a worldwide premise, and we lost our focus,” Square Enix president Yosuke Matsuda said in an interview with Japanese newspaper Nikkei. ” And not only did [those releases] end up being games that weren’t for the Japanese, but they ended up being incomplete titles that weren’t even fit for a global audience.”
Matsuda didn’t give specific examples, but the main Final Fantasy games are on a downward trend in terms of sales.
While Bravely Default sold 400,000 copies in Japan without attaching itself to a popular brand, the console release Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII did about the same, according to Japanese sales-tracking site Geimin, with a bigger budget and huge name recognition. That was a revelation to Matsuda and the team at Square Enix.
“On the other hand, there are games like the JRPG [Bravely Default that] we made for the Japanese audience with the proper [and familiar] elements,” he said. “[That] ended up selling well around the world.”
In the past, it was unthinkable that an unknown game RPG could come along and sell as well as something with the Final Fantasy name. But fewer people are showing up for games in that franchise recently. While the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 release Final Fantasy XIII sold one million units on its first day in Japan, its sequel, Final Fantasy XIII-2, didn’t even reach 700,000 copies sold in its home country.
We’ve reached out to the company for worldwide sales figures, and we’ll update this story with any information.
For Square Enix, the answer to Final Fantasy’s woes is Bravely Default. The publisher is already working on Bravely Second, a sequel to Default, and it’s likely that the 3DS game which borrowed so heavily from the Final Fantasy franchise will go on to inspire future games in that series.