Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to video games and whether they are true or false.
VIDEO GAME URBAN LEGEND: Final Fantasy got its name because it was the “final” shot at the company succeeding.
Square was founded by Masafumi Miyamoto in 1983 soon after graduating from college. At first, Square, which was devoted to developing computer games, was part of a larger company owned by Miyamoto’s father, but in 1986, Square spun off as its own company. Its games were published under the brand name Squaresoft.
One of the earliest employees at Square was a young man who had recently taken a break from college, Hironobu Sakaguchi. Sakaguchi began working part-time at Square, and while part-time, he developed Square’s first two games, The Death Trap and its sequel Will: The Death Trap II, but by the time that the company spun off, Sakaguchi was the Director of Planning and Development.
Square’s first games, which were developed for the Nintendo Famicon Disc System, did not go over very well.
The company was in desperate need of a success soon or it was very likely that it would go out of business.
Sakaguchi, too, was frustrated, but the company placed all of their hopes on a game that was designed to respond to the success Square’s competitor, Enix, had with the role playing game Dragon Warrior.
The game was titled Final Fantasy.
It sold 400,000 copies and basically saved the company from financial ruin.
There are basically two stories about where the name Final Fantasy came from (it IS a bit of an odd name).
In one version of the story, it is because the company felt they were going under, so this literally was their final shot.
In the other version of the story, it is specifically Sakaguchi who is talking about this being the “final” shot.
In a good interview at Develop.com with Ed Fear, Sakaguchi said:
The name ‘Final Fantasy’ was a display of my feeling that if this didn’t sell, I was going to quit the games industry and go back to university. I’d have had to repeat a year, so I wouldn’t have had any friends – it really was a ‘final’ situation.
Really, though, I don’t find the two versions of the story really all that at odds with each other. Whether it was Sakaguchi’s specific idea or not, the basic gist of the story is the same – the game was considered a “final” shot.
If I absolutely HAD to pick one version, I think Sakaguchi’s take probably makes a bit more sense, as I’ve yet to see any clear evidence that this was absolutely a MUST win for Square. It was certainly a major deal, and if it had failed, they’d be in trouble – I am just unsure if it would have been THE end if it had failed. Sakaguchi, though, I could believe literally WOULD have been gone had the game flopped, especially as he was extremely proud of the game – a major facet of the game’s success was the fact that he convinced the company to up their initial production from 200,000 copies to 400,000 copies, as he knew that if they printed only 200,000 and sold out, it would kill the momentum of the game. In addition, the fact that the company was in the financial position to be able to agree with his request also lends me to believe that Square was not going to be going out of business if Final Fantasy did, in fact, fail.
But if I’m wrong, then fair enough – it doesn’t take away from the basic idea of the legend, which is that Final Fantasy was called that because it was the “final” shot.
Final Fantasy is so popular that a FIFTEENTH version of the game is rumored to be coming out soon!
The legend is…
STATUS: Basically True
Thanks to Ed Fear and Hironobu Sakaguchi for the information!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future urban legends columns! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org