Following the surprising announcement at the Microsoft press conference that former presumed PS3 exclusive, Final Fantasy XIII, will be coming to the Xbox 360 in Europe and North America, Square Enix held its own press conference/Q&A session at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
Square Enix corporate executive Shinji Hashimoto and FFXIII producer Yoshinori Kitase fielded questions from the press.
Kitase is best-known for producing Final Fantasy VII, though he has worked on many games in the series, including FFVIII, FFX, and Dirge of Cerberus: FFVII, among others.
Making The Decision
The first question was the most obvious one: what prompted Square Enix to end its exclusivity on Sony's PS3 platform? Hashimoto said, "First of all, we considered the situation of the hardware, and that we would like to provide FFXIII to as many fans as possible in the world. For that reason, this time, because of the situation of the spread of the hardware, we decided that way."
Of course, Square Enix then had to answer whether or not the game will be released simultaneously on both platforms, and in all territories. Hashimoto explained that the game will be developed first on the PS3, and released in Japan; it will then be ported to the Xbox 360 while it's being localized for the North American and European markets.
In those markets, the game will be released simultaneously on both platforms - the Xbox 360 version is currently not slated for release in Japan.
The North American version will ship before the European one, most likely, because of language issues. Kitase continued, "As for the timing between the U.S. and Europe we will try to make it as close as possible. Also, the localization for the U.S. and Europe, we will try to expedite as much as possible, make it much faster than the previous cases."
Hashimoto reiterated that the main reason for the move to port the game to Xbox 360 for the western market is "the market situation in U.S. and Europe." When asked for future FF games will hit the Xbox 360, he said that they're "busy" and have a "full load" with FFXIII, so there have been no decisions made.
This question was repeated specifically as regards Kingdom Hearts creator Tetsuya Nomura's Final Fantasy Versus XIII, to which Kitase replied "we haven't changed anything" regarding that title's target platform of PS3.
When asked about the timing of the announcement, Hashimoto said, "As for the timing, we considered the stability of Crystal Tools, so we have made announcement at the Microsoft presentation. It wasn't really that long ago that we made the decision. We had to adjust many things, like the relationship with Microsoft, and the tools."
The Game Itself
Of course, gamers wanted to know how this decision will affect the game. Kitase said, "As for the [game] contents, basically we are planning to be the same. Regarding the media situation, we have to consider [both] Blu-ray and other format [DVD] and it might be different." When speficially asked how many DVD discs it might be, he said that is "undecided".
Kitase also confirmed that there are no plans for motion control in the game right now, so the Xbox 360 version won't lack any control options the PS3 version does. Platform-exclusive content is not planned at present.
Gamasutra asked whether Kitase could give an update on the game's development, as there has been no new footage shown in quite a long time. He responded, "As for the development itself, we are using our new tools called Crystal Tools. We are developing the title on the PC platform. From this year on our pace is going a little bit faster and as you mentioned, we haven't really introduced new footage. However, in the near future probably we will be able to introduce further footage."
Though he did not say this, the "near future" is probably Square Enix's DKΣ3713 Private Party 2008 in Tokyo, which will be held in August.
Serious questions about the gameplay yielded very little from the tight-lipped Kitase, who confirmed that the gameplay of the much-lauded FFXII is not an influence on FFXIII, saying: "Every time we release a new game, we try to make its own game design. So we don't have any intention to make it close to the previous one."
As for the game itself, he merely promised that, "As for the details you will find out little by little."
When pushed, Kitase offered that the "entire atmosphere is different" from FFXII, citing a "difference in tempo and speed" and also noting that the "direction" is different - which makes sense, given that the two games are made by different teams.
He also revealed that the battle system in the game will be an evolution of the series traditional ATB battle system, which was introduced in 1991's Final Fantasy IV and has made appearances in most games in the series since then - including FFVII, which Hashimoto and Kitase both counted as their favorite in the series when asked.