Final Fantasy creator finds much to learn from mobile game design

Hironobu Sakaguchi speaks to why he's made the jump to iOS and Android development as Mistwalker gears up to launch its first free-to-play mobile RPG with a unique download promotion.
Earlier this year, Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi earned a bit of press attention for his decision to take the plunge into free-to-play mobile game design with Terra Battle. His studio Mistwalker will release the game for free on iOS and Android this week, and to promote the game the studio is running an intriguing Download Starter promotion that sees Mistwalker promising to develop new content for Terra Battle when the game hits specific download milestones. At 100,000 downloads, composer Nobuo Uematsu will produce new Terra Battle music, for example, and at 1 million downloads Mistwalker will start development on versus mode for the game. When contacted by Gamasutra via email, Sakaguchi acknowledged that the promotion was envisioned as a way to capitalize on the appeal of Kickstarter campaigns ("I think it’s great that people are able to help create content") without actually asking people for money. "The concept of having fans fund development is not my style so I decided to make a variation of the format by basing the rewards off of downloads," wrote Sakaguchi. "I feel that mobile game development is a fluid process and it is like a festival, where many people can help grow the title." If the mobile game garners 2 million downloads, Mistwalker has committed to producing a Terra Battle console game -- a promise that raised some concerns in the development community about the quality of mobile-to-console game ports. However, Sakaguchi seems confident it will work out and takes pains to paint the reward as a console title inspired by the mobile game, rather than a direct port. "If Terra Battle becomes a successful IP on mobile, it doesn’t mean that we are going to port the game onto console," Sakaguchi told Gamasutra, noting rather that the console game would see the Terra Battle systems and characters adapted to meet the requirements of the platform. "The success of the mobile version will help me create new and innovative content for a console game." It's unclear exactly how Mistwalker plans to fund development of a console game if Terra Battle is widely downloaded but poorly monetized. Sakaguchi says he's drawn inspiration from the success of companies like GungHo, and notes that all developers can learn useful lessons from successful free-to-play mobile games. "I feel that there are successful titles such as Puzzle and Dragons, where they were able to incorporate depth into the game, along with the ease of accessibility," wrote Sakaguchi. "I feel that there is a lot to learn from those qualities in game development."

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