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Difference to Final Fantasy VII Being the Best and Selling the Best

FF VII is often called the best Final Fantasy, most known Final Fantasy, and the first thing that pops into someone's head upon hearing the words "Final Fantasy". FF VII certainly is the best selling installment, but not solely on the merits of the game.

          Final Fantasy VII, made by SquareSoft and released in 1997, is said to be the greatest installment of the Final Fantasy series of all time. It has even gone as far as to be called the greatest game ever made (Random, 2012). However from my personal experience, what I often hear from people who praise Final Fantasy VII is that Final Fantasy VII is the only Final Fantasy game they have ever played. This raises the question as to why is Final Fantasy VII the only Final Fantasy many people have played, and why is it the most well-known Final Fantasy game?  The answer to those questions most likely lie in the fact that Final Fantasy VII is to this day the bestselling Final Fantasy game - but that doesn’t innately mean that it is the greatest installment based on the merits of the game (D'Angelo, 2013). Although, if the merits of the game aren’t completely magnificent and surpass the installments that have come before it, then how could Final Fantasy VII be the bestselling Final Fantasy? This article intends to argue that although Final Fantasy VII may not have many significantly unique features, the bulk of its success in the market place came from the events and occurrences during the time period the game was released. The occurrences of the late 1990s that mounted the sales for Final Fantasy VII were mainly the worldwide desire for visually stunning graphics, and the US’s allure towards Japanese culture during those times. These fixations led to the components of the game that were most emphasized within advertisements for its release.

            For the purpose of clarification, an explanation is needed for what was meant in my statement that Final Fantasy VII did not contain significantly unique aspects. First would be in the fact that the gameplay and interface had not varied much at all from its previous counterparts. Specifically, the menu-driven combat and time gauge along with the random encounters and single character representation in open maps are all features we have experienced in previous Final Fantasy games (People on Edge, 1996, p. 31). Another key factor to Final Fantasy VII that isn’t unique in the Final Fantasy series is the whole small rebellion/resistance group fighting against a higher ruling power thing, namely this is also what makes up members of the main party for Final Fantasy II, IV, VI (Byteusa, 2011). So with the instance of Final Fantasy VII the resistance group would be Avalanche fighting against the ruling company Shinra. The last example to be presented as another moment where Final Fantasy VII is not being completely unique is with the icon and tragic death of Aeris/th (I’m still undecided on what I want to call her and how to write her name so I’m just going for fusion of the two). The death of a main party member was not new to the franchise when Final Fantasy VII was release because Final Fantasy IV had the suicide/sacrifice of Cid and Final Fantasy V had (in my personal opinion) the much more devastating and heroic death of Galuf.         Final Fantasy VII is wonderful game, but its pure independent content of plot and mechanics didn’t particularly bring anything new to the table of Final Fantasy that would cause it to sell as much as it did, especially compared to the sales of other Final Fantasy games(D'Angelo, 2013). This made me consider the possibility that it might not have sold the massive amount that it did, if it wasn’t for the timing of its release.

            During the 1990s when Final Fantasy VII was released, the world had a large fixation on the realism of computer graphics in videogames, and Final Fantasy VII was able to set a new standard for that. At its release, Final Fantasy VII was called a “cinematic wonder” and glamourized for have realistic graphics that are “just light years beyond any other” in a review made from the very popular videogame newsletter company, IGN (Boor, 1997). The emphasis of visual graphics were essential to that time period because graphics were known to appeal to a wider audience that RPGs (role playing games) usually did not reach due to the fact that the main pleasure of RPGs did not rely on realistic graphics (Low, 2001). This was how Final Fantasy VII was able to grab the attention of people unfamiliar with the Final Fantasy franchise at the time, with its then revolutionary graphics for an RPG. Looking through a videogame and technology magazine from 1996 called Edge, nearly all the videogames that were covered were mainly critiqued on the quality of their visual graphics and full motion videos, as well as having three pages dedicated to admiring CGI (computer-generated imagery) of upcoming games including Final Fantasy VII (People on Edge, 1996). (People on Edge, 1996, p. 92-93) The articles on various games in that magazine are also plain indicators that videogames with realistic visual graphics were what customers tend to gravitate towards. This was a time when the fascination in realist graphics and cinematic full motion cutscenes were enough a reason to buy a game, which slightly disregarded other main or significant components of the game (Alexander & Hamilton, 2011). Therefore, it is pretty clear that the world’s obsession with realistic computer graphics combined with the breath taking visuals of Final Fantasy VII (for its time), equaled lots of sales. However, it seems as though graphics don’t completely entice and pull us into a game as they use to because graphics continue to improve appearing more realistic, but with these advancements we have games that are beautiful even though they have low quality graphics, as well as games that look amazing, but when played we realize they’re not. Therefore, as a gaming community we don’t consider the visually stunning aspect of a game to be its main selling point as was done with Final Fantasy VII.

            Another key occurrence of the 1990s that resulted in the sales success of Final Fantasy VII would be that the US had an immense fascination with Japanese culture at the time. From my personal experience as a child growing up in the late 90s, I remember that the core of my childhood (along with many people in my age frame) was anime. When I was little, Saturday morning cartoons didn’t only contain American cartoons, but also Japanese anime like Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Yo, Sailormoon, and Dragonball Z. It was as if America just couldn’t get enough of Japan during those times, because everywhere I looked there was definitely some Japanese influence within the slightest things, from entertainment to fashion to building architectures.

Description: <a class= The sales of Final Fantasy VII were almost certainly impacted by the American fixation of Japanese pop culture. Leigh Alexander, “a Gamasutra writer, Thought Catalog and Kotaku columnist, [and] Sexy Videogameland blogger”, wrote that quite possibly one of the reasons she adored Final Fantasy VII so much was because of an old Japanese RPG fandom that she had in her teen years during the release of the game (Alexander & Hamilton, 2011). Final Fantasy VII’s release in the US was just the perfect timing for a Japanese product to be sold in the US, a time where Americans would buy anything that seemed to have Japanese culture or influences. It is clear that the fact Final Fantasy VII is from Japan was a big advantage during the 1990s, considering the fact that Final Fantasy IV (first released in the US as Final Fantasy II), and Final Fantasy VI (first released in the US as Final Fantasy III) are also from Japan, but never sold nearly as much as Final Fantasy VII (D'Angelo, 2013). Furthermore, a read through 90s videogame magazines such as Edge reveals the times Japan was emphasized or made into a critical subtitle for some of the articles for various videogames and electronics (People on Edge, 1996). This all shows the prominent craze Americans had for Japanese culture, which may have been an important factor to the sales of Final Fantasy VII. However like with the world’s obsession with realistic graphics in videogames, the US’s obsession with Japanese pop culture has also died down, and who knows what country or fad the kids these days are into.

            Now before we get into the advertisements for Final Fantasy VII and how those portrayed the game in respect to its era, it would be best if the main source or reason the ads could have been made in the first place was pointed out. The advertisements for Final Fantasy VII were very much of a piece with Sony and their fledgling PlayStation. At the time, the PlayStation was still a lonely home gaming console with low self-esteem, which needed support and more videogames to grow into a big confident home gaming console able to produce offspring for generations. PlayStation the fourth will never understand how hard its great grandfather worked in order to earn the family fortune and success that has been passed downed for generations. No sir, PlayStation didn’t simply have tons of videogame companies approaching it and offering to release their games on it for nothing, let alone earn profit before the game was released. Sony at the time was new to the gaming industry/market, therefore they needed help in gaining customers, but they couldn’t sell a gaming console if they didn’t have any games. It was risky for videogame companies to make games for a console that was completely new and might not even sell, because that would result in their game becoming a failure. However due to personal and console issues with Nintendo SquareSoft decided to create their newest and biggest Final Fantasy installment on the PlayStation (Low, 2001). Because the PlayStation was still new to the market, it had to battle other gaming consoles to prove its worth and place in the market which created the second console war of the Sega Saturn vs. Nintendo 64 vs. Sony PlayStation (Low, 2001). To win the war, Sony largely funded the creation/development of Final Fantasy VII and “a budget of up to US$100 million just for marketing alone” (Low, 2001).

            The most important element to Final Fantasy VII’s sales success came from putting the high quality graphics obsession, Japanese pop culture fixation, and Sony’s funding into the core marketing plan of the game.  The marketing and all sorts of advertisement campaigns for Final Fantasy VII were huge because Sony knew that it was their exclusive big game from a franchise that was already known to be successful in Japan (Random, 2012). One of Sony’s marketing techniques was to include a free demo disk of Final Fantasy VII with every PlayStation sold in September of 1997(Low, 2001). The demo contained the opening scenes of the game, which contains the iconic, stunningly realistic, and visually amazing graphics of Midgar with the moving train running through it, in order to play on selling point of graphics quality (People on Edge, 1996, p. 94). Furthermore, within the IGN review mentioned earlier, there were awes at the remarkable graphics of Final Fantasy VII compared to other games at time, stating how they surpass all other because “FF7 is that good” (Boor, 1997). In addition to that, many of the Final Fantasy VII ads from the magazine Edge glorified the graphics of the game and how impressive it was for a CD-ROM game to have the highly clear and clean mods (People on Edge, 1996, p. 29-33 & 92-94). Another aspect of Final Fantasy VII that Edge emphasized would be that the game came from Japan, it contained Japanese artwork, and the fact that SquareSoft is a Japanese company (People on Edge, 1996, p 29-33 & 92). Description: F:DCIMCamera20141202_223723.jpg (People on Edge, 1996, p.92) All the reference to Japan was a big way for Final Fantasy VII to be noticed by the Americans who were part of the Japanese culture craze. Sticking to magazine advertisements, the very first issue of PlayStation Magazine had an American style drawing of Cloud and crew along with multiple two-page spreads that stressed the awesomeness of the game, especially in taking jabs at Nintendo (Boor, 1997).

All to show the many ways Final Fantasy VII was advertised to appeal to the world of that time, which was largely made possible with the significant amount of funding and benefits Sony provided SquareSoft during a time Sony was still a newbie in the gaming industry.

            I assume that my main argument and theory has been that the massive success Final Fantasy VII had in the marketplace was mainly due to the time it was released, and how those factors played a large role into the way the game was presented to the world based on the obsessions and fixations of consumers of that era. However, I want my audience to understand that I don’t hate Final Fantasy VII or think it’s a terrible game that sold solely on external worldly factors because I actually did enjoy playing Final Fantasy VII. I think there are multiple aspects of the game that are truly amazing, and Zack Fair is undeniably my favorite fictional character of all time. However, I just believe that Final Fantasy VII is not so awesomely glorious that it should be watered down with prequels, squeals, a movie, animated shorts, side stories, and a re-mastered version of a mini game. All in all, I feel that with all the worshiping of Final Fantasy VII, there are so many JRPGs that are also amazing getting pushed aside into a little corner and unnoticed.

 

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Bibliography

Alexander, L., & Hamilton, K. (2011, March 15). The Final Fantasy VII Letters. Retrieved November 18, 2014.

Boor, J. (1997, September 3). Final Fantasy VII: The RPG by which all others are to be measured, FFVII is a cinematic wonder. Retrieved November 26, 2014.

Byteusa. (2011, April 23). Complete History of Final Fantasy [video file]. Youtube.

D'Angelo, W. (2013, April 29). Top 10 in Sales - Final Fantasy. Retrieved November 28, 2014.

Low, G. (2001, March 1). Coming to America: The making of Final Fantasy VII and how

Squaresoft conquered the RPG market. Retrieved November 18, 2014.

People on Edge. (1996, October). Edge.

Random. (2012, June 30). Final Fantasy VII’s Ambitious Advertising Campaign. Retrieved November 18, 2014.

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