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How the Internet and Region Freedom Have Been Good and Bad for Final Fantasy XIII

By Heath | December 23, 2009 at 7:41 am

More importers and faster mass communication are having a visible effect on Final Fantasy XIII‘s public appearance.

Region Freedom Opening Doors
Judging by the buzz and chatter around the net and reactions of Play-Asia employees saying how surprised they were at the number of orders are being shipped to North America, Final Fantasy XIII seems to be the most imported Final Fantasy ever. This is made easy by the wide variety of import methods, and undeniably, just as much of this is due to the region-free nature of PlayStation 3 software. Previous Final Fantasy titles, aside from handheld iterations, have had region locks on them that made importing either outrageously expensive (buying another system) or requiring warranty-voiding system modification and/or illegal piracy. Neither of these are necessary with Final Fantasy XIII.

Furthermore, social networking has come a long way even in the last year or two. Lots of people just can’t pry themselves away from their Twitters and FakeBooks and MyFace pages. This combination has been good and bad for Square Enix. And beyond what’s good and bad for the company, we as gamers need to take note of how it’s good and bad for us.

The Good
Square Enix can enjoy this because hey, it means somewhat bigger sales figures of the Japanese version of the game and moreover, basically free advertising in North America. A game company can pump cash into buying magazine pages and banners on popular websites, but they can’t buy the effects of a few thousand people bragging to their friends about already having the next big thing, before its shelf date. By that same token, all the screencaps and anecdotes that float around also function as free hype, and we know how much SE likes that. The hype train will be rolling for probably a good two months, fueled largely by players simply spouting their thoughts about the game. You can’t buy that, and if you try, it’s obvious and you get busted.

This also means, in some cases, there’ll be people buying two copies of the game. The business has to love that.

The Bad
What’s bad is that now, everyone somehow becomes a quasi-journalist. Not just dudes on forums and Facebook, but people that write for crappy blogs now get this empowerment about them that makes them think the world needs their every fleeting thought about the game. I’m no Final Fantasy apologist, but in the case of this game, some early quirks of the game are being blown way, way out of proportion. But thanks to this newfound Twitter-culture, people will play the game for two or three hours and go online to say “Oh snap it’s really linear!” They’ll not do so as part of an ongoing series of continual impressions, but just as a standalone article.

–For clarification, I have no idea how Final Fantasy XIII will even turn out. I not implying that it is or will be a good game; I’m just saying we need to let this kind of judgment of any game wait a little longer, lest we make asses of ourselves. Let it be known I caution against the reverse as well, and it should definitely not be labeled a savior of any sort until it’s been completed by the person doing so —
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Some writers, especially those of Sankaku Complex — a porn site struggling to legitimize itself as a source of game news — will even just go onto 2ch, translate a few select gripes, copy/paste them, and call it an article with a title such as “Why Final Fantasy XIII is a Bad Game.” Is it really smart or fair to dish out a headline like that after less than half of a game? It’s sensationalism. Others will post a piece which, to the average reader appears to be a comprehensive, detailed, reliable article, after logging only minimal gameplay (I’m not talking about you, Baker; you done good). Picture yourself playing any Final Fantasy from this generation or the last, and think about how crappy of a representation it would have been to write up such an article, because of how much things change over the course of a game (hence RPG Land’s policy of completing games before reviewing them).

Case in point, the widely loved Final Fantasy X spent like 20 hours being totally linear, and now Final Fantasy XIII apparently does the same thing. But it’s catching crazy amounts of hate because it’s being reported by amateurs who’ve been writing for their gameblogs for a whopping year and have no idea what’s up. If Final Fantasy X had been the subject of 50,000 blogs updating every 10 minutes, then the linearity complaint may have turned off a lot of people who otherwise ended up enjoying the game.

I’ll tell you straight up, I see FFX‘s linearity as a downpoint. Yeah, I think it spending that huge chunk of time being that linear was a strike against it. But I can say that looking back on a game I’ve beaten; I’m not making conjecture about a 40-hour game I’ve played for 3 hours. What’s more, I’m saying it’s a big downfall of the game, not the sum of the whole game. It’s understandable for however many hours of linearity to be a down point, even a game-breaker, but let’s call a spade a spade; we don’t yet know if it’s the whole thing that’s super linear or just a part of it.

Here’s the thing about human nature: people are really, really impressionable and stupid. Even you. Even me. When people hear from like 84 sources “OMG this game is bad because of XYZ!” many of them — including ones who would normally go on to have a different opinion — will be swayed by it before even playing the game themselves. This is why, when reviewing games, it’s best to avoid other reviews of the game in question before writing your own, and more importantly, always complete the game.

Final Fantasy XIII might end up being a terrible game.  You might even read a negative review of it by me, in March. Thing is, RPGs are often lengthy affairs, and it ain’t over till it’s over. It’s kind of unfair to see it being written off by so many, and to see various forum users thinking they know all there is to know because they watched a live stream. Whoop dee do?

Yes, to some people, FFXIII will be crap, and it would have with or without the newfound Twit-culture. To others, it’ll of course be received very well, even in the face of this all this info. But there is an undeniable effect. What’s sad is that some people out there will end up avoiding a game they would have liked. Like me with Final Fantasy X. If I had heard about all its rigid linearity early on, I may have skipped it or waited years and years to play it, because that’s a big turnoff for me. But while I see X as lower on my list of favorite FF titles, I still ended up finding it worth playing, for sure. That wouldn’t have been fair to Square or more importantly, myself.

This is already hitting the movie industry, and no doubt the effects are now being noticed in the game industry as well, for better or worse.

Topics: Editorials, Final Fantasy XIII, RPG Land Kicks Someone's Ass, Square Enix