I’m going to let you all in on an abysmally kept secret. Part of the reason why #FinalFantasy hasn’t felt like Final Fantasy since the early 2000’s is because most of the team that made the old classics departed from Square Enix nearly a decade ago. Chief among them was the series creator, Hironobu Sakaguchi. So where did he go? Well, after leaving Square Enix in 2004, he and several of his colleagues formed their own independent game development company, Mistwalker, who have since developed and released a total of ten games for the Home Console and Mobile markets. Regrettably, none of these games has been successful enough to become a full blown franchises. There’s something about their releases’, however, that has always baffled me. There’s a platform that, at the time of writing, they have completely ignored. Which makes me ask; Mistwalker, you do know there’s another option for you, right? It’s called the PC.
Why Mistwalker And The PC are Perfect For Each Other.
I don’t want to get mired in any debates, but the simple fact of the matter is that, even though getting indie games onto a console has become easier, the PC remains the fastest and cheapest way for indie developers to get their games in front of a mass audience. And the fact that Mistwalker hasn’t released anything on it is a wasted opportunity that will come back to bite them. Here are three reasons why they should reverse this before that happens.
1. PC Gaming Has a Larger Audience Than The Home Console Or Mobile Games Market.
Among Mistwalker’ most famous games are the severely underrated Blue Dragon, Lost Odyssey and The Last Story for the Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii respectively. And out of all of them, only Blue Dragon was successful enough to spawn two mediocre sequels on the Nintendo DS. But for whatever reason, nothing has been done with that franchise since 2010. One big reason for its failure, in my opinion, is that the games failed to connect with a wider audience due to them being consoles exclusives.
While exclusivity in of itself isn’t automatically a bad thing, it may have hurt tiny Mistwalker more than helped it. Because they limited their audience to that specific platform. For a small studio, limiting your audience like this could be the kiss of death. If Blue Dragon had been released on the PC, it might have been different. Why is this? Well, the PC has a much larger audience. According to a study published by the ESA in 2015, the total number of gamers in the world is about 1.8 billion, and 62% of them play games on the PC. Whereas Home Consoles players make up about 56%, Smart Phones made up 35%, and handhelds such as the Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita made up about 21%. The PC’s dominance is due to a multitude of factors, but the biggest one is the ease of acquiring games. This is thanks to digital distribution platforms such as Steam and GOG, and their practice of frequent sales and price cuts. What’s more, digital distribution eliminates the need for a publisher and physical media. So the customer can get a game much faster and the developers get a higher cut of the profits. It’s a win-win situation, really. Plus, older games that may not have of gotten enough attention during their initial run might suddenly find a new lease on life on the PC, as was the case with cult classics Grandia II , Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen and the Y's series.
2. ASH: Archaic Sealed Heat Can Finally Come to The West.
Mistwalker has released several games on the Nintendo DS; and in my estimation, ASH: Archaic Sealed Heat is the best of the bunch. For those who don’t know, ASH: Archaic Sealed Heat is Mistwalker’s second game after Blue Dragon. It was a strategy RPG similar in style to Nintendo's Fire Emblem franchise. The biggest difference, however, was that the entire game was controlled by the DS’ touch screen. It's a great game and I highly recommend it, if you can get your hands on it. Regrettably, mid-low review scores and poor sales (thank you Nintendo for your brilliant marketing) kept this gem in Japan.
Although a partial fan translation rom is flittering around the internet, many fans (myself included) would rather see an official English language release. The PC can make this possible. Of course, ASH would need to be optimized for the PC. It is over a decade old and a lazy port would be doing it a horrible disservice. Yes, it would be an expense to Mistwalker. But it wouldn't be on the same level of, say, making a new game. So long as their marketing was good, it would recoup that expense easily. Plus, since this is a strategy game, a mouse is the perfect replacement for the DS’s touch screen and stylus, as it would function the same way. Or better yet, if for some reason you can’t bring ASH over, you can make a game similar to it and put it on Steam. Which leads me to the final point.
3. Crowdfunding And The PC Offers Developers More Creative Freedom.
With the exception of their mobile titles, all of Mistwalkers’ famous games have had the financial backings of larger companies. And not one did them any favors in terms of marketing. But in this day and age, why does Mistwalker even need these companies anymore? KickStarter and other Crowdfunding sites have made it possible for an indie developer to make the game they want without a publisher peeking over their shoulders and telling them what to do. Not only that, it would also allow the developer to make games that would never be published by a larger developer. The RPG genre alone has Crowdfunding to thank for games like Shadowrun Returns, The Banner Saga, Pillars of Eternity, and Undertale. And it’s not just RPGs either; entire genres that big publishers thought were dead suddenly have new life such as the Visual Novel (such as Muv-Luv's English language translation), the Adventure game (such as Fran Bow), Survival Horror (like Neverending Nightmares) and so on.
The point is, with crowdfunding and the PC as your platform, you can make games the way you want. And, if you really wanted to, you can make the games that fans have been dying for, like Yu Suzuki did with Shenmue 3. Or inxile did for Wasteland 2.
Mistwalker should be bigger than they are now, and I think that ditching the consoles for a while could well be their way to achieve that. But will they? Well, considering that they have a new game in the works with Silicon Studio, anything is certainly possible. We’ll just wait and see.
Let Me Know What You All Think Down In The Comments.