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Tracking Final Fantasy XV's Long Road To Release

by Joe Juba on Nov 28, 2016 at 11:28 AM

Many gamers are looking ahead to the next generation for exciting games, but for one of Square Enix’s most anticipated upcoming titles, we have to look backward. Final Fantasy Versus XIII was unveiled in 2006, but remained seldom-seen and mysterious until it reappeared as Final Fantasy XV. Even then, concrete answers about the game’s status are rare, so we’ve assembled this timeline of its progress, major appearances, and related comments from original director Tetsuya Nomura, current director Hajime Tabata, producer Yoshinori Kitase, and brand director Shinji Hashimoto.

Update 11/28/16: New entries added to reflect the continued (and presumably final) developments, including Final Fantasy XV's release on November 29, 2016.

May 2006 
At E3, Final Fantasy Versus XIII is announced as part of Fabula Nova Crystalis, as is Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy Agito XIII. Along with Final Fantasy XIII, it is revealed as a PS3 exclusive. 

January 2007 
Nomura says Versus XIII will feature some kind of unique support for the PlayStation 3’s Sixaxis controller.

July 2007 
Versus XIII is absent from E3.

September 2007 
Versus XIII is absent from the Tokyo Game Show.

December 2007 
Square Enix releases a new video adding more content to the original reveal trailer, showing a stylish fight and more of the protagonist’s powers in action. 

June 2008 
Nomura says Versus XIII is on hold while the team helps complete Final Fantasy XIII. Square Enix later denies this, attributing Nomura’s statement to mistranslation.

July 2008 
Square Enix announces that Final Fantasy XIII is going multiplatform at E3. The company claims it has no plans to change the PS3 exclusivity of Versus XIII, which is otherwise absent from the show.

August 2008
A new trailer debuts at a Square Enix fan event, showing a new female character battling the protagonist.

October 2008
At the Tokyo Game Show, the protagonist’s name is revealed to be Noctis, and the woman he was fighting in the previous trailer is named Stella. The first in-game footage is revealed in the form of a conversation between Noctis and Stella. The video shows no exploration or combat.

June 2009 
Versus XIII is absent from E3.

September 2009 
Gameplay footage in a closed theater at the Tokyo Game Show depicts Noctis running around in various environments, but no combat is shown.

December 2009 
Final Fantasy XIII (now multiplatform) releases in Japan. The North American release follows three months later.

March 2010 
Nomura reveals via Twitter that players can navigate the world of Versus XIII with an airship.

June 2010 
Versus XIII is absent from E3. Nomura claims that the game’s storyline, character designs, and clothing designs are finished.

August 2010
Voice casting begins in Japan. Yoshinori Kitase says that Versus XIII might not release in 2011.

September 2010
Nomura affirms via Twitter that Versus XIII is being developed exclusively for PlayStation 3, saying: “The debate over porting is decided by the management based off the current market and the costs. All I can say right now as a developer is that Versus is being developed specifically for the PlayStation 3.”

What Else Has Happened Since Versus XIII’s Announcement?
  • All three Mass Effect games released
  • The entire Assassin’s Creed franchise
  • The rise and fall of music games
  • Five other main Final Fantasy titles:  XII, XIII, XIII-2, Lightning Returns, and XIV
  • BioShock, BioShock 2, and BioShock Infinite released
  • Every Call of Duty game after Call of Duty 2, including World at War, Ghosts, Black Ops 1 and 2, and all three Modern Warfare titles released
  • The PlayStation 3’s entire life
  • The Wii craze
  • Sony and Microsoft introducing/releasing their own motion controllers
  • Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo each designed and released a new generation of hardware
  • Duke Nukem Forever released

October 2010 
Listings for battle planner and level design planner positions appears on the recruitment page on Square Enix’s website.

January 2011
Square Enix releases a six-minute trailer highlighting the story, new characters, and the battle system in action. Nomura confirms that Versus XIII will not release in 2011.

June 2011
Versus XIII is absent from E3.

July 2011
Versus XIII is still in the pre-production phase, though Nomura says that the team is making preparations. Screenshots are shown to selected press, but are not published or otherwise released to the public.

August 2011 
Square Enix files a new trademark application for Final Fantasy Versus XIII, indicating that the company still intends to move forward with the game under its current name (rather than dropping the XIII, as many had speculated).

September 2011
Versus XIII is absent from the Tokyo Game Show. Yoshinori Kitase confirms that the game has entered full production.

October 2011 
Final Fantasy Agito XIII (the second of the three announced Final Fantasy XIII titles) releases in Japan under the new name Final Fantasy Type 0. No North American release plans are announced (though a renewed trademark keeps hope alive).

May 2012 
When asked about Versus XIII in an interview, Nomura tells Game Informer: “We would like to ask for your patience on an official announcement for this title. It always takes time when tackling the challenge of doing something completely new, but we are doing our best to bring information to the fans as quickly as we can. Your patience is greatly appreciated.”

June 2012 
Versus XIII is absent from E3. Square Enix gives Game Informer the following comment: “We appreciate the excitement for this title, but at this time, we do not have any new information to share on its development. We are extremely thankful for the continued support for the Final Fantasy franchise and Final Fantasy Versus XIII.”

July 2012
On Twitter, Square Enix CEO Yoichi Wada denies rumors of Versus XIII’s cancellation, explaining that he was recently in a regularly scheduled meeting for the game and that the visuals of the city are particularly impressive.

February 2013
Shinji Hashimoto says that a new Final Fantasy entry is coming to the PlayStation 4. He is not specific, leading to speculation that the title is related to the next-gen Final Fantasy tech demo (shown below).

April 2013
Nomura describes the development of Final Fantasy Versus XIII as “a delicate situation within the company” on a podcast. He says that the date has been set for the next big reveal.

June 2013
E3 2013 brings with it the most substantial news since the game’s unveiling. At Sony’s press conference, Square Enix reveals that Final Fantasy Versus XIII is now Final Fantasy XV. In addition, the game drops the PS3 and goes next-gen multiplatform, now coming exclusively to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. No specific release date is given, but it is not soon, whatever it is.

June 2013
Shortly after the re-reveal, Square Enix provides new art and character info.

September 2013
Apart from a very familiar trailer, Final Fantasy XV has no significant presence at the Tokyo Game Show.

February 2014
In an interview, Kitase says Final Fantasy XV is “quite far into development now and it is being given a very high priority within the company itself.” He also says that it is not competing with Kingdom Hearts 3 for resources, implying that KH3 is further out on the release schedule.

April 2014
Official product pages for Final Fantasy XV describe how it has been “designed as an action game,” highlighting stylized combat over traditional turn-based mechanics.

June 2014
A year after the announcement of the name change, fans were hoping to see the game reappear at E3. That didn't happen, with Hashimoto explaining that fans will have to wait until after E3 for more information.

September 2014
During the Tokyo Game Show, Square Enix made two important announcements regarding the status of FF XV. The first was the changing of the director role; Hajime Tabata took over for Tetsuya Nomura as the head of the project. The second piece of news was that a Final Fantasy XV demo entitled Episode Duscae was scheduled to release in 2015. 

December 2014
A new trailer and Q&A with director Hajime Tabata comes out of Jump Festa.

February 2015
Square Enix releases new screens for the upcoming demo. 

March 2015
Gamers get some hands-on time with Episode Duscae at PAX East. For the first time, we get some solid, playable proof that this game is moving along toward release.  

March 2015
As promised at the previous TGS, the Episode Duscae demo is released with Final Fantasy Type-0 HD. After so many years, the public has its first playable taste of Final Fantasy XV.

May 2015
Square Enix announces plans to release a substantial update to Episode Duscae, adding new combat options and quests.

June 2015
Final Fantasy XV does not have a presence at E3, but the updated Duscae demo releases. Tabata reveals that the previous heroine and love interest, Stella, was dropped from the story. In her place, the plans for the character were reforged and she was renamed Luna.

August 2015
Gamescom brings with it new story details, along with a new trailer entitled “Dawn” that paints a picture of the characters’ lives 15 years prior to the events of Final Fantasy XV.

August 2015
At a PAX Prime panel, Square Enix confirms that Final Fantasy XV will launch in 2016.

September 2015
Square Enix releases a new, shorter “Dawn 2.0” trailer.

January 2016
On the game’s official forums, lead game designer Takizawa Masashi discusses how the two battle settings – one active and one more relaxed – are essentially the equivalent of difficulty settings.

January 2016
During an Active Time Report development update, Tabata confirms that an official event will be held in March to announce Final Fantasy XV’s release date. In addition, he shares that a free tech demo separate from Episode Duscae will be released.

March 2016
At the Uncovered: Final Fantasy XV event, Square Enix reveals an array of new information, including a September 30 2016 release date, the Platinum Demo, a full-length CG movie, a short anime series, a mobile game, a new trailer. 

April 2016
We here at Game Informer launch a month of in-depth features from when we visited Square Enix’s Tokyo headquarters for our Final Fantasy XV cover story. Highlights include interviews, character insights, and hands-on impressions.

May 2016
What are the birthdays of Noctis and his buddies? Now you know.

June 2016
Square Enix brings Final Fantasy XV to E3 in force, with multiple trailers and a stage presentation during Microsoft’s press conference. The presentation had some technical errors, but felt much better when we played it ourselves.

August 2016
Square Enix details its DLC plans for Final Fantasy XV, giving players a general idea of what to expect from the season pass, as well as various pre-order bonuses.

August 2016
With a little over a month until the announced release, Square Enix confirms rumors that the game has been delayed to November 29, 2016. The explanation revolves around the desire to avoid a substantial day-one patch, instead putting all of those critical updates on the disc. The game's movie tie-in, Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV, also hits this month (with its own ups and downs). 

September 2016
Final Fantasy XV has a presence at PAX and Tokyo Game Show, and we get more details about what to expect from the music

October 2016
With big-picture stuff covered, fans get to dive into smaller details, like trailers for specific spells and Moogle demos. Square Enix also distributes a preview version of the game that includes the first several chapters, letting press outlets play and discuss it at length.

November 2016
Over 10 years after its initial announcement, Final Fantasy XV releases! We give it plenty of praise (read our review), and we aren't alone.

A portion of this feature originally appeared in issue 232 of Game Informer.