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Final Fantasy XV director talks Pocket Edition for PCs, Windows 10 Mobile development struggles, and more

After over ten years in the making, last year marked the release of Final Fantasy XV – the latest iteration the renowned role-playing series from Square Enix. Following a release on both Xbox One and PlayStation 4, the game emerged as one of the best RPGs of 2016 – with an upgraded re-release for Windows PC currently expected in 2018.

At Gamescom 2017, the game's publisher also debuted a somewhat unexpected future for Final Fantasy XV, with the unveiling of a condensed version of the game made for mobile devices. Although the game is being reworked with a cute chibi-esque art style, on the surface, Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition looks to contain nearly the same depth as the full-fledged console version. An interesting premise nevertheless – especially for those drawn toward gaming on the go.

However, following the announcement, a few details surrounding the game's release caught my eye. Most notably, promising a mobile experience for iOS, Android and "Windows 10 devices," its ambiguity pointed toward a potential release for Windows 10 Mobile – a move somewhat expected with the current state of the platform. After scouring the show floor in search of answers, we managed to spend some time with Hajime Tabata, the director on Final Fantasy XV, to discuss Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition and what Windows 10 users can expect from the game this fall.

Putting the 'pocket' in Pocket Edition

While Tabata lead development of the latest big budget Final Fantasy project, his work also goes back to some of the previous Final Fantasy games released on mobile devices. Addressing the elephant in the room, at least for our mobile audience, our discussion kicked off on surrounding the release for Windows 10 – or at least what it means for those on mobile devices.

When asked about a clarification on Windows 10 devices, Tabata confirmed the rollout "includes tablet and PCs." Expanding, he explained "[Windows 10] Mobile is not in there" – clarifying the pocket aspect of the experience on Windows 10 refers to tablets. The director expanded on their reasoning for skipping over Windows 10 Mobile devices, emphasizing the struggles of development for the platform and its questionable condition.

The situation with Windows Phone is quite unknown to us now. We've got no real idea how many people are out there playing on Windows Phones, what the state is and whether Windows Phone owners actually want to play games or not.

Continuing, Tabata explained that in Japan, where Final Fantasy's dedicated following resides, Windows Phones aren't a common platform for development. With Microsoft continuing to roll back efforts on supporting Windows 10 Mobile, developing for these devices can be a difficult route to pursue. Whereas on PCs and tablets, explicitly naming Surface – these are the devices being targeted by the Pocket Edition.

Certainly, from Japan, it's difficult to get your hands-on Windows Phone hardware, so it's very difficult to do that sort of technical investigation too. […] It's just that the access for the environment for Windows phone is a very difficult thing for us. For PC, for tablet, specifically Surface, it's very easy for us to get into development for.

While tablets and phones will utilize touchscreen controls, Tabata clarified that support is also planned for mouse and keyboard for Windows 10 PCs. For those playing the game on a traditional PC setup, this should be a welcome feature – opening the game up to millions of current Windows 10 users.

Though a lack of Windows 10 Mobile support will be disappointing for some users, it's honestly hard to be surprised by the move. Third-party development for Windows 10 Mobile continues to shrink going into its third year and even Microsoft appears to be planning yet another reboot going forward. The release for Windows 10 PCs and tablets should still provide avenues for a majority of potential players to access the game, even if you may lose some of the mobility initially envisioned.

From the big screen to the app store

Despite the lack of Windows Phone support, Square Enix is still attempting to develop the game for support for the widest possible range of devices on other operating systems – even those with lower hardware specifications. Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition has been rebuilt within Unity – a much more flexible engine than Square Enix's internal Luminous Studio. With this, the team is attempting to maintain the scale of the game, while still optimizing for weaker hardware.

There's no actual content that's been cut from the main game. It's really things like reducing the size of area screens, and some of the little areas and surrounding bits have been cut off a little bit.We're actually trying to see how wide a variety of hardware and how low an Android version we go to at the moment and push down, we're currently very much looking into working out what the range of support we give for that is now.

And when playing an in-progress version of the Pocket Edition on Tabata's phone, it's clear that in terms of the core gameplay experience, this is still Final Fantasy XV. Skill trees have been brought forward, the narrative follows the same line of events – even combat is still based on the same core values as the full game. Some settlements have been made, but it's still remarkable that Square Enix has been able to condense Final Fantasy XV into this mobile form factor.

Breaking apart the world of Eos

One of the biggest criticisms of Square Enix's portfolio in recent years has been its approach to established franchises, with a noticeable push for episodic distribution. Following the success of several episodic series in the industry, reputable names such as Hitman and Final Fantasy began to see a shift toward bite-sized installments in recent years. Although this move never proved detrimental to Hitman last year (quite the opposite), when the Final Fantasy XV's Pocket Edition's episodic structure came to light, it was still disappointing to see.

However, after speaking with Tabata, the approach to Pocket Edition seems to make more sense than other Square Enix titles to date. With all 10 episodes releasing at once, this approach should better suit the experience to the mobile market, where purchases rarely venture beyond a few dollars.

Originally, we did want to make it a one-off purchase – just a single price. But we thought about it, we thought of smartphone gamers – they don't really like having to buy a full game at once, without trying it out at all. So that's why we decided to have the episodic base, so they could start it, try it out and if they liked it, they could buy the full set.You can, of course, buy all the episodes in one go if you want and you get a slightly better price – you get a discount on that, or you can buy them separately too. We're thinking of a rough price point of around three dollars/three euros per episode.

Adapting the price point of a traditional console triple-A experience into smaller installments might be the best approach for bringing the game over to mobile. However, there are still doubts surrounding how the flow of a 14-chapter console game will be affected when condensed into 10 cut-down episodes.

Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition is currently on track to release later this year, with all 10 episodes rolling out simultaneously. While the game will be launching on iOS, Android and Windows 10, those with the hardware will also be able to pick up Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition – a re-release of the full retail game taking full advantage of high-end PC hardware. However, for those on-the-go or simply using less powerful PCs, Pocket Edition is shaping up to be an interesting new way to absorb the world of Final Fantasy XV.

Will you be playing Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition on Windows 10? Let us know what you think of the game's direction in the comments.

Matt Brown is Windows Central's Senior Editor, Xbox & PC, at Future. Following over seven years of professional consumer technology and gaming coverage, he’s focused on the world of Microsoft's gaming efforts. You can follow him on Twitter @mattjbrown.

  • Well....I got very excited last week for nothing then. 😔
  • These days, if an app says 'coming to Windows,' and you actually don't get it in writing, assume it's not hitting mobile.
  • I didn't see a question asked if the game is a UWP game for Windows 10 and if it is a UWP game, with the touch based UI already built, it should have been less effort to make the game work for Windows 10 Mobile than a UWP game that isn't centered around a touch UI or mobile OS history on iOS or Android. In this situation, a game that is truly made for mobile phones, with the Unity engine (Unity runs on Windows 10 Mobile too), with an existing mobile focused UI and chipset target, it really shouldn't have taken much effort at all after checking the box to deploy to Mobile. Sales of the game and chapters on Windows 10 Mobile should have made the small investment worth it. I know I was going to buy the game but now I am not, since Windows 10 Mobile isn't supported and I own iOS and Android devices too. I'm not a big gamer but I support companies that support Windows 10 Mobile and the UWP initiative because I fully understand that the companies don't have to support Windows 10 Mobile or UWP and don't need Windows 10 Mobile or UWP to sustain their business. My interest in buying this has fallen from 100% instabuy to 0%.  
  • Sales of the game and chapters on Windows 10 Mobile should have made the small investment worth it
    A dwindling install base and a supreme lack on interest shown by Microsoft would suggest its an investment thats not worth making. At thiis point its clear this platform has no future, no sane company would be making new investments in it.
  • Code is one thing, QA is another. Even if Unity can cook up sku, without device testing, it'll be buggy as hell for a lotta phones. e.g. iPhone.X + iOS.A, iPhone.X + iOS.B, iPhone.Y + iOS.A, iPhone.Y + iOS.B sometimes gives you different results. Some API call should've been deprecated in the standard Android ROM... but, it actually worked / survived... in some 3rd party modded phones or custom ROMs. btw, The more user to report bugs (+ if they have your phone's model + os version or pc's HW/SW/OS/user-installed-background-services/driver/etc combination to replicate the issue), the easier for devs to fix things. -----------------
    I suppose, this built is for win10.pc and win10.arm then. If cloud sync is implemented... you can game on your desktop@home and continue your progress on the win10.arm on the go... kinda neat.
  • Of course this assumes they are making a win10.arm build. That would have been the right question by the way, which for whatever reason was not asked by Windows Central.
  • Doesn't win10.arm accept uwp.pc SKU (and run win32 applications)? on the other hand, only accepts SKU. (reason why failed) If they (Square Enix) black list ALL win10.arm devices then that's another story...
  • I'd assume that WoA can excute x86 applications via emulation, however native would be much better of course. If emulation is applicable also for UWP is not clear to me, as a clear statement from Microsoft is missing.
  • If u are a big gamer, what games do u play on windows phone?
  • Why do you type 'u' when the word 'you' is only 3 letters.?
  •  I'm not a big gamer but I play Warhammer 40K m: Freeblade, Asphalt Streetstorm, Asphalt 8/Extreme, Nitro Nation, Rival Knights, Beach Buggy Racing, Paper Monsters, Shred It, World of Tanks, Run and Gun Banditos, Momonga Pinball, Rocket Riot and more, easily spending $500 in IAPs over the life of Windows 10 Mobile. 
  • Really wish those who have it on Xbox could get the Pocket Edition for free, or maybe with the season pass instead of paying again. I get where he's coming from but, maybe they should just have priced it lower for those who didn't want the full game, so 30$ instead of the initial 60$. Then those who pay for the full game, and get the season pass can get it included.
  • He is hoping the "Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition – a re-release of the full retail game taking full advantage of high-end PC hardware" will be available as an Xbox Play Anywhere <3
  • The situation with Windows Phone is quite unknown to us now. We've got no real idea how many people are out there playing on Windows Phones, what the state is and whether Windows Phone owners actually want to play games or not. Let's face it, Windows Phone/Mobile aren't exactly made for gaming in the first place right? 😎