Microsoft considered buying Square Enix to add Final Fantasy and more to Xbox

Final Fantasy 16 key art cropped
(Image credit: Square Enix)

What you need to know

  • More evidence has been uploaded in the ongoing hearing between the FTC and Microsoft. 
  • According to new evidence, Microsoft had a plan to buy Square Enix in 2019. 
  • Microsoft identified franchises like Final Fantasy that could add a lot to the Xbox first-party lineup.
  • The plan, dubbed "Project Phoenix," did not pan out.

We're in the fourth day of the FTC vs. Microsoft Corp hearing, and the big news just keeps coming. 

As part of new evidence uploaded by the FTC, we now know that Microsoft once had a plan to acquire Square Enix. Fittingly dubbed 'Project Phoenix,' Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer and other Xbox leadership considering buying Square Enix back in 2019 to add Final Fantasy and other properties to the Xbox first-party library, bolstering Xbox Game Pass and providing new titles for the then-upcoming Xbox Series X|S consoles. 

Much of the file is redacted, but Microsoft noted at the time that in addition to core pillars like Final Fantasy, Square Enix would've granted additional development support through other studios and IP like Deux Ex. Microsoft also identified Square Enix having strength in mobile gaming, something that Microsoft has continually stated is a major reason for its ongoing attempt to acquire Activision Blizzard. 

Square Enix sold its western branch to Embracer Group in 2022, removing Crystal Dynamics, Eidos Montreal, and properties like Tomb Raider from its portfolio.

Naturally, this plan clearly didn't work out, though Microsoft would go on to buy Bethesda parent company ZeniMax Media in 2020, adding Bethesda Game Studios and titles like Starfield to the Xbox roster.

Windows Central's take

Obviously almost anything has advantages and disadvantages, but in my opinion, going after ZeniMax Media was a far better move. There was a much closer relationship there, and integrating Bethesda to become part of Xbox seems like an infinitely more natural fit than trying to get Square Enix on board. 

On the flip side, Sony has continued to aggressively go after Square Enix titles as exclusives, with Final Fantasy 16 recently launching as a PS5 exclusive and selling over 3 million copies. Impossible not to wonder "what if" in light of this evidence.

Samuel Tolbert
Freelance Writer

Samuel Tolbert is a freelance writer covering gaming news, previews, reviews, interviews and different aspects of the gaming industry, specifically focusing on Xbox and PC gaming on Windows Central. You can find him on Twitter @SamuelTolbert.