The original Final Fantasy on the NES introduced many players to the JRPG scene for the first time back in 1987. Nearly 35 years later, the series remains as popular as ever, having spawned CGI films, anime, novels, and more. The Final Fantasy franchise has sold nearly 160 million units in the last few decades, but it’s the MMO Final Fantasy 14 that has set a new profitability record for Japanese publisher Square Enix.
During a preview event for the title’s Endwalker expansion, game director Naoki Yoshida revealed that the online title had reached 24 million registered players, which is all the more impressive considering that Square Enix considered the game to be a “massive failure” when it debuted in 2010. Yoshida had been brought in to completely rebuild the game, and part of his strategy was to expand the audience beyond diehard MMORPG players, telling Time in 2015 that “we deliberately targeted those who have yet to play an MMORPG, and made certain that the first part of the game wouldn’t require players to recruit a party of other players.”
Yoshida’s approach worked wonders as Final Fantasy 14 grew from four million registered users in 2015 to 10 million in 2017 and has more than doubled again since then. With Endwalker releasing next month, the series is likely to get another shot in the arm, and Yoshida said that his team is already planning content for the next 10 years.
Whether in MMO form or as a traditional RPG, Final Fantasy has always been driven by its strong narrative. In fact, famed designer Peter Molyneux cited Final Fantasy VII as the game that defined the RPG genre. The series has demonstrated a staying power that few franchises can achieve, putting it in league with Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros., Legend of Zelda, or Konami’s Castlevania.
There are no signs of Final Fantasy slowing down. According to Interpret’s New Media Measure®, fanship for the franchise increased slightly from 2020 to 2021, keeping it ahead of other popular fantasy or sci-fi franchises like World of Warcraft, Borderlands, Watch Dogs, and others.