Not all games have to chase trends and satisfy everyone to be successful

Someone give Yoshida a cuddle from me and tell him it'll be okay, yeah?

This Week in Games is a weekly column where Vikki Blake pulls apart the biggest stories in gaming each week. This week, she wants to assure Square Enix and publishers like it that none of us expects all games to do all things. Honestly.

How many games are you playing right now? No, I’m not talking about the one you started, got bored of, but have held off deleting, just in case you decide to come back to it in a week or so (newsflash: you won’t. Delete it guilt-free, my friend). I’m not even talking about the games you dip in and out a few times a month with your friends, or the mobile titles that keep you company on the can or on your commute. All those aside, how many games are you actively playing right now to completion (or routinely, in the case of those lovely live-service titles that never end)?

I have five on the go right now: Animal Crossing: New Horizons (I’ve been a bit of an absent neighbour recently, but I’m back and trying to talk Rowan out of leaving me), Apex Legends (the new season’s ring hasn’t put me off completely just yet), something I can’t talk about because it’s not out yet (it has guns, though: yay!) and – because I’m me and I don’t know how to function in a world where I don’t play it – Destiny 2.

My usual fireteam and I are also enjoying Among Us right now, too. Ostensibly it’s a bit different from the other titles I’ve just listed, but we just love stabbing each other and trying to get away with it, I think.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Image credit: Nintendo

Animal Crossing‘s sun-soaked sandy strolls aside, it would be tempting to think that the other four are cut from the same cloth. I mean, they all have killing stuff at their heart, right? Truth is, though, they all serve very different purposes. They all appeal to me differently depending upon my mood and who I’m playing with.

Apex Legends, for instance, offers a delicious pick-up-and-play mentality but requires a little strategy, which makes it a great competitive game to blow off steam. Destiny 2 on the other hand, is as much about muscle memory as anything else and is something I can dip in and out of and enjoy sublime gunplay. As it’s between big expansions, I don’t have to focus on any lore-heavy cut-scenes to follow the story, and I have to dip in with reasonable regularity to unlock the battle pass and keep hoping against hope that the Loot Lords will drop me Powerful Gear that isn’t a duplicate or completely suck.

That’s why I’m so surprised at the recent thoughts of Final Fantasy 14 producer/director, Naoki Yoshida. In a new candid interview, Yoshida – who’s also tasked with bringing the eagerly-anticipated Final Fantasy 16 to life, too – admitted that he thought the 35-year-old franchise was “struggling” to “satisfy” a fan base that seems to want wildly different things.

Final Fantasy 16
Final Fantasy 16. Credit: Square Enix

“In terms of whether Final Fantasy is successfully adapting to industry trends, I believe the series is currently struggling,” Yoshida said at the time. “We’re now at a point where we receive a wide variety of requests regarding the direction of our game design. To be honest, it’d be impossible to satisfy all those requests with a single title.”

It’s not just me, right? I can’t be the only one who reads that and not only feels a very real pang of sympathy for Yoshida – who is tasked with carrying 35 years’ worth of fan expectation on his weary shoulders – but also wonders who is putting this kind of pressure on him and the FF team in the first place.

I mean: who is it, exactly, that thinks Final Fantasy 16 needs to adapt to include all industry trends? As I have evidenced time and again in these here columns, I am not an expert on making games or those who make them, but I’ve played enough bland generic open-world games to know that any attempt to chase trends ends in disaster. We’ve learned to spot designed-by-committee games a mile off and trust me: we don’t need any more of the bloody things.

Final Fantasy 16
Final Fantasy 16. Credit: Square Enix

There are plenty of games that I think are damned near perfect – Portal 2; Dishonored 2; Silent Hill 2; Mass Effect 2 (apparently I only think sequels can be perfect) – but there is no single game in the world that can satisfy every mood and every fireteam. The list above shows that even if you stick to a particular genre – and most gamers don’t – different games appeal for different reasons. That’s the magic of gaming. There’s something for every player, every mood, every console; every everything.

Thankfully, by the end of Yoshida’s interview he was much more upbeat, acknowledging that “all [he] can really do is create multiple games, and continue creating the best that[he]we can at any given time”, which is damned right, of course. But just in case, for the people at the back: no, not all games have to chase trends and satisfy all players to be successful. All we want is for them to be good, you know?

What else?

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