It's Not Pandering If...

by Brett Smith

The various accusations that Squaresoft does nothing but appeal towards specific audiences to be commercially successful are escalating. Since Final Fantasy VII and VIII, it has come to a point where the company can not release anything without coming under suspicion of just blatantly trying to "pander" to the masses. The claims that Squaresoft is even doing this, however, are unfounded for various reasons, and hence, suspecting them of doing it "again" is absurd.

One basis for these allegations is that Final Fantasy VII, and VIII by follow-up, alienated old-time gamers. However, this claim relies on over-generalization: there is absolutely no consensus between any group of gamers on the quality of Final Fantasy VII. I have played every Final Fantasy from IV to VII, and consider VII to be the best of the four. If I do not qualify as a RPG veteran, there are various other editorials on RPGamer which would show the similar apprecition many gamers, who were around long before me, had for the game. Hence, Final Fantasy VII did not "alienate" anybody -- if you did not like it, that is simply because it failed to appeal to you and you alone. There is no indication that it was Squaresoft's intention to betray the gamers that gave it the status to make Final Fantasy VII so successful.

"Wait, Brett," someone says: "Final Fantasy VII had various traits to make it interesting to people less familiar with RPGs. That means they were trying to appeal to everyone possible." This argument also fails, however, by the fact that it overreaches: if Final Fantasy VII has these traits, and appealed to everyone, by logical following, the earlier games did not appeal to the majority of people because they did not have these characteristics. There has yet to be a single substantive argument proving this point. There has always been a vested love interest: Cloud and Tifa, Locke and Celes, Cecil and Rosa. There have always been great sacrifices: Aeris, Cid of VI, Cid of IV, Anna, Tellah, Palom and Porom, Yang. If these characteristics made Final Fantasy VII successful, why did they not do the same for earlier games in the series?

The reason that Final Fantasy VII appealed to more people than earlier games in the series is not from any change in the game. When you get below the new polygonal battles and prerendered backgrounds, the meat of the game -- the themes it discusses -- are the same as any other game. Instead, Final Fantasy VII's widescale commercial success is due to several other factors working together. First is the increasing popularity of video games: simply put, more and more people own game consoles. Hence, there is a much larger audience of less-seasoned players out there which were available. Second is the increasing popularity of the Final Fantasy series: the name has earned growing recognition from critics as the years have passed. Third is the massive advertising campaign put out for Final Fantasy VII: not many games are priveleged to have advertisements in Rolling Stone, let alone on television. Squaresoft created an enormous media blitz for the game, and it still stands as one of the largest campaigns in video game history.

When people combine the commercial success of Final Fantasy VII with their distaste for the game, they too quickly assume that it is a fault of the game. However, the proofs behind this causal relationship are much too shaky to hold any decent amount of consideration and question. Hence, there is no reason to believe that Squaresoft is creating games solely for the purpose of pandering to the widest possible audience.

[Editor's Note: I want to share something with you. I name all files according to the two letters of someone's pen name. Brett Smith becomes bs. I've always found it funny that some of the most well-written editorials I get, and most factual/logical ones, are under the filename mmddyyBS.html. It just makes me laugh. That aside, this is an excellent editorial. It is very well-written, good choice of words, excellent grammar, and it backs up its points fully. I also post these alphabetically by filename, so this will probably be at the front. There are many more comments about what good editorials are later on too, so don't really worry about the lack of them in here.]

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