As the need for more long term gaming franchises becomes greater and greater, the more that developers and publishers try to capitalize on this with expanded universe content. Most people probably know of the concept of such an expanded universe thanks to Star Wars or the Marvel films, though video games are no slouch in this department. The two biggest examples of games providing additional insight into their universes outside of the games themselves would have to be Microsoft’s Halo franchise and BioWare’s Mass Effect.
Last week, Square Enix put out a trailer for Final Fantasy XV, which isn’t anything new, given that the game’s due for release in about two and a half months. But this one was something different; rather than just being about the game, it was about the entire “expanded universe” around the game. Kingsglaive, the prequel film, will be centered around King Regis, the father of FFXV protagonist Noctis and star a cast that includes Sean Bean and Lena Headey of Game of Thrones fame. Justice Monsters Five is nothing more than a mobile pinball game; and Brotherhood is the five-part anime that explains how the four leads — Noctis, Prompto, Gladiolus, and Ignis– met and became friends.
All of this stuff sounds and looks interesting, but it does make one wonder if the upcoming action-RPG is aiming for the stars when it should just be trying to shoot successfully. Supplemental content to a game isn’t anything new; these days, pretty much every game has something that’s meant to expand upon the lore or just give fans something cool to watch. Heck, we saw that with Overwatch the last three months, and we’re in the process of having that happen again with a new character to join its roster. Thing is, when a game releases more of that world-building content, it generally comes after the game in question has been released. Thus far, there have only been two exceptions to the rule: Mass Effect’s first novel, Revelation, which released in May of 2007 before the original game’s release in November, and Halo: The Fall of Reach, which came out a full month before the first game hit stores.
Even with those two being put into consideration, the content in question from Final Fantasy XV could also have fans wondering what the actual in-game story is going to be like and how the information from the anime and film are going to be relayed to the player in-game. Are the characters going to be making references to Prompto’s past that you can only get if they’ve watched the anime to learn that Prompto slimmed down to become friends with Noctis? Is the game suddenly going just have characters from the Kingsglaive film show up with zero explanation for who they are? It’s not the first game to do this — hey, remember how Kai Leng showed up in Mass Effect 3 and everyone but you knew about him? — but that doesn’t make it any less annoying.
Yes, fine, this stuff is helping to reach a wider audience and get non-fans interested in the game when they otherwise wouldn’t have been. This strategy has worked countless times before, as was the case with Avatar: The Legend of Korra. All the same, it does seem a bit perplexing that they need a different media format to get the friendship of the four leads across so people will like them instead of just, y’know, showing us gameplay videos of the four of them dicking around in the open world while exploring or bantering in the car.