Interviews// SPOnG Interview: Square Enix's Senior VP Hiromichi Tanaka

At the beginning, we were thinking ‘well it would be nice to sell around 300,000...'

Posted 1 Feb 2007 18:40 by
SPOnG's Adam Hartley caught up with none other than Square Enix’s Senior Vice President of Software Development, Hiromichi Tanaka, and talked about Final Fantasy III DS (which is due to arrive in the UK and Europe this spring), Wii, Wonderswan and more.

Tanaka-san was one of the original members of Square Soft at its establishment in 1982. He joined Square’s board of directors in 1993 and was promoted to senior vice president in 1998. This all means one thing: he is a 'Very Important Man'.

He was also Executive Producer and Director on FFIII DS and it’s clearly one title in the mega-busting RPG series that’s especially close to his heart, as he was a game designer on the original Final Fantasy III which was published in Japan-only on the Famicon way back in 1990.

I am glad to report, he is a V.I.M. who still loves his games and cares passionately about one thing above all else – gameplay. So, let's see what he's got to say for himself:

SPOnG: Good morning Tanaka-san, how long have you been in Europe?

Hiromichi Tanaka: Since last Friday, for nearly one week now.

SPOnG: All work or do you get any time off while you’re in London?

Hiromichi Tanaka: I only got into London yesterday so I haven’t really had so much time yet. I’d like to get to the British Museum while I’m here.

SPOnG: Okay, well we’re really here today to talk about Final Fantasy III DS. The game is finally out here in the spring. It’s been out a while now in Japan and since last November in the US. How’s it selling to date?

Hiromichi Tanaka: Well, we’re actually very surprised by the sales figures in Japan and North America. In Japan it’s sold around a million copies to date and in North America it’s around half a million. At the beginning, we were thinking ‘well it would be nice to sell around 300,000.’ So, yes, it’s a good surprise.

SPOnG: The game was originally announced back in October 2004, why did you decide to make it for DS?

Hiromichi Tanaka: It was really down to good timing, making a version for the Nintendo DS. It’s over 16 years now since the original game came out in Japan. We had wanted to remake it a number of times over the years, but for various reasons we weren’t able to do so, then after 15 years we decided to remake it. At that point we were considering PS2 as a platform. But then we received information from Nintendo saying that we are going to make this new platform [DS] and could you please make Final Fantasy III for this platform. They were really, really enthusiastic. So, we thought, “Okay, its good timing, let’s take a challenge!”

SPOnG: Did you expect back then that the DS would be as popular as it has been?

Hiromichi Tanaka: Since DS is part of the Game Boy series which has been very successful all over the world then we were sure it would do okay. But the outcome [to date] has been very surprising indeed. However, when you look into the top-selling titles for the DS, the top-selling titles are mainly Nintendo’s own. For a third party it is still quite a challenging platform – when you are talking about making million-selling titles. When we said we were originally targeting 300,000 sales that was based on how many third-party titles were being sold, at that time.
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