With the upcoming release of the long-awaited remake of Final Fantasy VII (or at least the first instalment of an alledged trilogy), I have taken interest in the marketing strategy that Square-Enix has employed over the last few years to sell its new titles in Japan. Television commercials of two of the company’s major works, Dragon Quest XI and Final Fantasy VII Remake, have been noticed for relying not so much on content and features, but on a mix of nostalgia and the contextualization of the games as communication tools.
In both videos, it is not the games, but rather the players that are put forward. Individuals are juxtaposed to one another in order to emphasize the plurality of settings and ways in which the game is experienced. The Final Fantasy VII commercial puts us in the shoes of a neophyte confronted to a social world where everyone seems to communicate through memories related to the game, a situation salvaged by his budding interest in its universe and the promise to enjoy it with his partner when it comes out. Here, the games are not presented as engaging stories or challenges worth taking on, but as vectors of human connections.
This situation is much different, however, to commercials of other minor games released by Square Enix during the same period. Despite the status as mobile games tied to equally long-running franchises, Romancing Saga Re:universe and Final Fantasy Brave Exodus have not had the similar treatment. Their marketing strategies rather relied on other elements such as game features and comical mise en scènes. Despite the direct integration of social mechanics in the core of the product itself, these do not seem to define the discourses of these games as much as they were a decade ago with titles such as Puzzle and Dragon.
Game advertisements in Japan have evolved tremendously since SEGA aired the first commercial for the arcade game Samurai in 1980. The change in focus from game features to human connection is probably not unique to the examples mentioned above. However, as the game industry is turning into a purveyor of “fandom” rather than consumable products, we might see more commercials adopting the unique tone developed by Square Enix to present games as an entry ticket to a community.