Let's be real: Final Fantasy is broken.
Sure, Square Enix's influential JRPG series might still be popular, its most recent single-player entry shipping 6.2 million units worldwide. And it might still be spawning more sequels, spin-offs and remakes than a Hollywood producer.
But it can do so much better. I mean, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 moved 6.5 million copies in twenty-four hours.
How do we get that much milk out of the Final Fantasy cash cow? What's the magical formula for appealing to American tastes? How can we fix a series that some say has been treading water for over a decade now?
Here are a few ideas.
It's getting clearer and clearer that games are not meant to be sold as complete packages. Games are meant to be ripped apart and sold in moderately-sized downloadable chunks.
Square Enix had the right idea for Final Fantasy XIII, selling the game without any towns, interesting dungeons, or fun. But then they forgot the DLC. Here was an entire legion of fans waiting for a downloadable package that would turn Final Fantasy XIII into a playable experience, but the package never came. Where was it?
Fortunately, the company seems to be getting on track with Final Fantasy XIII-2. Square Enix has already confirmed pre-order exclusive weapons, which it can then sell several months after release for extra money. Later, it can offer DLC packages for "Tolerable Characters" and "Less Embarrassing Dialogue."
This is 2011. Every gamer on the planet has an Internet connection. And many of those gamers have access to their parents' credit cards. Selling them DLC for Final Fantasy is as easy as taking candy from a baby (and then convincing the baby to buy the candy back from you at a reasonable price).
Square Enix recently announced that it will sell an Assassin's Creed costume for Final Fantasy XIII-2. This is great, because if there's anything Final Fantasy needs, it's more costumes.
But why stop there? Final Fantasy is the perfect playground for all sorts of integrated marketing ideas. Harry Potter-themed spells. Cameo appearances by Street Fighter characters. KFC-branded chocobo meat.
Remember, the way to make serious money is to think outside of the box. Even if that means releasing Dilbert Presents Final Fantasy XV.
Fans loved Triple Triad, the card game included in Final Fantasy VIII that was so addictive it could have been packaged as its own game. So why not package it as its own game?
We're in a recession here. Developers can't afford to work on nonsense like "mini-games" or "sidequests" without getting a little extra moolah. Square Enix should make a buck or two every time somebody wants to play blitzball or go chocobo racing or use the snowboard machine in the Golden Saucer. That's just good business.
Today's gamers don't want to go on grand, 60-hour adventures packed with things to see and do. They want to pay $50/year to get called racial slurs on Xbox Live. To fix Final Fantasy, we have to take advantage of that.
"But hey," you might be saying. "JRPGs like Dragon Quest IX and Tales of Vesperia have done just fine without any of these fixes. Many developers are still releasing great role-playing games with innovative mechanics and enthralling stories. Some of 2011's best games -- like Radiant Historia and The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky -- have been charming, traditional experiences without any invasive DLC or micro-transactions."
Well, sure. But do their developers get to swim in pools of your money? Thought not.
Jason Schreier is a freelance writer/editor based out of NYC. He's a contributing writer for Wired.com and occasionally writes for a number of other sites and publications, including Edge Magazine, the Onion News Network and G4TV. You can follow him on Twitter at @jasonschreier.