As megacorps play Hungry Hungry Hippos with large and small publishers alike, after the recent near-finalizing of the Microsoft Activision Blizzard acquisition, eyes turned to who is left, and one name kept coming up a lot.
Square Enix. The Japanese developer recently sold off many of its western studios in what looked like a slim-down for possible sale. They have a long, longstanding relationship with Sony, this year alone producing console exclusives like Forspoken and Final Fantasy XVI. Worst case, that close relationship continued with Square Enix and they acted as a borderline exclusive-provider. Best case, Sony actually buys them and adds a huge name to its roster to “counter” Microsoft.
Neither of these appears to be happening, and it’s sort of a worst-worst case for Sony. At FanFest, the Final Fantasy event, none other than Xbox’s Phil Spencer showed up to announce that Final Fantasy XIV, the beloved MMO, would be coming to Xbox in the spring of 2024.
And, potentially more: “We look forward to building on the relationship that we’ve established in bringing Final Fantasy XIV to Xbox and partnering closely with you and the Square Enix team on future games,” Spencer said.
While nothing specific was announced there, it certainly indicates the end of an unofficial cold war between Xbox and Square Enix, and while there certainly may be more Sony-exclusive deals in the future, the door now seems open for more cross-platform releases the way most third party publishers operate between PlayStation and Xbox. And neither party appears to be buying Square Enix, especially not Sony, after this.
While we should never say never when it comes to these monster acquisitions in this day and age, what appears to have happened here is just some old-fashioned diplomacy and deal-making. I do wonder if anything here was driven by FFXVI sales which were good, but perhaps SE is tired of often being restricted to PlayStation alone. Though who knows what Phil Spencer did to win them over in the end.
It is a potentially big deal for Sony if they cannot claim SE games as even time-limited exclusives in the future. Forspoken may have been a miss in this category, but Final Fantasy XVI certainly wasn’t, and this does seem like the beginning of a new age for both SE and Microsoft. Xbox needs all the help they can get with their ecosystem, but this is a very solid partner to secure.