RPG's and Dreamcast: Part Two

The first part of this editorial discussed the influence the Dreamcast could have on the future of role-playing Games. This time I want to look at the impact two role-playing games might have on the success of the Dreamcast, especially in Japan. In light of recent rumors that have surfaced, the Dreamcast has the potential to have the largest launch in the history of console gaming.

The biggest rumor, and one that I believe the strongest, is the possibility of Dragon Quest VII appearing on the Dreamcast as a launch or first-generation title. How can one game make so great a difference in a system's success? Well, to know why one simply has to take a quick glance at the history of the Dragon Quest series. Not only was Dragon Quest the first console RPG ever made, it is also the best selling game series of all time in Japan with over 20 million copies of its first six incarnations being sold. Each subsequent sequel has gone above and beyond the previous in sales with Dragon Quest VI having over 5 million copies sold alone.

The only series that comes close to Dragon Quest is the Final Fantasy series of role-playing games. They have consistently been one step behind Enix's Dragon Quest series, and the trend of rising sales has also been mimicked by Final Fantasy. Final Fantasy VII continued the trend and sold over 6 million copies. You could say Final Fantasy VII was single handedly responsible for the Playstation's success in Japan. When this trend in rising sales is taken into consideration, we could see Dragon Quest VII easily reach 6 million copies sold and probably beyond that figure.

I'm sure you're saying, "Hey, that's great for Enix, but what about the Dreamcast?" Simply put, those 6 million plus copies of Dragon Quest VII need a machine to be played upon. And if that machine is the Dreamcast exclusively, we could very easily see the biggest console launch in history. They could exceed the Saturn's total number of systems sold in Japan within one year of the Dreamcast's launch. And when you throw in the popularity of Sega's arcade division, you have quite a money making machine on your hands.

Why am I so sure that Dragon Quest VII will be on the Dreamcast? A few reasons actually and the first is that Dragon Quest VII was initially planned for development on the Sega Saturn. Like Square, Enix wanted to use the new CD-ROM format and the Nintendo 64 wasn't going to allow them to do that. And they knew Square was developing for the Sony Playstation and these two companies have had an intense rivalry since each one released their first game. It would be to Enix's advantage to develop for both Sega and Sony while placing Dragon Quest VII on the rival system to capture that market strictly for them. Unfortunately for Enix, Square's Final Fantasy VII was released well before Dragon Quest VII was even close to being finished, and Sony's Playstation gained dominance in the Japanese market. The situation in Japan had changed dramatically and it was no longer to Enix's advantage to release on the Saturn exclusively. And Enix was also likely planning to re-enter the US market and by this time the Saturn was mired in third place. The game was delayed, as new decisions regarding choice of platform for release needed to be made.

The next time we heard any news about DQVII was earlier this year as they announced a 3rd or 4th quarter release for an undisclosed system. It was assumed that the system was the Playstation and that it would be an exclusive. But then the Dreamcast was announced and Enix had representatives present at each press conference. They expressed interest in the console and Dragon Quest VII was once again delayed until the 1st or 2nd quarter of 1999. That would give them more than enough time to port over the probably already completed game to the Dreamcast. The facts that DQVII was initially planned for a Sega system, that they have not confirmed the game for any other console since, and that the Dreamcast will provide a huge user base and a counter console to Square, all adds up to Dragon Quest VII on the Dreamcast.

And now we get back to Square and their popular Final Fantasy series. It is well known that Square and Sega have had past differences, specifically Sega's turning down of the original Final Fantasy game for its Master System. Square said they would never develop for Sega after that. But that was a long time ago, management changes, things are forgotten and money talks. And Square's rivalry with Enix is much stronger than their feud with Sega. FFVIII will be released in Japan this fall and a year later in the US according to Square/EA. It will also receive a PC port at about the same time. And we all know that a port from the PC to the Dreamcast could be instantaneous. Square has also been a presence at each of the Dreamcast press conferences and have commented on the impressive power of the machine. While a port of Final Fantasy VIII may not be nearly as sure as Dragon Quest, it would make a lot of sense. I don't think they will release it for the US Dreamcast simply because I don't think the market is that RPG friendly to be successful on 3 platforms. But in Japan it could only achieve positive results. An enhanced version of FFVIII on the Dreamcast in Japan would do extremely well and Square would be crazy not to do it, especially when the port from PC to Dreamcast would be so simple. It's a win-win situation and I fully expect it to happen that way, despite the past differences between the companies.

So to sum things up, this is what I believe will happen with these two companies and their games in relation to the Dreamcast. Dragon Quest VII will appear on both Dreamcast and the Playstation in the 1st or 2nd quarter of 1999. Enix will likely confirm the title for both systems right before the Dreamcast launch in Japan this fall. FFVIII will be released exclusively on the Playstation in Japan this fall. It will then be released in the US on the Playstation and PC in the fall of 1999 and an enhanced version on the Dreamcast in Japan sometime in 1999.

This is all speculation and conjecture on my part based on the facts that are out there. None of this should be taken as confirmation that either game will appear on Dreamcast, but I am certain that they will both reach the Dreamcast in some fashion, though the specifics may be different than what I have hypothesized. Hindsight is 20/20, but the future is never clear and constantly changes.