Former 'Final Fantasy XIV' boss Hiromichi Tanaka joins GungHo, touts possible new project

In an interview published in Famitsu magazine this week, Hiromichi Tanaka, former producer on online titles Final Fantasy XI and XIV, announced that he was joining Japanese game publisher GungHo Online Entertainment in a freelance advisor position.

In an interview published in Famitsu magazine this week, Hiromichi Tanaka, former producer on online titles Final Fantasy XI and XIV, announced that he was joining Japanese game publisher GungHo Online Entertainment in a freelance advisor position.

The last time the Western world heard from Tanaka was a couple years ago, when he stepped down from FFXIV (along with most of the main team leadership) after the multiplayer online RPG launched in a buggy and generally incomplete state in September 2010. Afterwards he went back to working on FFXI full-time before announcing his departure from Square Enix this July.

"The trigger for me thinking about leaving was getting removed from the Final Fantasy XIV project," Tanaka told Famitsu. "I helped mold Final Fantasy XI into one of the best MMO formats on the market, and I wanted to respect the wishes of the team as much as possible when they wanted to make something different with FFXIV, so I tried my best not to meddle too much with development. In the end they weren't able to realize what they were aiming for, which is a shame, but I wish them the best of luck with the reboot."

(Tanaka has also been dealing with some sort of long-term illness, although he didn't specify what in the interview. "I'm going along fine now," he said. "It's not the sort of thing that can be completely cured and I'm going to have to deal with it for a while to come, but I'm visiting the hospital every week and it's not a particularly big problem.")

GungHo Online, a relatively unknown company outside of Asia, is a Japanese publisher involved with a wide variety of MMOs, console games and smartphone apps. They're probably best known as the Japanese provider for Korean MMO Ragnarok Online (above), still one of the biggest-grossing PC titles in Japan. Tanaka got involved with them via several ex-Square staffers who currently work for the company, including Ken Narita, longtime programmer on the Final Fantasy series and GungHo's current head of development.

"I was still heavily involved with FFXI, so I couldn't leave immediately," Tanaka said. "First there had to be a good roadmap laid out for FFXI in terms of development structure, expansions and the user interface. Once I was sure that the team would continue doing their best on the title, then I could think about myself and take the next step forward."

So what is that next step forward? Besides getting to know GungHo and providing development advice, Tanaka has at least one idea for a game he'd like to work on. "There's a project that I've been letting simmer up to this point," he said. "Right now I'm in the midst of putting it all together. Assuming it goes well, I'm hoping that I can make it into a GungHo project. It's an online game, but it won't be an MMORPG this time. Unlike ten years ago, smartphones and tablets are perfectly usable game platforms, and in addition to that, gamers are spending less time playing each individual games. Instead of just trying to get money out of users [via microtransations], I want to provide convincing gameplay which provides an experience that's actually worth paying for."

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