In 1996, Square had just signed with Sony to release games on the PlayStation, and Sony had negotiated to publish the first six of them in the U.S. Square had opened a new sales and marketing office in the West, and the two companies were trying to figure out how to work together in time for the release of Final Fantasy 7.
Now, in a series of internal planning documents provided by former Sony senior product manager David Bamberger (as part of our research for today’s feature, Final Fantasy 7: An oral history), we’ve gotten a clearer look at how the two companies collaborated.
Many of these are early drafts that were never meant to be shown publicly, so they contain details that don’t make much sense in retrospect. For instance, one of the docs notes that some at Sony considered The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time to be an FF7 competitor based on early information that Ocarina of Time would run on Nintendo’s 64DD hardware (which didn’t happen), launch in late 1997 (which also didn’t happen) and “not be a full-bodied RPG.”
But the documents show how some at Sony viewed the market in the mid-’90s, and specifically how they saw themselves relative to competitors at the time, with lots of direct competitive talk aimed at the Nintendo 64.
The documents also touch on sales goals, revealing Sony’s then-target of selling 750,000 copies of Final Fantasy 7 in the U.S. (The game went on to sell over 3 million there.) And the files show a store-by-store breakdown of the game’s sales shortly after launch, noting that it sold best at Toys R Us with 160,000 units, followed by Electronics Boutique with 120,000, Kay Bee Toys with 99,000, Babbage’s with 97,000 and on down.
For Sony’s other early Square titles, the documents show smaller sales goals — 150,000-300,000 each for Final Fantasy Tactics, Bushido Blade, Saga Frontier and Tobal 2 (the latter of which never ended up shipping in North America).
If you want to comb through the documents, we’ve scanned the general-interest Square and Final Fantasy 7 pages into a lengthy PDF file, and a Final Fantasy Tactics marketing document into a second file.
For more of our look back at Final Fantasy 7, including interviews with more than 30 people who worked at Square, Nintendo and Sony in the ’90s, check out our feature: Final Fantasy 7: An oral history.