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Long hype cycles for games are bad, but vague promises are worse

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Fear of an endless development cycle

kingdom hearts 3 Square Enix

Yesterday, Square Enix took the time to talk about two of its most eagerly awaited projects: Final Fantasy 7 Remake and Kingdom Hearts 3. By that, I mean the company did two things:

  1. Acknowledged that, yes, those games still exist.
  2. Reminded us that, no, we still have no idea when they’ll ever be done.

For many fans, the release of two new images from the games was painful, not a cause for celebration. Both games have languished in production for years, and there’s no end in sight.

No one enjoys waiting, even if we’re grown-ups being told that good things are on the way. Square Enix’s assumption is that fans have limitless amounts of patience, and that’s not exactly the case.

Look at the responses to our report on the new Final Fantasy 7 Remake and Kingdom Hearts 3 teasers:

Julia Alexander/Polygon
Allegra Frank/Polygon

The important part here isn’t just that devoted Square Enix fans are displeased. The issue is that interest wanes as the time between announcement and launch grows.

When Kingdom Hearts 3 was first teased all the way back in 2010, I was six years younger and six times as excited about the Kingdom Hearts franchise. By that point, it had been four years since Kingdom Hearts 2, and my fellow fans and I were ready for the next entry.

Well, seven years and several other Kingdom Hearts games later, we’ve seen frustratingly little of the third installment. Square Enix has proposed release windows, only to push them back repeatedly. We still have no idea when Kingdom Hearts 3 will launch.

I won’t go so far as to say that my impatience is what soured me on the franchise in the meantime. It’s just that people and interests change; lives get busier. There’s less energy available to devote to waiting for something that, for all we know, might never come.

The same holds true for projects like Cyberpunk 2077, Beyond Good and Evil 2 and others that were announced years ago but have been barely seen since. We continue to clamor for more information, and when we get it, it’s inevitably crumbs instead of the appetizer or first course we’re hoping for. Eventually, we’re just going to eat something else.

There are ways to help this

Game development takes time, and both The Last Guardian and Final Fantasy 15 proved that a 10-year cycle can still result in excellent games.

Part of the reason these early announcements happen is to generate hype, but that’s not always the case. A seemingly premature reveal may only seem premature in retrospect because of unforeseen issues in development.

This is where transparency would help. Square Enix is doing a decent job of this, apologizing to fans and explaining that Final Fantasy 7 Remake is taking longer than expected. But the reason for those delays isn’t clear. It’s not that fans are being unfair, it’s that we’re not even given enough details to form an opinion on what’s going on.

Empty platitudes and vague promises feel worse than nothing at all. Increased openness in sharing development news would do wonders for impatient players’ morale; the more these companies can humanize the process and work with fans’ enthusiasm instead of dampening it with ambiguous statements, the better for everyone.

We’d much rather be in this together than be kept in the dark.