Sony E3 2015 Interview: Final Fantasy 7 Exclusivity, Faith in The Last Guardian, Backing Vita

GameSpot speaks with PlayStation Europe's chief executive, Jim Ryan.

191 Comments

During the second-half of the PlayStation 3's lifespan, Sony was publishing acclaimed and exclusive titles with such regularity and creative flair that it made the whole operation seem easy.

Things don't seem so easy at the moment. As we now approach the second anniversary of the PlayStation 4's release, the system still lacks flagship first-party exclusives. Key releases, such as Uncharted 4, have been delayed to 2016, and the slate for this year is, by its own account, "a little sparse."

And yet, PlayStation has entered into one of the most prosperous periods in its 20-year history. The PS4 has become the first choice, both for consumers and the publishers who serve them.

At this year's E3, Sony revealed a powerful and promising line-up of exclusive first-party games, Horizon: Zero Dawn and Uncharted 4 among them. It also put an end to years of speculation by finally reintroducing The Last Guardian--complete with an awe-inspiring gameplay demo--and made dreams come true by announcing a Final Fantasy 7 remake. All of these titles are scheduled to ship in 2016 and beyond, which makes you wonder, if Sony has such incredible momentum already, just how dominant will it be in the months and years ahead?

GameSpot sat down with Jim Ryan, the chief executive of PlayStation Europe, to discuss that future in greater detail.

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Hi Jim. How has E3 been for you so far?

All good. I enjoyed Monday a lot, I enjoyed all the shows, and you really get the sense that developers are now really confident about next-gen development. They're getting into the swing of things.

It's great to see so many publishers making bigger bets on triple-A games. In the three years prior to the release of Xbox One and PS4, I found that publishers were a little more reserved in terms of how many games they were working on.

Yes absolutely, I think there were a lot fewer games than we would have liked.

Now there's a lot of major franchises in production again, across the industry, and I think a lot of it has to do with the commercial success of the PlayStation 4. I think it has given more incentive for publishers to invest in consoles.

Yeah, and this industry is all about cycles. If you start a virtuous one, you're in a good place. If you're in a vicious cycle, things can get very tough.

With regards to that virtuous circle, Sony has been striking a number of major timed-exclusivity deals with third-party publishers. There's the Capcom deal for Street Fighter V, the Square Enix deal for Final Fantasy 7, and the Activision deal for Call of Duty. These are the kinds of partnerships that you appeared to struggle with during the PlayStation 3 days. What's changed?

I think a few things have changed. It certainly makes discussions with publishers easier when you have a significant installed base, and one that is fast growing, and one that is noticeably further ahead than the competition. I wouldn't say we have become the industry's default option, because there are other factors come into play, such as amounts of cash. But I would say we're starting to become the first thing a publisher thinks about when they consider partnerships.

The last Guardian re-reveal is one of Jim Ryan's E3 career highlights
The last Guardian re-reveal is one of Jim Ryan's E3 career highlights
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Was getting to that position the hardest job for you? Because only a short while ago, Microsoft was the first thought for publishers, because of the success of the Xbox 360.

Well, I think the vast majority of people running third-party publishers are rational executives, who are very observant. They are making the right decisions for their business.

"It certainly makes discussions with publishers easier when you have an installed base that is fast growing, and noticeably further ahead than the competition."

Going back to the press conference, you must be relieved to finally announce The Last Guardian project on PS4.

[Laughs] Yes. Relieved. If only to stop you constantly asking me about it. I'm so happy just for that alone. You can't imagine how much of a relief it is.

Jim, when is The Last Guardian 2 coming out?

[Laughs]

Could you give us a bit more detail about what was happening to the project during that long period of silence?

Well, clearly, when a game has a gestation period as protracted as this one was, not all could have been well. If all had gone swimmingly the game would be out by now. So, it's fair to say that there were times when the publishing side of the business wondered if the game would ever happen. But the pedigree of the developer is such that we kept the faith.

I think that faith was justified by the reaction we got. When we showed the game on stage, I think it was one of my favourite moments in all the years I've been doing E3. It was wonderful.

I heard a rumour that Mark Cerny was called in to help the project. Is there any truth to that?

Well, as you know, I'm not closely involved in the development side of the business. But, y'know, Mark gets active in all sorts of areas of PlayStation.

Sony won't say when the FF7 exclusivity PS4 deal will expire
Sony won't say when the FF7 exclusivity PS4 deal will expire
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Another big E3 reveal for you was the HD Final Fantasy 7 Remake, which was a huge crowd pleaser. How long does the timed exclusivity deal last?

We don't have anything to say about that at this point in time.

I understand. I remember when Microsoft announced the Rise of the Tomb Raider exclusivity deal, and Phil Spencer was engulfed by the press who were asking him how long the exclusivity lasted. I feel this issue deserves the same scrutiny.

Yes, but that whole thing was very ambiguous.

Yes, but this is ambiguous as well. No one knows how long Final Fantasy 7 is a timed exclusive for.

[PR spokesperson: "At this stage, we are announcing that it's coming to our platform. There's nothing else we can say, in terms of exclusivity."]

But that is ambiguous. People who want to buy this game don't know how long it will remain as a PlayStation 4 exclusive.

[PR spokesperson: "At this stage, we are just saying announcing the title, so it's very common, especially at this stage, to say it's coming and that it's coming to our platform.]

Ryan: What we're not doing is saying it's an outright exclusive, which I think is a subtle difference [compared] to what happened last year.

I'll move on. You also have a deal with Activision on getting Call of Duty exclusivity for add-on content, and some would say you need key third-party deals right now, because your first-party slate is looking a little thin.

Yes I'll admit it's not the strongest we've ever had. But if you look over the full year, we've had Bloodborne, we're getting Until Dawn, and Tearaway Unfolded. I think the latter will surprise many people, and we also have the Uncharted trilogy. So taking all that, and added with all the third-party games in the pipeline for this year, we're feeling confident.

Ryan insists that Sony is still backing PS Vita
Ryan insists that Sony is still backing PS Vita

Sony is in a unique position, because there's no flagship, must-have, first-party game for the system yet, but it's also remarkably popular. How does that make you feel?

Well, it certainly gives us some cause for optimism in 2016 [when Sony will ship major titles, such as Uncharted 4].

Certainly in the UK, it's still rather close [when compared to Xbox One sales], but we have been edging ahead every month. But across Europe, it's fair to say we're beating [Microsoft] by a considerable margin. Once you get into that position, the popularity of a console can start to become its selling point.

So when you look at what drives sales of a console, obviously exclusive games do help, but if you have 75 to 80 percent of the market, it makes the system easier to sell.

"We've had Bloodborne, we're getting Until Dawn, Tearaway Unfolded, and we also have the Uncharted trilogy. All that, and add in the third-party games in the pipeline for this year, and we're feeling confident."

I'd like to talk about PlayStation Vita too. Is it over for the system?

No, not at all. We're still selling respectable quantities. We have a hundred games in development, and you might say, "Well yeah but they're all indie games," but many of these games review very highly. Also the PS4's Remote Play feature is something that is valued a lot.

Sure. I'm not sure if the handheld market has long-term potential. I know you still support PlayStation Vita, and I know people who own it swear by it. But the handheld market has collapsed, has it not?

There's no disputing that it's not the size it used to be. It's a much smaller market than when the DS and PSP were in their glory days. But that market still does exist.

But is it still a profitable market, is what I wonder. Do you think that PS Vita will be Sony's last handheld?

You know, that would be a great headline for you there if I answered that, but I'm not going to give it to you [laughs].

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Avatar image for dr_zomberg
dr_zomberg

at vita: "We have a hundred games in development".

no, no youre not. 2 dollar indie games some fatneckbeard did in his basement in an hour is not a videogame.

first it was the ps3 port flood, now its the indie flood? WHEN will real games be made for it?

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ArchoNils2

It would be funny if FF7 Remake was launch day exclusive only :D

Avatar image for FyreHeart
FyreHeart

The Vita is my favorite console ATM. I lead a really busy life, so the ability to take it anywhere and pause it anytime is gold.

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erichw23

The interviewer is a god awful douche, that reply was not even close to anything Microsoft tried to pull with exclusivity. Get a grip and don't act like your going to get anything by trying to be a dick. Amateurs, FFS

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darksparda4

I want Gravity Rush 2

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uncle5555

Where's Jack Tretton when you need him?

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Bluedarts

Sony could have saved the VITA long ago by making the cards cheaper, but that ship has sailed I'm afraid. They screwed themselves with that one.

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cantloginnow

Multiplats are exclusive now?

Avatar image for johnnyspectre
JohnnySpectre

What a needlessly aggressive line of questioning around FFVII.

"People who want to buy this game don't know how long it will remain as a PlayStation 4 exclusive". Yep - that's definitely keeping me awake at night.

Avatar image for deactivated-58e3156c76d0d

@johnnyspectre: Because everyone knows they stripped out the Turn Based Combat and made a shtty Final Fantasy XIII clone they hope they can sell.

Avatar image for johnnyspectre
JohnnySpectre

@bc2999: I'm not really sure what this has to do with timed exclusivity on PS4.

Avatar image for darksparda4
darksparda4

@bc2999: you realize that FFXIII is also technically still turn based combat. It's just not a hard turn system but a soft turn system.

Avatar image for deactivated-58e3156c76d0d

@darksparda4: You still realize it's sh*t and lazy, right? It's a boring, simple turn based system filled with fluff and bad story telling. Can't wait to not buy this game.

Avatar image for darksparda4
darksparda4

@bc2999: I thought the combat was pretty great in terms of what you could do with it. There were a lot of different things you could experiment with and I liked that. I didn't play FF7 back in the day so I maybe don't have the emotional attachment to it but I thought that FFXIII was much better in terms of combat and character progression.

Avatar image for deactivated-58e3156c76d0d

@darksparda4: There was a lot of things you could experiment with, but they all gave the same results. You couldn't make a bad decision unless you tried. No real penalty for dying.

There was no character progression. The characters didn't change, they just had animated stories you had no control over. It wasn't really "role playing" because you never really "play the role" of the character, you just walk to the next cut scene. The way you answered questions in FF 7 would change the story. The combat isn't even close to better, it's just faster for people who are to impatient to spend time learning how to play turn based RPG's. FF XIII didn't do anything better than any game in the series, and it ultimately was just a bad game. You might like some parts of it, but it's not game of the year material. It's not that fun. It's not that interesting. It failed, the "Final Fanstay Crystal" whatever series failed, and FF XV is just another failed game from the series.

This remake is another failure as well. They are just playing on Nostalgia to make up for the money they lost on FF XIII and FF XIV.

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jedicommand7

He was spot on with the difference between Rise of th Tomb Raider announcement and the FF7 remake announcement. We still don't know what other platforms RotTR will come to.

Avatar image for naryanrobinson
naryanrobinson

“and some would say you need key third-party deals right now, because your first-party slate is looking a little thin.”

That's a bit of a strange thing to say I think...

I'm a PC gamer, but of the consoles, isn't Sony's first party lineup the best of the three console manufacturers? Or at least the exclusives are, in my opinion.

Avatar image for NiteX
NiteX

@naryanrobinson: First party for 2015 has been pretty slim. Pretty sure that's what he was referring to.

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Shantmaster_K

I'm glad FFVII isn't an exclusive.

Avatar image for ChiefFreeman
ChiefFreeman

Still like my Vita. Even if it is dead.

Avatar image for tornado9632
tornado9632

@ChiefFreeman: What are they saying it's dead?

Avatar image for naryanrobinson
naryanrobinson

@tornado9632: Cause it's kinda dead.

It's already been overtaken by smartphones in the graphics department, and its interface was a bit of a mess from the start.

I just don't think developers ever believed in it enough to produce really interesting games for it, and that culminated in a snowball effect of indifference.

Avatar image for Dark_Wr4ith
Dark_Wr4ith

I still swear by the Vita, it's a fantastic little device that is very well designed. Although there is no flagship game for it either, there still are many good ones. Plus there are fair amount of games with cross save, which is very nice to use with games like Rouge Legacy.

I've had mine since launch day and still have no regrets.

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Hard_Serpent

@Dark_Wr4ith: I want to get a Vita mainly to play MGS and MGS VR Missions on it.

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hordaak

wow...i remember when the first atari came out. I got that and loved it. then intellivision came out. Since i could not have both i remember arguing on the bus about which one was better. Then colecovision came out. then vectrex. then the atari 5200. then the 7800..With each console, people would just argue which was better. then it was nes vs. sega master system. then the genesis vs super nintendo vs turbografix. then it was nintendo 64 vs sega saturn vs sony playstation...yada yada. Wow times havent changed. instead of arguing on the bus, people argue on the internet. The video game industry has never ever been really united. just factions hating other factions. my system is better. I wont play halo because its on xbox so it sucks. I wont play uncharted because its on playstation. Now im a grown ass man and I have both systems (because I make grown ass man money). I'm free of fanboyism and enjoying everything (including the PC). The average age of video game players is over 30. By then, you can afford to play whatever you want. So these fanboys arguing all the time must be kids that cant afford the other system and feel insecure. Therefore to cure this fanboy curse:

1. grow up

2. get an education

3. get a grown up job

4. play them all and be a real video game enthusiast

end of grown ass rant

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Metallunar

I want the FFVII remake on my pc.

Avatar image for blood_borne
blood_borne

They are 100% right, Microsoft was ambiguous last year with Tomb Raider (deceitful is more like it). I remember this site and the entire internet: RISE OF THE TOMB RAIDER X1 EXCLUSIVE. Why? "Coming exclusively on Xbox. Fall 2015."

A lie about exclusivity. A release date.

After about a day of soaking in headlines? Err, ummmmmm, it's a 'timed thing'.

I think it's hilarious he put you in your place, Rob Crossley. Lol.

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repetitious

@blood_borne: of course, out of this entire interview , you're only worried about MS.....lol pathetic brandbitches.

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Mantiis

Upon, further thought...I may have to take the #3 spot I gave Sony below and give it ever so slightly to Ubisoft instead.

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Mantiis

The hubris (hardware leader) that Sony is manifesting as a really shady, and ambiguous business practice is amusing . I've got to hand it to Gamespot (or Rob) for trying to squeeze an ounce of honesty from this shady devil. Of course, I'm referring to the FFVII (another Sony) remake multiplat questions. The fact that it is so blatantly clear that the game is multiplat makes the withholding of information become a transparent lens into how Sony does business. While MS tried to follow down this path with TR, they "cried uncle" when their proverbial arm was twisted behind their back. The reason why is that its simply good PR to do so..and bad PR for not. In society, people form opinions of integrity on how one behaves, or speaks. A lesson MS did not want to repeat.

I watched all of the press conferences. To be honest, I simply couldn't finish Nintendo's due to its presentation style and lack of interest in most of the software (though, I thought the Starfox segment was entertaining). I think the three best conferences rated (in my opinion) would go like this...1. MS, 2. Bethesda, and 3. Sony. MS actually gave us information on non game related things to look forward to- firmware updates, things like b/c compatibility, a new GUI, new controller. The incredible Minecraft VR demonstration. Plus, nearly every other game was an exclusive. Now, forget that PS4 leads in hardware sales- what did Sony reward consumers with for making the platform the top dog? The ambiguous, and years old promise of a future Last Guardian- this time replete with new gameplay! Yay! An incredible Uncharted 4 demonstration (when the tester remembered to grab a charged up controller and follow Sully)- and that's about it, and an underwhelming No Man's Sky demo. I think the game looks incredible...based on last year's showing... Nearly every other title they presented was multiplat.

The funny thing about this, was the way they shared these games during the presentation. As a viewer, I could help but to perceive a sense of assumed Sony ownership of these third party titles. The idea to "come to PS4, the only place to play Call of Duty?" No, I think I'll be playing it on XB1, thanks anyway. What I think Sony did best at their conference was to virtually suspend disbelief for an hour and make consumers think they actually had some new games coming out for once. But, every time a title appeared on the screen- I dismissed it as something I can play on Xbox. Sony, never ONCE pulled away from MS as the place to play games- outside of the merit of the being the hardware leader in terms of sales. But, that's a good reason to adopt a new games console, right? But, alas, I fear its going to be the same 'ol, same 'ol . I guess given this stance, why would Sony admit that FF7 will be playable on XB1? Surely, they need all the games they can get. You can only run with exaggerating the impact of slightly superior hardware specs towards the assumption of gaming superiority for so long. One needs a new modus operandi. Now we can fool people into thinking we own more games than we have made! That will lure 'em in! Yet, these blatantly negative ideas do not hurt their hardware sales in the slightest. Yet.

This doctrine of bad PR birthed by a defense of the lack of 1st party titles and new IP's is built up on a number of things. The two that are most apparent to me are- 1. Despite successful PS4 sales, they are clearly still hurting financially. 2. When sitting at the board table it is clear that money does not have to be shifted into unnecessarily creating new IP's or creating new 1st party games because they have already succeeded in selling PS4's. Better to redirect that money into areas in the company that aren't doing so well, where bills need to be payed. We all know what those areas are. Sony is a company on the cusp of restructuring. As a matter of fact, I read somewhere that they are deliberately reducing the number of new IP's in a given fiscal quarter to reduce spending, or something along those lines. Now, the unrivaled Indy support makes a ton of sense.

What this leads to is a lack of fan service, that, as a fan going back to the PSX, I am rather disappointed in. What did Sony do on the level of fan service that MS did with the announcement of b/c? Nada. I'll say it again, I generally buy all the machines every gen- but until I see a reason outside of Naughty Dog to buy a PS4, I will continue to wait. Again, that's just me- but I'm sure a lot of people feel the same. Sorry for the rant, but my point is plain and simple, this year's E3 reinforced one idea to me about Sony- PS4 still has no games...except, after the reading the type of deceptive and ambiguous PR they exude, such as with this interview- I'm beginning to think that since they have "so far" achieved their goals...they simply don't care.

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Tarp_Master

@mantiis: I laugh everytime someone says Sony has no games. You clearly have no idea what you're talking about, and given your post history about Sony and PS, your opinion regarding them doesn't mean anything, and it's a good thing.

Avatar image for cvbz
cvbz

@mantiis: geez dude. Well worded post but A lot of what you said can be said about Microsoft too. The Minecraft demo? What we saw was highly exaggerated! Apparently in the actual hololens the screen is way smaller then what we saw through that special camera. With the FF7 thing, sony might actually not know what systems its coming to outside of PS4 yet. Just because they secured the right for it to come first on PS4 doesn't mean they know what square plan to do after. Most of your points make assumptions but treat it almost like fact.

"every time a title appeared on the screen- I dismissed it as something I can play on Xbox."

I assume you are highly exaggerating here. And when I say highly I mean HIGHLY. Most of the games they showed you actually CANT play on an xbox. Street Fighter 5, Uncharted 4, Horizon, Dreams, No Mans Sky, The Last Guardian, Shenmue 3, FF7 (maybe?), all the morpheus games they announced(something like 11 games?), Fire watch, World of Final Fantasy, Ratchet and Clank, and the list can go on. I haven't counted but I'm pretty sure they showed way more exclusive games then they did multiplat.

Now of course if you have zero interest in any of these games then I can see why you wouldn't like sony's offering, but to say every title that appeared on screen you can play on xbox? even taking into consideration exaggeration that statement is ridiculous man.

One last point, "While MS tried to follow down this path with TR, they "cried uncle" when their proverbial arm was twisted behind their back."

"The hubris (hardware leader) that Sony is manifesting as a really shady, and ambiguous business practice is amusing"

Lets not forget the Microsoft are the ones who started this shadiness. No one was doing timed exclusives of storied 3rd party franchises before Microsoft did it with Tomb Raider. You can't expect that if someone starts doing this stuff that others won't feel like they have to as well.

I hope this doesn't come off as I'm attacking you or something, you seem like a cool dude and liked your post just felt that in the heat of the moment of your rant you may have not thought certain things out clearly. Hope to hear back from you! Would love to know what you think. Thanks!

Avatar image for hard_serpent
Hard_Serpent

@mantiis: The PS4 has games . 3rd party and indie games are games much to your surprise . AAA exclusive games aren't the beginning and end all. Im getting so damn irritated by dipshits like you saying such false things. You realize AAA exclusives take longer to make? You realize that 3rd party AAA are what most console gamers play? I do. Others who aren't stupid do. Sony and Microsoft do.

Avatar image for dcno07
dcno07

This is definitely the wrong place to ask this but how did Nintendos e3 go? I'm too lazy to watch it.

Avatar image for Setho10
Setho10

@dcno07: I was very disappointed by their showing. Not a single new game they announced piqued my interest in the slightest. Still looking forward to Yoshi, Xenoblade, and Zelda, but none of the new games were very inspiring.

Avatar image for Henry518
Henry518

@dcno07: It went horrible for the fans.

- The new Star Fox games looks like a N64/Gamecube game.

- They didn't announce a new Metroid for Wii U but they announced a new Metroid Prime coming to 3DS that looks reaaaally bad (it's a team FPS with bounty hunters).

- No news of the new Zelda game for Wii U.

- Every new title they announced were not impressive at all.

Avatar image for dcno07
dcno07

@Henry518: damn that's too bad... I was hoping Nintendo would finally convince me to buy a wiiu.. These new consoles are so mehh :/

Avatar image for cvbz
cvbz

The part where you asked him about the FF7 exclusivity seemed a bit much. It really wasn't like your example with Tomb Raider. With Tom Raider all they said was exclusive on xbox one and thats it. And even after when asked we didn't get a straight answer until weeks later when Phil cleared it up. Here Sony said very clearly first on PS4. We all knew another Tomb Raider was coming, no one was actually expecting them to follow through with a FF7 remake.

Would love to hear back from you (I assume the interview made this article too?).

Thanks for the interview by the way! it was great!

Avatar image for guydude3412
guydude3412

Wow, I was first going to comment about how abysmal Sony's support for the vita is, but then I read these ignorant comments. Why would you want a game to be exclusive to one platform, for nostalgia's sake. As a true gamer, you would want everyone to play all the games they can, no matter what console or platform. And even so, it if makes you feel better, just get it on PlayStation. Problem solved! Is that so hard for fanboys heads to wrap around? This is exactly what is wrong with gaming today. No caring about games, but stupid console war crap.

Avatar image for frostglade
frostglade

@guydude3412: personally ive allways used my xboxes for FPS and fighting games the controll is just too superiour in comfort in and layout for me to bother on my playstations how ever i allmost allways prefer my rpgs on playstation as they generally do a better overall job on providing me with the rpgs i desire and plenty of options in the genre

Avatar image for blood_borne
blood_borne

This article fails to mention PS4 has released 3 AAA exclusives this year, including this generation's highest rated exclusive, Bloodborne.

Xbox One has released zero AAA exclusives this year. And it's mid June.

Ignoring reality, Rob Crossly, doesn't change it.

Avatar image for dcno07
dcno07

@blood_borne: Probably a stupid question but isn't forza considered an AAA?

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blood_borne

@dcno07: Forza DIDN'T RELEASE YET

Avatar image for dcno07
dcno07

@blood_borne: easy there champ. I misread your comment. I thought you were talking about x1's lifespan.

Avatar image for warriors30
Warriors30

We know nothing about this remake. Sure, the E3 trailer looked fucking amazing, but that's all we know. We don't know what the actual game(play) will look like. It's too early to lose our shits over this.

Avatar image for Megavideogamer
Megavideogamer

I would be very surprising if Final Fantasy 7 remake will come to Xbox One, A PC port I could see. A port for PSvita would be an excellent swan song for the PSvita system in North America. The PSvita will continue to receive new games in Japan. But it seems that it is the end of support for North America and Europe. So FF7 remake port would be a nice final NTSC and PAL release for PSvita.