For as long as Squaresoft has been popular in the West a rumor has plagued the internet. Final Fantasy was named after being the last opportunity for a failing company to come become successful. But, many have discredited this rumor based on interviews with series creator Hironobu Sakaguchi . Sakaguchi, however claims he named it as such because if this game failed he would leave the company. Instead, while utilizing the help of three others Sakaguchi created one of the most memorable gaming series in the world. This alone pulled Squaresoft out of hot water and into the hearts and minds of many gamers in the world. Furthermore Sakaguchi remained working on Squaresoft for a very long time.
However, was there any truth to the claims that if the game had failed it would have bankrupted Squaresoft? The famed musician Nobuo Uematsu of the game certainly seems to think so. Yet, online there is extremely little (if any) evidence that Squaresoft was ever in financial problems back in 1987. While this could easily be attributed to the fact that The Internet was not really an aspect of everyday life. It does pay to remember that Squaresoft had a string of unsuccessful games back then. Games such as Rad Racer, King’s Knight, Mystery Quest and a few more games failed Squaresoft on a financial level. This sort of evidence provides credibility to the claims provided by Nobuo.
On an interview with Jon Snyder of Wired.com the writer claims to have asked Nobuo a few questions. The one question on his mind was to confirm or deny whether the claims bankruptcy were true. Nobuo confirmed that the company indeed thought it would be their “Final” Fantasy due to the impending bankruptcy. Sakaguchi would obviously not want to reveal such a black mark in the history of the company. Squaresoft (now SquareEnix) on its part has also done its best to keep this rumor a secret by not adding fuel to the fire. Yet, we should take a look at the other side of the coin before casting judgement. Sakaguchi as mentioned earlier would have quit and gone to college if Final Fantasy had failed.
The book The Golden Age of Video Games: The Birth of a Multibillion Dollar Industry backs Sakaguchi’s claims of college. The book cites Chris Kohler who claims that Squaresoft’s previous titles were actually successful from a commercial standpoint. Kohler further reinforces the idea that the title Final Fantasy was only chosen from Sakaguchi’s personal plans of quitting. But, if we look at this contextually Sakaguchi originally only cared about having a having with the abbreviation of FF. Final Fantasy was originally going to be called Fighter Fantasy Instead. This all leads us to the ultimate question of, what was truly going on in Squaresoft during this period.
The answer to that lies firmly in the field of speculation. Unless the board of directors comes out and releases their finances for the decade of the 1980’s we will never know the truth. But, for now anyone who claims that impending bankruptcy was not true simply believes a different rumor. The truth is out there, but until Sakaguchi and Nobuo are finally on the same panel, we will never know. Personally I rather believe the composer than the director. Especially since Sakaguchi has been known to be historically very proud and stubborn (see Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within). Nobuo on the other hand is still working for Squaresoft and publically reveals the information when asked. Ultimately this means we can’t simply discredit the theory as a false claim. After all, every rumor has a basis in some reality even if it’s not the full truth.