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Why the father of Final Fantasy still plays FFXIV, even after leaving the series behind

At FFXIV FanFest, Hironobu Sakaguchi shared his journey on becoming a Warrior of Light – and what still keeps his soul burning.

A triple-split image, featuring artwork of Final Fantasy 14: Dawntrail and Final Fantasy 3 (each featuring a character wielding two swords, intentionally referential). In the middle is 'the father of Final Fantasy', Hironobu Sakaguchi.
Image credit: VG247/Square Enix

Over 35 years ago Hironobu Sakaguchi and a small team of developers released the first Final Fantasy game, inadvertently starting a legacy spanning multiple entries and spin-offs that’s still going strong today. He may have bowed out to go his own way back in 2003, but he’s still known as the father of the Final Fantasy series. It’s been 20 years since he left Square Enix and had anything to do with the games, which is why it’s been such a surprise and delight to watch him reminisce and go all in on FFXIV.

Originally, he started playing the MMO as a courtesy in preparation for a talk on the series he was doing with Naoki Yoshida in 2021, but quickly found himself utterly hooked. And playing 12 hours a day.

“It pretty much is 50% of my day,” Sakaguchi told us during a panel at the recent FFXIV Fan Festival. “If I’m thinking about the time I spent not sleeping, I was playing 80% of the day. Then if you took away the time I spent eating, I think I’d up it to 100%.”

He first started at the end of September 2021 and had finished the base game and three expansions worth of content in just over a month - an impressive feat for even most FFXIV diehards. While playing, he’d tweet his adventures, often revelling in the nostalgic references to earlier games.

The key art for the Dawntrail Final Fantasy 14 expansion, featuing a character wielding two swords – a clear homage to FF3.
Even the Dawntrail key art is a clear homage to Final Fantasy 3. | Image credit: Square Enix

Often the dev team would be following his progress on Twitter to see just how far he would go. “More than anything I’m really happy,” said Naoki Yoshida - director and producer of FFXIV - during a press Q&A at Fanfest. “Considering how busy Sakaguchi is, we were wondering with baited breath to see how far he would go. But, of course, the concept of XIV is to serve as a theme park for the franchise. So to have the founding creator of the franchise play it and pick up on each element - it makes us realise that what we've been doing for the past 10 years really resonates with us and is a real motivator for us.”

While the team were often nervous about his progress, they had nothing to worry about. “Oh yeah, man, it’s the opposite - I can’t leave. Final Fantasy XIV has become part of my life!” Sakaguchi revealed at the panel.

He’s become so obsessed that he even has his own in-game fashion brand called SakaGUCCI: “As a creator, I really liked getting my hands on crafting so I took my name as a play on words to craft items with my name on them to hand out.” He’s even kept the game’s economy in mind, finding a way to tackle the issue of potential resellers for his items. “I didn’t want to disrupt the world of XIV so having them glamour them on the spot or go into content with them would prevent people from putting it on marketboards and protect the integrity of the game. It’s a great opportunity to make new friends by doing this so I’m really enjoying that.”

Hironobu Sakaguchi sits on a panel - a huge image of his own portrait above him - at Final Fantasy FanFest 2023.
Sakaguchi attended the panel at Final Fantasy FanFest 2023. | Image credit: Square Enix

During Fanfest, both Yoshida and Sakaguchi played through several boss fights in front of a crowd of thousands while both taking part in a panel and showing off their skills in-game. Sakaguchi even made time for a spot of griefing by chasing Yoshida down to hit him with tankbuster moves and patting the bottom of a semi-naked snowman. It’s gotten to the point where he’s now tackling Ultimate content (the hardest battles in the game). Much to Yoshida’s surprise, “truth be told, I had not anticipated that he would secretly tackle Ultimate content.”

With the pair becoming so close through Sakaguchi’s love for FFXIV, you’d think that them working together at some point in the future would be a sure thing, but Sakaguchi has other ideas. When asked if he’s ever consider working on a scenario for the game, his answer was emphatic: “Absolutely not! if I worked on this behind the scenes I’d not be able to just enjoy it as a fan. So no offence, but no.”

“Of course it would be great to work together, and I understand your answer, but maybe I could ease you in with some seasonal content?” Yoshida tentatively suggested in response.

“Absolutely not.” Sakaguchi was stalwart. Unfortunately, it seems that Sakaguchi loves the game too much to ever consider working on it.

Hironobu Sakaguchi is joined on the Final Fantasy 14 FanFest 2023 panel.
Have you ever seen such joy? | Image credit: Square Enix

It’s been an utter delight to watch him play over the two years and just enjoy it. It feels like such a rare thing to be able to come back to a thing you once made and were responsible for, and be able to enjoy your time with it as a player rather than a creator.

At the very end of the FanFestival, Sakaguchi mirrored those sentiments after Yoshida thanked him for creating the series: “I'm going to thank you back for making Final Fantasy even better moving forward.”

Unsurprisingly, it caused Yoshida to burst into tears. It’s the highest compliment he could pay, and if even the Father of Final Fantasy thinks a game is even better than his own then you know it’s worth playing.

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Final Fantasy

Android, iOS, PS4

Final Fantasy XIV: Dawntrail

PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PC

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Danielle Lucas

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