Remember Yamauchi's fund to support development? Square's getting some of that money to make Final Fantasy games for GameCube and GBA. No, this is not a joke.
Major props to Powder, who sent us this extremely important news tip! According to the Saturday morning (in Japan) edition of the popular Nihon Keizai Shimbun newspaper, Square and Nintendo are getting back together to bring Final Fantasy back to Nintendo fans on both GameCube and Game Boy Advance! Here's an excerpt from Nikkei's website. You can see the full story by registering there (credit card required, but you get a two-week free trial period during which you can cancel at any time).
OSAKA (Nikkei)--Nintendo Co. (7974) has agreed to resume procuring the popular "Final Fantasy" video game software for its game consoles from Square Co. (9620) after a five-year hiatus, The Nihon Keizai Shimbun learned Friday.
The big news in this is not only is Square coming back, but Hiroshi Yamauchi himself is funding Square's return, by virtue of Fund Q, the fund set aside to help spark game development on GameCube. The new company to be started by Square and Akitoshi Kawazu (one of Final Fantasy's developers), should be founded by the end of March.
Another important quote ...
The deal calls on the Square affiliate to produce software allowing users of two Nintendo consoles -- the GameCube and Game Boy Advance -- to play together by the end of the year.
"... to play together"? What does that mean???
Surely the first game to come out of this new venture will be Final Fantasy XI, as Square has been adamant about wanting the game on every console. But could we see a port of Final Fantasy X? And how does the GameBoy Advance fit in? There are a lot more questions to be answered yet.
Still, gamers' prayers have been answered. Square is officially back on Nintendo.
Update! Yahoo News now has the Reuters story. Text included below.
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Japan's Square Co. Ltd. , after a six-year absence, will return the legendary "Final Fantasy" video game series to Nintendo (news - web sites) Co. Ltd.'s consoles, Nintendo said on Friday.
Confirming earlier reports in Japan, a Nintendo of America spokeswoman told Reuters that Square will set up a subsidiary to develop new versions of the series for Nintendo's GameCube console and Game Boy Advance handheld unit.
The development will be backed by Fund Q, a video game development fund started in January by Hiroshi Yamauchi, the long-time president of Nintendo.
Nintendo expects "Final Fantasy" titles for its consoles to be released by the end of the year, the spokeswoman said.
Jeetil Patel, an analyst at Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown who follows the game industry, said having "Final Fantasy" would probably help GameCube sales more in Japan than in the United States. "At the margin it probably helps modestly," he said.
"Final Fantasy X," released last year for Sony Corp (news - web sites).'s PlayStation 2 (news - web sites), was one of the 20 best-selling video games in the United States in 2001, according to NPDFunworld, even though it was released in early December.
Even before "Final Fantasy X," the Final Fantasy series had sold 30 million copies worldwide since its inception.
Square had long developed "Final Fantasy" titles for Nintendo, going back to Nintendo's original Super Famicom and NES in the early 1980s, but in 1996 Square abandoned Nintendo to develop games for Sony's PlayStation platform.
At that time, some Japanese analysts said the defection of Square and other local publishers was a primary factor in PlayStation surpassing Nintendo's N64 console, which was more advanced than the PlayStation but also harder to develop for.
"Final Fantasy XI," the next title in the series, is expected to take advantage of the online multi-player features of the PS2 Sony unveiled on Thursday, and the Nintendo deal is not expected to stop further PS2 production.
A spokeswoman for Electronic Arts Inc. , which co-published the game in the United States with Square under a joint venture, was not immediately available for comment on the Nintendo deal.
Sony in October invested $116 million in Square, making it the company's second-largest shareholder. The infusion came after Square posted its worst-ever loss, caused by the production of a movie version of "Final Fantasy" that was a major commercial flop.
Nintendo's $199 GameCube was launched in the U.S. in November of last year. It competes with both the $299 PS2, which debuted in November 2000, and Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox (news - web sites), which was released three days before GameCube.
The $79 Game Boy Advance, a handheld system with as much power under the hood as Nintendo's early 1990s SNES console, dominates the handheld market globally, with almost no competition.