Final Fantasy VII Inspirational to Imageepoch CEO

Imageepoch recently launched its PSP RPG Final Promise Story in Japan, where it has so far been met with huge retail success, having shipped 60,000 units in its first weekend. (Games are released on Thursdays in Japan, so “first week” sales are really “first weekend” sales, for all intents and purposes.) In a recent interview with Japanese gaming magazine Gamega, Imageepoch CEO Ryoei Mikage revealed that if it weren’t for a certain well-known RPG, he’d probably have a different career right now.

Final Fantasy VII had an undeniable impact on the game industry, especially in the way it gave RPGs as big a push as any in the genre ever have, finally bringing them into the mainstream. On its Japanese launch day, then-teenage Ryoei Mikage just happened to be wandering around a game shop, looking for something to pop into his dad’s new PlayStation — something that wasn’t Myst. This being his first time actually in such a store, he asked what the clerk thought would be good, and was thus introduced to Final Fantasy VII.

This was OK because our young developer-to-be had finished his school exams. His mom was close to being one of those “Tiger Moms” you hear about, and had thrown away his dad’s copy of the PlayStation remake of Dragon Quest IV. A Japanese person throwing away a Dragon Quest game is as rare as…as…as a Japanese person throwing away a Dragon Quest game. I can’t even think of a comparison for this. So after his exams were over, he played Myst but couldn’t get into it. Final Fantasy VII, on the other hand, lured him in deep.

He brought home the game, put it in, and played for — he estimates — four straight days. He doesn’t believe he slept during this period. (Jeez, maybe his mom was on the right track?) It was this game that brought him into the world of RPGs. He’d go on to do some short-term work for Koei and Tales Studio before creating Imageepoch.

Now that the studio has been around a few years, it’s getting into self-publishing, the first game to be self-published being the aforementioned Final Promise Story and the next to be Black Rock Shooter: The Game, also an RPG for PSP. If the title is confusing, that’s because it’s based on an anime called Black Rock Shooter. It’s not actually a shooting game. It might be renamed when NIS America inevitably brings it to North America.

Mikage aims high with his sales goals, saying that he wants to churn out about three games that manage to sell 150,000 copies. Once he knows that’s doable, he wants to be able to make three games per year that reach 300,000 copies sold. Now before you contort your face and say that’s not a lot, understand that 100k is a heck of a lot. Most PSP games only really need to ship 10-20k to be successful, and hitting 100k is a big deal for a game on any platform. That’s not up there with blockbusters like God of War, Final Fantasy, Call of Duty, Uncharted, or Dragon Quest, but those games are the exceptions, not the rule. Even Square Enix only aimed for 500k with Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep.

Final Promise Story sold 60k in its opening weekend, so it looks like it will eventually cross the 150k line that Mikage is hoping for. We’ll see if Black Rock Shooter: The Game can pull off similar success when it ships on Aug. 25.

Final Fantasy VII, incidentally, has sold over 10 million copies worldwide.