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SYFY WIRE Final Fantasy XIV

Gaming: Yoko Taro gets NieR to Final Fantasy; PSN dominates; Dr. Mario makes a smart phone call

By Benjamin Bullard
Nier Automata 2B via Platinum Games website 2019

A vocal segment of Final Fantasy fans has been, well, fantasizing about what a mainline FF game could look like if Yoko Taro, the mad genius behind Square Enix’s interconnected Drakengard and Nier series, were put in charge of all those crystals, chocobos, cactuars, and moogles.

Well, the latest Final Fantasy announcement may not amount to handing Taro the reins to a whole game, but in some ways it’s the next best thing: putting him and Nier producer Yosuke Saito in charge of new raid content to be bundled in with Shadowbringers, the next big Final Fantasy XIV expansion.

Via US Gamer, Square Enix used this week’s FF XIV fan event in Paris to reveal the crossover YoRHa: Dark Apocalypse raid that’ll be coming to Shadowbringers, pairing the world of Final Fantasy with characters and lore from Taro’s sprawling, critically adored 2017 sci-fi RPG NieR: Automata. Fans at the event reportedly were treated to a brief video in which Taro and Saito joked that FFXIV director Naoki Yoshida had “lost his mind” to invite the infamously maverick Taro into the Final Fantasy fold.

While there’s nothing more than concept art for the new Nier-themed raid so far, Square Enix also revealed July 2 as the date we’ll be getting the Shadowbringers expansion proper. In addition to more alliance raids, there’ll reportedly also be new map areas (the Rak'tika Greatwood forest and an area called Il Mheg), a new character race (the magic-rich Pixies), and, yes, Final Fantasy XII’s bunny-eared Viera as a playable character class.

Shadowbringers marks the third major expansion for FF XIV, which Yoshida is credited with rebuilding into one of gaming’s most successful MMORPGs following the original version’s disastrous 2010 launch. Level up on July 2, when Shadowbringers arrives for Final Fantasy XIV on PlayStation 4, PC, and OS X.

With a cavalcade of recent sales figures from Nintendo and Sony demonstrating that the overall state of console gaming is healthier than ever, perhaps a little context is in order to help frame just how significant Sony’s overall dominance has been during the current console generation.

Via IGN, a breakdown of Sony’s latest numbers from Niko Partners analyst Daniel Ahmad contrasts the $12.5 billion the PlayStation Network earned last year against all of the revenue Nintendo and Microsoft generated from the entirety of their gaming enterprises in 2018, and the result is pretty striking:

Taken as its own digital entity, PSN reportedly earned more than all of Nintendo in 2018, as well as all of Microsoft’s gaming division — and that’s before hardware sales, peripherals, and physical game discs are even factored into the equation.

With more than a reported 90 million active monthly members, PSN shows no signs of shrinking, and in fact represents one of Sony’s biggest gaming pushes as the next console generation approaches. And even though there are at least 91.6 million PlayStation 4 consoles currently out in the wild, Sony already appears to be preparing to integrate its expanding digital services — including the rumored possibility of backward compatibility — into whatever gaming platform it has on the distant horizon.

It’s not as if Nintendo isn’t innovating beyond the Switch and 3DS handheld, though: The latest mascot to get the crossover mobile gaming treatment from the Big N is none other than the mustachioed one himself, who’ll reportedly don his stethoscope and lab coat for an upcoming foray into app-based gaming.

Via Twitter, Nintendo announced the arrival later this year of Dr. Mario World for smartphones, a collaboration between the Mario maker and mobile developer LINE. Nintendo says the free-to-download game will be available for both Android and iOS, and will feature puzzle-based problem solving when it arrives in “early summer 2019.”

Incidentally, Nintendo also has been teasing a mysterious new Switch game — one it says “will make everyone happy” — that’s slated to release sometime during the 2019 fiscal year. But thanks to the company’s reveal that Dr. Mario World will be a smartphone game and not a Switch one, at least we know that the upcoming medical version of Mario won’t be it.