You may have noticed that there have been many remakes, remasters, and episodic games early in the current console generation, and this subject is tackled in the latest episode of The Jimquisition with Jim Sterling. Back in 2013, Sterling revealed that (according to his sources) there were internal discussions at Square Enix about finding ways to chop up games into multi-releases in order to boost profits. With the news that both Hitman and the Final Fantasy VIII remake will be released episodically, Sterling went back to his sources to find out more.
As detailed in The Jimquisition (which you can view above), Square Enix and other publishers reportedly lost faith in home consoles near the end of last generation. As sales declined, many major companies thought that mobile games, free-to-play games, episodic content, and PC games would all continue to chip away at the AAA console market until it became unprofitable.
This, according to Sterling’s sources, is why we’ve seen so many remakes and remasters early on in the current generation. As publishers were transitioning from the old consoles to the new ones, they were overly cautious about funding big AAA games, especially single-player experiences. Square Enix reportedly cancelled several titles due to a lack of faith in the market and instead began looking for other ways to pull in money, including episodic releases and microtransactions.
The good news is that strong sales for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One alongside big AAA hits like Fallout 4 and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt have have apparently restored the faith to some of these publishers, and Sterling’s sources expect AAA single-player experiences to become more common again going forward. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that publishers will stop pushing microtransactions and episodic content if those models prove to be profitable.