Final Fantasy Versus XIII isn’t Cancelled: Hysteria and Bad Journalism

Well I’m finally back after an unfortunate set of technical problems. As you may or may not be aware of, Final Fantasy fans have been jerked around the past week with “reports” that the much-anticipated Final Fantasy Versus XIII has been cancelled, only to find out today that the game is not, in fact, cancelled. The original breaking of the news came from, as it tends to, Kotaku, and it quickly spread to most other professional gaming websites. This lead to widespread condemnation of the developer Square-Enix by a very agitated fanbase. The rumour of Versus’ cancellation came on the same day that Square-Enix announced that there would be news for Final Fantasy XIII in September, citing “The Lightning Saga” meaning the almost definite announcement of Final Fantasy XIII-3. As you may know, internet, the Final Fantasy fanbase is very fond of hating XIII, and this announcement combined with Versus’ apparent cancellation lead to some really nasty comments being thrown up all over the internet. Fortunately for us, Versus wasn’t cancelled, but it shows you how just a little bit of bad journalism can lead to some terrible hysteria over the internet. 

Be patient. Noctis has been waiting way longer than you have
Final Fantasy Versus XIII was announced six years ago alongside Final Fantasy XIII as part of the Nova Fabula Crystallis, a group of games that included XIII, Versus, and Type 01 (Formally Agito). All these years later, the NFC looks pretty bunk. XIII was received poorly by fans, Type 01 may never come to the west, and there has been so little information on Versus that a cancellation rumour rang true for many gamers. Like XIII, Versus has been a major victim of hype. Asking around the internet, Versus has been treated as the second coming since its announcement. This makes it very dangerous, as there is no possible way that it will live up to the hype. This is all made worse by the fact that Square-Enix has shown so little of the game, so gamers tend to fantasize about the perfect Final Fantasy game. All in all, Versus is in a very precarious position even with the rumours of cancellation debunked.
Very precarious, like Noctis’ heterosexuality
As mentioned earlier, the news of Versus’ apparent cancellation came from Kotaku. Truthfully, I know gamers who swear by Kotaku, but I am not one of them. For me, Kotaku is tabloid journalism at its best. Sure it has the most sensational headlines, but their actual fact checking leaves a lot to be desired. It is true that many major stories get broken from Kotaku and they deserve credit for that; however, it is also true that a lot of misinformation ends up on the web because a frivolous articles with little basis in reality. In that way, Kotaku embodies the internet like few other sites out there. Tons on inaccurate information justified by some really great stuff.
Don’t hate me Kotaku, hate the fact that there isn’t a Half-Life 3.
*This usually distracts gamers long enough to run for it.
Kotaku’s article on the cancellation was pretty bad, but also really well designed as a tabloid piece. To its credit, the article title clearly states that the cancellation was a rumour; however, the article itself is full of much contradictory language. You see, internet, like any good tabloid piece, the article is full of quotable snippets, some designed to be used if the rumour is false and others to be use if the rumour is true. For example you have this bit:

Now Kotaku has learned that Final Fantasy Versus XIII is no more.

Kotaku has heard from several sources that the game, as originally intended, is done for.

This bit can clearly be pulled out if Kotaku needs to throw up any “I told you so” releases. On the other hand you have language like:

So, is Final Fantasy Versus XIII finally and officially dead? Without confirmation from Square Enix, we can’t say for sure.  

This kind of language is non-commital and quite different from the confidence of the first quote, and it is clearly designed for safety. Other tabloid tropes such as frequently citing mysterious “inside sources” are used in the article even though saying such a thing doesn’t mean anything. Of course, reading the article and not just the headline, which many did, would show that there is absolutely no evidence in it other than the nameless “sources” that may or may not even exist. Kotaku mentions that they contacted Square-Enix and received no comment, and then it proceeds to treat this as further proof of the cancellation.

Square-Enix, where “no comment” means “we secretly cancelled the game”.

The question as to why Kotaku actually made this article has come up on the internet. One of the more prevalent theories is that Kotaku posted it in order to force Square’s hand to confirm that the game still exists. If true, this practice is equally effective and underhanded, as developers need to address major controversies (Just look at Mass Effect 3). Other people say that Kotaku is a tabloid website and stirring shit up is what they do. Truthfully, I think that Kotaku gambled. We have heard so little about Versus and rumours of Final Fantasy XV are starting up. There was a pretty good chance that Versus was actually cancelled, or moved to another project. The odds were good that they would break the story. Unfortunately for them, they were wrong, but it was a good gamble.

Would a pretty boy gang like this let themselves get cancelled? I don’t think so.

Can we really blame Kotaku for being Kotaku? Well yes actually, but lets look at the professional gaming sites which should have known better. This news exploded through the internet, and some sites, notably IGN, were treating the rumour article as a report and not a rumour. This is what really pushed this bit of news. Kotaku headlines come and go, but sites like IGN, Eurogamer, or Gamespot legitimize the news. Even though there was not a shred of proof, these sites jumped on the bandwagon. I understand smaller sites trying to get views by posting material like this, but for bigger sites to fish for views by treating a rumour post as fact lacked integrity. I understand that these sites don’t want to be the only one not reporting on such major news, but properly framing it as a totally unsubstantiated rumour would have gone a long way. Instead, they helped get the internet whipped into a frenzy.

There aren’t many interesting screenshots for Versus, so here is Vanille looking sad.

After the instigator and the propagators there is the internet and the ravenous fanbases that come with it.  Gaming sites should know how easy it is to play fans up. Hell they do know. Go to any professional site for a month and you’ll see plenty of posts designed to get fans riled up, even if it is some seemingly innocent post about favourite Final Fantasy villains. Playing gamers is easy and journalists know it. If there is a major wave against Call of Duty, it is easy to get tons of views supporting or condemning Call of Duty. This usually isn’t a bad thing, but gaming journalists should know how many people take their words as gospel despite all of the negative comments. One article can start a wave of hysteria in gamerdom and professional sites need to be careful about this kind of thing or they will lose their integrity. As much as people love to throw around phrases like “you can’t spell ignorant without IGN”, professional gaming sites do have quite a bit of integrity and they are very influential.

You have no idea what you are in for if you say Sephiroth is the best Final Fantasy villain.

Rejoice fellow gamers! Final Fantasy Versus XIII still exists and we will likely see it at the Tokyo Game Show, especially after this incident. However, smarten up, internet! Even though I know this will never happen, reading the entire article and not just the headline is a very good first step. Letting some baseless guesswork actually make headlines is ridiculous and we should all be ashamed of that.

– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer

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