Final Fantasy VII was famously called "Quite possibly the greatest game ever made" by GameFan magazine. The quote was featured on the back of the game's jewel case, as well as on one of the print ads, and probably elsewhere. In 1997, when the game was released, it was the biggest game ever for the Sony PlayStation. Spanning 3 discs and featuring CG cutscenes that intertwined with gameplay almost seamlessly of unprecedented quality. This was a time when the Sony PlayStation and Nintendo 64 were duking it out for the number one spot, a battle eventually won by Sony. They have Final Fantasy VII, at least in part, to thank for that.
Looking back, in 1997 magazines were still the dominant format for getting new video game news. A friend of mine introduced me to Final Fantasy VII by showing me the screenshots in an issue of Game Pro, and I was floored. There was no YouTube, no internet video to see of the game in action. There was print mag screenshots and they were glorious. After that I remember picking up the very first issue of PSM at the grocery store because it featured original artwork of Cloud Strife on the cover. Inside I would also find the first print ad for the game.
The ad campaign for FF7 was huge. Sony knew this was their big exclusive hit, and best of all, it would be impossible to release the game on the cartridges the Nintendo 64 used due to their smaller capacity. N64 carts could hold a maximum of 64 MB of data. Final Fantasy VII spanned three 640 MB CD-ROM discs, a huge difference. So when it came time to market the game, there was no punches pulled. The most famous two page magazine spread for the game, which some of you might even remember, features just a still frame of one of the game's CG cutscenes, and a line of text above it:
"Someone please get the guys who make cartridge games a cigarette and a blindfold"
Bold to say the least. This was a time when the console wars were a bit more cut throat than what we see today. After all, there was no internet for any kind of fallout from such an ad. The bottom of the ad in smaller text reads:
"Possibly the greatest game ever made is available only on PlayStation. Good thing, if it were available on cartridge, it'd retail for around $1,200"
Man, I miss seeing stuff that that in game marketing. Remember the Sega commercials? Those had some balls. I had this ad, as well as the second one below cut out of the magazine and hanging on my bedroom wall when I was about 14 years old. Final Fantasy VII would go on to be one of the most beloved RPGs of all time. To this day, it tops many people's lists.
Here's the other print ad for the game, which is a bit more simple, but also quite direct.
"You can actually hear your pupils dilate."
The marketing campaign must have worked, in combination with strong reviews. Final Fantasy VII went on to sell more than 9.5 million copies world wide and forever changed the landscape of console role playing games, and gaming in general.
Do you remember these ads? Have a favorite ad campaign? Let us know in the comments.