The year is 2011, and Final Fantasy is in a bad place.
Fans are eager to get out of the FF13 trilogy, FF14 is a failed MMO that has yet to be reborn, and Final Fantasy 15 is in limbo. At a time when the FF15 we finally got was nothing more than a spin-off of FF13, Square Enix was prepared to give its most successful western studio, Eidos Montreal, a chance to make the next big Final Fantasy. .
As said by the YouTuber Super Bunnyhop in 2018, the game was codenamed Project W, and it looked ambitious – a “space opera” with airships and floating castles that would allow players to fly seamlessly from planet to planet long before No Man’s Sky wowed us with the same gimmick. For years, Project W has largely existed behind the words of anonymous sources, but former Eidos Montreal art director Jonathan Jacques-Belletête recently opened up about the studio’s canceled version of FF15 in a interview with TrueAchievements.
“[Eidos-Montréal] brought back Deus Ex. I was the art director on that – Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Then [I was] the executive art director of Mankind Divided,” said Jacques-Belletête. “Then we tried to make Final Fantasy XV. So they decided to bring him back to Japan – which I think was a big mistake, but it’s still the truth. Ours was really, really cool.”
Jacques-Belletête apparently didn’t go into further detail, but his comment roughly supports the Project W leaks of the Super Bunnyhop video. It is notable that Jacques-Belletête mentions working on the scrapped FF15 after Mankind Divided, a game that came out in the same year as the real FF15, but that could be a misunderstanding.
The Super Bunnyhop report states that the failure of Eidos’ space RPG was overturned by Square Enix’s leadership sometime in late 2011 or 2012, as Eidos was still at the height of the success of Deus Ex: Human Revolution.
There’s even some (unconfirmed) concept art for the Eidos Final Fantasy project floating around (as shared by Super Bunnyhop in a follow-up video in 2018), and what they sure looked cute.
But unfortunately, for what was probably a bunch of reasons, we now know that Square Enix abandoned the idea and returned the project to its in-house studios in Japan (a decision Jacques-Belletête called a “big mistake”).
Fast forward to 2022, Square Enix has come full circle on its tumultuous relationship with western studios over selling Eidos Montreal and Crystal Dynamics to the Embracer Group for US$300 million.