Eidos Montréal, developers of the Deus Ex series, was at one point slated to develop Final Fantasy 15 for Square Enix.
Jonathan Jacque-Belletête who served as art director for twelve years at Eidos-Montréal until 2019, spoke with TrueAchievements and recalled his time at the studio. During the interview he confirmed a rumor that the Deus Ex studio was at one point, working on Final Fantasy 15.
“Eidos Montréal brought back Deus Ex. I was the art director on that – Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Then [I was] the executive art director on Mankind Divided. Then we tried to do Final Fantasy XV. Then they decided to bring it back to Japan – which I think was a big mistake, but it’s still the truth. Ours was really, really cool.”
Unfortunately, Jacque-Belletête didn’t expand on the conversation further. The development on Final Fantasy 15 had a restart in 2012, so roughly speaking, it matches the time period between Human Revolution which was released in 2011 and the sequel Mankind Divided in 2016.
Most people following the development of Final Fantasy 15 would know that it had a troubled development cycle that lasted 10 years. The development period included a near-full reset, an engine swap and, as confirmed by Jacque-Belletête, was almost handed to Eidos Montréal. Final Fantasy would then be released in 2016, developed by Square Enix’s Business Division 2 under director Hajime Tabata.
It’s quite possible that Square Enix was looking to try a western development team to help out with the development of Final Fantasy 15, and it would have made Eidos Montréal the first western developer to have worked on a mainline Final Fantasy game.
YouTuber Super Bunnyhop covered this rumor back in 2018 and supposedly gave details that Jacque-Belletête didn’t in his recent interview with TrueAchievements. However, according to Super BunnyHop’s original video, Eidos Montréal had “some basic art, some basic game design, in a super secret office.” And going so far as to say that Eidos Montréal’s take on Final Fantasy 15 would have made it a “space opera RPG,” with some kind of love triangle.
For whatever number of possibly valid reasons, Square Enix changed their mind about Eidos Montréal and the proposal to have them develop a mainline entry in their flagship franchise, bringing the series back to its internal studios in Japan and ultimately creating the Final Fantasy 15 we know.
Recently, Square Enix ended its rocky relationship with its western developers by selling them and their franchises over to the Embracer Group for $300 million. Just another reminder that Square Enix prefers to maintain its focus on Japanese games, to say nothing of dipping their toes into the NFT and blockchain trend.