‘Wasn’t making numbers’
Fire Emblem has a rich history, with 11 titles and 25 years to its name. However, around the turn of the decade, Nintendo planned to kill off the series, as it just wasn’t successful enough. Awakening changed those plans rather quickly.
In an Iwata Asks interview with Intelligent Systems and Nintendo, producer Hitoshi Yamagami says that Fire Emblem Awakening was to be the franchise’s swan song. He stated “Hatano-san, who was working as the head of the sales department, he said ‘The Emblem series isn’t making the numbers, so this is going to be the last one.’ And the members said ‘This is going to be the last one, so let’s put in everything we want so we don’t have any regrets. Then we had a big list of different things, ‘I want to do this’ and ‘I wanna do this,’ and the result was Awakening.”
That kitchen sink approach worked, and it resulted in a game that sold incredibly well both in Japan and in the west. In fact, sales were so high that Hatano-san immediately asked “When’s the next one coming out?” Yamagami explains that the developer was of the understanding that it would be the last game in the franchise. Hatano-san responded “Of course. That’s how sales works. If something sells, we start asking for the next installment.” So, that’s when Intelligent Systems started thinking about the game that is Fire Emblem Fates.
Despite the sales success, one of the main complaints about Awakening involves its pared-down narrative. Intelligent Systems is combating that with Fates by implementing a story with three different paths. Awakening may not have done story perfectly, but it did it well enough to give the series new life.