After hearing the great news that the original Final Fantasy VII will be releasing on iOS this Summer, those who follow the Japanese gaming scene (and some of our forum users) recalled some interesting 2013 Square Enix statements on the possibility of FFVII coming to mobile. Takashi Tokita, Square Enix executive and current head of the company’s Business Division 9, had said that even though Square Enix was considering porting FFVII to mobile devices, the actual release of the game was years away because of the platform’s space limitations. With the 2013 PC re-release of the title weighing in at 3GB, Tokita’s worries were certainly not unfounded, especially back in 2013. Even though issues of device space aren’t as acute as they used to be – with Apple expanding its selection to include 128GB devices – the base model of both iPhones and iPads is still the 16GB model, so Tokita’s point about FFVII is still a valid one.
However, App Thinning, an iOS 9 feature recently announced at Apple’s WWDC 2015, has handed developers like Square Enix a tool that has perhaps allayed most worries over the capacity of mobile devices. App Thinning, in simple terms, allows the App Store to deliver to a user’s device only the parts of the game that are needed by his or her specific device (it’s like being able to eat from a buffet at a restaurant rather than have to devour the WHOLE menu). If the player has a 32-bit iPad 2, he’ll only get the art assets and the code for that specific screen resolution and processor; if another player has an iPhone 6 Plus, she’ll only get the art assets and code for that specific screen resolution and processor. This will shrink down a game’s size tremendously because your iPad Air 2 won’t be getting all the assets that an iPad 2 requires. Prior to iOS 9, users would have to download ALL of the art assets and the WHOLE code for each game they downloaded, leading to huge install sizes despite the fact that a player’s device could run the game perfectly with only a small percentage of those 3 gigabytes. Additionally, with iOS 9 the App Store will have the ability to only send the resources for the first game level – which will allow for faster downloads – and subsequently send more levels as the player approaches them in-game (this is called “On-Demand Resources“).
With App Thinning, developers like Square Enix, which primarily develop big console and PC titles, will probably be able to port their games onto iOS without having to worry too much about a game’s footprint. I hope that in the near future we won’t be having so many discussions in our forums about a game’s install size, and, hopefully, we’ll stop performing the never-ending song-and-dance of deleting old games to install new ones. I am hoping that iOS 9 will enable more companies like Square Enix to port big console and PC games to iOS devices, and maybe we’ll see more games like FFVII dropping onto our devices not with a thump like before, but with a whisper.