ChocoboGP’s crash and burn proves not every game needs seasons

Final Fantasy has several cute series mascots, including cactuar, moogles, tonberries, and perhaps above all else, chocobos. These iconic yellow birds make frequent appearances in the series, and in some cases star in a few games of their very own. During previous console generations, gamers could enjoy a rogue-like dungeon crawler, a card-battle RPG, and in 1999, Chocobo Racing. Chocobo stans everywhere were delighted when Square Enix released Chocobo Mystery Dungeon: Every Buddy in 2019, itself a remaster of 2007's Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon on Nintendo Wii and DS. The game was a cute refresh of the prior title, so I was doubly excited when Square Enix announced and then released ChocoboGP in March 2022. 

The unlikely spinoff - coming more than twenty years after the first game - released with a limited free version and the full game at $49.99 - is a fully serviceable and wholly charming kart racer, replete with fan-favorite characters, locations, and theme songs making appearances. Unfortunately, the full version was riddle with microtransactions and a season pass model to unlock stages and characters, like Cloud from Final Fantasy VII. Nine months and five “seasons” later, Square Enix announced it was discontinuing future content.


Somewhat surprisingly, Square Enix recently and quietly re-released the title on Switch for $49.99 with the season pass content included as unlockables using in-game currency. This debacle underscores a simple truth that the industry is struggling to accept: not every game needs to be a live service.

ChocoboGP has enjoyable kart-racing mechanics draped in a Final Fantasy cloth with colorful graphics and tight gameplay. Unfortunately, players were also unexpectedly met with a tedious requirement to grind or to spend additional money to unlock characters who arguably belonged there in the first place. Cloud Strife should have been available or unlockable without additional purchase at the start of the game, for Ifrit’s sake!  Instead, players could spend real-world money to buy Mythril which would allow them to buy a Prize Pass and grind to level 60 to unlock Cloud, or spend three times the amount of the Prize Pass for a Premium Prize Pass which would instantly boost you to level 60 and unlocking Cloud. Costly and convoluted, and all this for a kart racer?


It’s great these unlockables are now contained within the base game, providing a tangible incentive for players to play more to unlock more content rather than buy it or buy their way to it. It just feels like it’s too little, too late. With such little fanfare around the re-issue, it seems like this game is destined to be forgotten. The casual gamers who passed on this after the initial umbrage are unlikely to even know the drip-feed content model was abandoned; the enthusiasts who gobbled up premium content as it was served have likely moved on to other games, undermining the franchise and undeserving gamers. 

It’s puzzling that Square Enix would determine this title ripe for monetization, as not every game needs this content model. This game in particular is a budget title with a made-for-mobile sensibility that doesn’t jive with the AAA games like Diablo IV, Destiny, or others with sizable player bases, expansive campaigns, and plenty of hours of content to mine through. ChocoboGP tried to have its talons in two different games: a free-to-play in-app purchase style racer and a full-blown Mario Kart clone. The difference is Mario Kart has the legs and robust player base to thrive over two consoles and seemingly endless waves of new content and didn’t hide fan favorite characters behind a seasonal battle pass model. 


Square Enix tried to serve too many masters, churning out five seasons across the span of nine months before pulling ChocoboGP off the monetization track. While the re-released game is certainly better off without shaking players down for a chance to race as Squall, most players are likely to not have noticed, or repelled by the initial game to take a chance on this racer, especially at full price. The end result is a racer that limps across the finish line.