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I was browsing through the list of games Hironobu Sakaguchi has worked on and noticed that he is credited differently from game to game. Just to cite a few games from that list, he is credited as:

  • Director in Final Fantasy 1 to 5, The Last Story
  • Producer in Final Fantasy 6, 7, 9 and Tactics, Lost Odyssey
  • Executive Producer in Xenogears, Vagrant Story, Final Fantasy 8

This made me realize that I do not know the difference between these positions and in what ways do they contribute to the game development process.

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4 Answers 4

up vote 9 down vote accepted

What a position means is far from standardized in the industry. In general, game producers in big publishers in the US have little to no impact on the actual product. They're facilitators, keeping different departments abreast of things and making sure that all the pieces come together. And again, this is in general; this will vary between publishers and developers. And Japan probably has a different structure than the US in terms of the role of the producer.

One constant however is the rule of Executive Producer. Just as with movies, EPs often have little actual power or role in the production. Sometimes, they're purely ceremonial, used as a way to credit someone for part of the work. Some EPs do have some authority, but this is primarily through their role as facilitating communication between the upper level executives and the people actually making the work. When people speak of "Executive Meddling", the EP is often the go-between or facilitator for this.

Thus they can gain de-facto power by simply lying or misrepresenting how things are going in production to the people with actual power. Some EPs have veto power, some don't. Even so, the EP's power is usually via the commandment: "Do this!" Exactly how it gets done tends to be up to the developers. Though again, there are exceptions.

Basically, you can say nothing about how much influence over the production of those games that Sakaguchi had. At best, you can vaguely say that he probably had more direct, intimate control when he was Director, some control as Producer, and probably less moment-to-moment control over things as Executive Producer. Anything more than that is sheer speculation.

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Adding to Nicol's answer: Relating to Hollywood, sometimes an "Executive Producer" is a ceremonial title for someone who brings funding to a project (via another investor or their own pocket book). This is more common in the Direct to DVD or B Movie market but isn't uncommon.

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Contrary to Niocol's answer , if the Executive Producer title has any relation to it's TV counterpart, an Executive Producer can also be someone who sees a project through from start to finish. For example, Chris Carter was the Executive Producer of all X-Files episodes because he was actively involved in the series from start to finish, approving storylines, working out the general arc of the show, making creative decisions, etc.

With TV, the Exectutive Producer title is less of a position of creativity, and more of a position of responsibility, in the sense that the EP is ultimately responsible for the finished product.

Given Sakaguchi's past work on the Final Fantasy Series, it would make sense for him to be EP on FF8. I imagine in this role he took on the responsibility of seeing FF8 through.

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It really varies from shop to shop and even project to project as shops refine their own particular job descriptions and organization.

In general if there is a game director listed this position would be involved with creative decisions and communicating them to the team while the game producer would be more involved with schedule and business decisions and dealing with investors / publishers.

In some shops what they call a producer is also driving creative direction and works close with the discipline leads on creative decisions much like a game director. In other shops the game design lead is effectively the game director. Sometimes the design lead and producer attempt to split the duties of a game director, often with mixed results.

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