Japanese games software company Square has announced a scheme to securitize cost overruns on the feature version of its Final Fantasy computer game which it is producing with Columbia Pictures. Though other securitization schemes have been devised for film production, Square's will be the first to offer shares to ordinary investors.

Originally budgeted at $75m, the Final Fantasy computer-graphics animation now looks likely to burn through $115m in production costs. To raise the extra $40m, Square is currently in talks with the Industrial Bank of Japan about jointly establishing a special purpose company to securitize the film's assets and sell shares in the film to individual and corporate clients, both in Japan and abroad. "We have not yet worked out the details on how these securities will be valued and sold," said a Square spokesman. "Everything is still under discussion."

Square intends to make three more CG animated features with Columbia, beginning in 2001. "The films will not necessarily be based on our games," said the Square spokesman. "We are developing various ideas, but have not yet decided which ones we are going to make."

Currently in production in Hawaii, Final Fantasy is a dark adventure tale set in the year 2065. It is set for a July 2001 US release on 2,000 screens. Now in its ninth edition, the Final Fantasy game has sold more than 30 million units worldwide.