The game takes place on the continent of Fódlan. The landmass is divided into three nations; Adrastea to the south and west, Fergus to the north, and Leicester to the east.
On January 18, 2017, the then unnamed sixteenth Fire Emblem game was announced briefly in a special Fire Emblem Nintendo Direct without any footage, and with an estimated release in 2018. On June 12, 2018, the first gameplay trailer debuted during the E3 2018 Nintendo Direct video presentation, and the game's title, Fire Emblem: Three Houses was revealed. The estimated release date was also updated to Spring 2019. Three Houses will be the first Fire Emblem title in over a decade to release on a Nintendo home console since Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn released for the Wii in 2008.
The E3 trailer revealed that the game will feature some manner of free-roaming exploration outside of combat, expanding on the My Castle portions of Fire Emblem Fates and the dungeons of Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia. Cutscenes in the game are depicted in outlined CG animation, also like Shadows of Valentia, giving off an illusion of hand-drawn 2D animation. The tactical gameplay, however, is depicted entirely with polygonal models, as in Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn.
Battles also now depict at least some individual characters as leading whole units of generic soldiers in some manner. Red "aggro lines" appear as part of the battle UI, indicating an enemy's current intended target on their next turn.
Three Houses features a revamped battle menu with new options not found in previous entries. "Attack" and "Magic" are now separate command actions, alongside "Combat Arts" and a new "Formation" command.
Weapon durability makes a return after being absent from the previous two entries: Fire Emblem Fates and Shadows of Valentia.
The following are named characters seen in game that are confirmed playable:
The following characters have been shown in the E3 trailer without a clear defined role in the game aside from having a unique name and character portrait while being an enemy.
New classes include:
- The Japanese title is a reference to a Chinese poem of the same name, which was adopted in Japanese culture. The poem uses the analogy of snow, the moon, and flowers to represent winter, autumn, and spring, respectively. (See the full explanation)
- Fire Emblem: Three Houses will be the third Fire Emblem game to use 3D character models instead of sprite artwork on the gameplay maps. The previous games were Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn.
- This will be the third main Fire Emblem game to have its English voice acting recorded by Cup of Tea Productions, after Awakening and Echoes: Shadows of Valentia.