The Curious Case of Final Fantasy XIV

We haven’t spoken of Final Fantasy XIV around these here parts since late last year, when I awarded it “Dud of the Year” with a slightly guilty feeling.  Actually, I’m hard-pressed to think of any blogger who’s even mentioned playing it within the last eight months, apart from Massively’s Eliot.  Eliot brought to my attention the fact that FFXIV is just now hitting its first anniversary, which Square-Enix celebrated by saying that the game “greatly damaged” the Final Fantasy brand.  Ouch.

Ever since the game launched in complete shambles, Square-Enix has been scrambling to make it right — somehow, anyhow.  Every once in a while I hear about patches and fixes, but it’s safe to say that the FFXIV buzz in the MMO community is somewhere around flatline.  It just doesn’t exist.  But what I didn’t realize is that for this past year, the game’s been entirely free, since SE is not confident enough in its product yet to flick on the subscription switch.  I knew it was free for a couple months following the launch, but still?  A year later?  How much money is FFXIV losing the company on a monthly basis?  And what will the company do from here?

The first option is to get the game to a much, much better point than it was at release, throw a relaunch party of sorts, and pray that players stick around — and that others come check it out.  The second option, of course, is to go free-to-play and introduce some sort of microtransaction business model to help fund the project.  Pulling the plug entirely would be a PR disaster for Square-Enix, especially since it’s a major part of the Final Fantasy series — Roman numerals and all.

I’ve often been baffled by Square’s business practices, especially in the MMO field, because I get the feeling that the devs and corporate suits are too far removed from the rest of the industry at this point and unwilling to change that.  Maybe things are finally getting better.  But something’s going to need to be done with FFXIV sooner or later before it becomes a money pit from which there is no escape.

13 thoughts on “The Curious Case of Final Fantasy XIV

  1. wloire September 28, 2011 / 11:33 am

    I find it interesting that Wada doesn’t admit he damaged the “brand”. It was him after all who wanted the game out the door.

  2. Asmiroth September 28, 2011 / 12:38 pm

    MMOs like FF don’t make their money on this side of the ocean. There’s bound to be some sort of financial reason to keep the game going, even if there is bad PR. There is still a rather large divide between the western and eastern MMO and what we would deem fun. Makes for interesting games, that’s for sure.

  3. sente September 28, 2011 / 1:11 pm

    You still have to buy the game to play, even if there is no subscription. Admittedly, you can get the game dirt cheap in stores, so they do not make that much money from that.

    The price for the game in various Asian countries may be different though.

  4. Drew September 28, 2011 / 2:52 pm

    There’s a significant update scheduled in the “near” future that will revamp a lot of the game’s mechanics (such as eliminating Physical Level, I believe). At that point, I will give FFXIV one last chance to capture me. As someone who cut my MMO teeth on FFXI, I was sorely disappointed by FFXIV at release and after another attempt to go back a few months later. I desperately want to love this game. I hope they make it happen.

  5. bhagpuss September 28, 2011 / 3:41 pm

    I’m playing it occasionally. I was in the beta so I knew not to buy it when it came out, but after Christmas I noticed I could get the game for next to nothing on Amazon (cost me less than $5 in your money), there was no sub and most of the major issues were being fixed so I bought it.

    It’s still dull, but it is beautiful. I mostly log in and travel around taking screenshots. If they ever add a sub I will stop playing but until then it’s good fun for an hour or two now and again.

  6. Jason September 28, 2011 / 3:43 pm

    I went into the beta for FFXIV with a very stringent set of expectations; I had put an amount of time into FFXI that most would consider insane. So when I got beta access, I loaded it up and was immediately disappointed. I probably logged 10-15 hours before I just gave up on it; I’d zero idea of what the world was like, what kind of direction you’re going, nothing. Levequests were, and still are a garbage concept, and as others have said, the game suffers on many levels for what amounts to horrible design.

    FFXIV didn’t honestly need to try so hard. In fact, all they honestly needed to do was update the graphics engine from FFXI, tweak the UI a little bit and apply a new, large, overarching story for great success. Instead, they botched all of that, and now have a giant steaming pile on their hands.

  7. Carson September 28, 2011 / 4:09 pm

    It’s ironic that so many people have said they wished more games would adopt Guild Wars’ “buy to play” model, and Final Fantasy XIV has done so without ever planning to!

  8. Drew September 28, 2011 / 4:32 pm

    Jason nailed exactly what I said on another blog comment recently (Screaming Monkeys, I believe) – all we former FFXI vets were looking for was an updated version of FFXI. Instead they went for… well, I don’t know what the heck they went for other than to do stuff “differently”.

  9. Victor Stillwater September 28, 2011 / 7:41 pm

    I play it occassionally. Until there is more questalicious (not a real word, I know), content, there’s not really much of a point other than enjoying taking beautiful screenshots. 😀

  10. Mister K September 28, 2011 / 10:18 pm

    Square has been worthless since merging with Enix

  11. Telwyn September 29, 2011 / 6:23 am

    Gave the game a try, it certainly was/is very different. The gathering mini-games were ok but the crafting seemed designed to be as obscure as possible. I did leves for a while but again the system of getting them was so obtuse (how many times do you have to click to accept a leve!?!).

    I’ll give it a try again when the new patch lands, as I guess much has already changed (it’s been about 3 months since I last logged in). At this point I’d never sub to it though, if they introduce a F2P model I may keep playing it occasionally.

  12. Richard Watson October 2, 2011 / 8:45 pm

    Well, I don’t think it’d be wise of them to switch to F2P until the game is at a good point. I mean, they’d lose even more players going that route and the cost of hosting, etc., would go up. Right now they have a good, quiet place to exist where they can fix things (if they’re indeed fixable) while staying low so they can come back out later with a strong push when they have their house in order.

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