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.