Final Fantasy XI, Square
Enix's first (and, to date, last) serious assault on online gaming,
is still going strong after five years. 500,000 players from around
the world continue to stick with it, and some have played the titles - available on PC, PlayStation 2, and Xbox 360 - since the
very beginning in 2002 (2003, in the West).
This week the fourth expansion,
Wings of the Goddess, was released and to give hardcore fans a sneak
peek, Square Enix put on the recent Final Fantasy XI Fan Festival 2007 at the Anaheim Hilton in Southern California.
Gamasutra presents a Q&A with Square Enix vice
president and producer of Final Fantasy XI Hiromichi Tanaka, Sage Sundi, and other members of the Square Enix development team, conducted at the
Coming up on the fifth anniversary,
how does everyone feel? It's got to be a great accomplishment
-- five years running an MMO.
Hiromichi Tanaka: Actually,
you might know that the development for Final Fantasy XI started
about eight years ago. And at the time that development began we really
only had a plan for about five years, and now it's been eight years.
So it kept building, but it's been a very quick eight years. The time
has gone by really quickly. But everyone still has a lot of fun making
it and we're sure that probably even from now the time will still keep
would you say are the strongest throughout the global market in terms
of subscription base?
HT: Right now of our 500,000
users about half are Japan, the remaining half being a combination of
American and the European territories.
Are you happy with how the
console versions have been received? The Xbox 360 version last year was a
pretty big deal.
HT: As you probably know, the
360 is not that popular in Japan, so even though it's on sale not many
people have the actual hardware to play it. But yeah, we're pleased
to see that a lot of the users in Europe and America (where the 360
is popular) are players using that, and we hope to continue making stuff
for that market.
So in Japan they play more
PS2 or PC?
Sage Sundi: At the release, there were
a lot more using the PS2 in Japan, but recently the trend has been that
most players are moving to the PC versions.
HT: And then a lot of the players
in America -- probably most of the people who have an Xbox 360 also
have a PC -- so most of them are going to be playing on the PC rather
than the 360.
The Final Fantasy XI dev team, pictured from left to right: Hiromichi Tanaka (producer of FFXI), Kouichi Ogawa (Director of Wings
of the Goddess and Treasures of Aht Urhgan), Akihiko Matsui (Battle
Director of FFXI), Mitsutoshi Gondai (Planner of FFXI), Kenichi Iwao
(Planner of FFXI), Sage Sundi (Global Online Producer)
Do games like
World of Warcraft impinge on your market, or do you feel like
it's a completely different player base?
Square Enix Team Members: Actually we haven't been
affected that much by WoW. When FFXI hit its peak users
was about the time that WoW was released, and when it was released
we didn't see a big reduction in the players. It's pretty much been
about the same. We feel that with a lot of MMORPGs on the market, players
have the choice of the one they want to go to and they'll try them out
and then they'll stick with one -- and we see that people who chose
FFXI have stuck with it.