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 Final Fantasy XIV 's Last Days, Rebirth, And Move Toward Profitability
Final Fantasy XIV's Last Days, Rebirth, And Move Toward Profitability Exclusive
November 22, 2011 | By Christian Nutt

In October, Square Enix announced that it plans to work toward a "version 2.0" of its troubled 2010 MMO Final Fantasy XIV -- a game that the president of Square Enix, Yoichi Wada, said "greatly damaged" the Final Fantasy brand after its disastrous launch.

The launch was so problematic, in fact, that Square Enix has yet to begin charging for what was meant to be a premium game over a year since its launch, and will begin to do so "around December", when patch 1.20 launches, bringing key missing features to the title.

Did FFXIV greatly damage the brand?

"What we consider more critical is the feeling that we betrayed the trust of our players," says Naoki Yoshida, producer of the game.

"Final Fantasy XIV, at the time of its launch, greatly disappointed our customers who had high hopes, and failed to live up to the standards of the Final Fantasy series. As a result, we lost our customers' trust in a big way."

To win that trust back, Yoshida has been working closely with the international player community -- a process he outlined to Gamasutra in a feature interview published in April.

"The first thing I did when I became the producer and director of Final Fantasy XIV last December was to ask myself, 'What kind of service system, game content, and community content would be necessary if we were to continue to offer this service 10 years into the future?'" says Yoshida, now. He looked at successful Western premium MMOs such as World of Warcraft and Rift for clues.

Once he came on board a year ago, "I came to the quick conclusion that we would have to redesign the user interface, graphics engine, map system and the resource itself, and the servers," says Yoshida.

The version 2.0 launch, which is set to take place in 2013 -- and results in the long-delayed PlayStation 3 launch for the game, which so far has only shipped on PC -- will be built on a new engine "which we are building from the ground up," Yoshida says.

"We are taking steps to conduct detailed design and cost analysis in advance on areas that require fundamental revisions, and then jump right into coding in order to ensure a very efficient and productive development process."

"As it turned out, our company had already gathered specialists from the game industry to help us build new engines, and we were able to borrow many of them to work specifically on this new graphics engine. Therefore, the development process is moving at a relatively fast pace," Yoshida says.

What 2.0 Means

It's not just new tech, says Yoshida, that 2.0 entails. The entire world of the game will "change greatly" in a cataclysmic event that marks the break between the two versions of the game. Players who want on board for that scenario will have to begin to play before the 2.0 launch. "All the events that take place from here on out will tie into the big bang that is FFXIV 2.0," says Yoshida.

"Players, community websites, and the gaming media may see the roadmap we have provided and take it as, 'Oh, they’re creating a completely different game,' but this is not the case. FFXIV will always be FFXIV and nothing else. In fact, the updates from the past 10 months are all part of the upcoming version 2.0, and its quality will only increase as we incorporate the scores of valuable feedback we receive from the players," he says.

Meanwhile, Yoshida feels that the time until the launch of 2.0 is not a problem, as he's strongly tied into the community and the developers are continually updating the current version of the game with patches and gameplay changes to address player concerns.

Will Players Come... Or Come Back?

"We have already lost the players’ trust once, so we believe that the basis of judgment for players lies solely in the gameplay. We would like the players to form their opinions by playing the game and listening to the opinions of other players playing the game," says Yoshida.

"The reason we decided to announce the fact that we would begin billing two months before the actual start was to let our customers know early on that they would be able to cancel unwanted subscriptions," says Yoshida of the unusual roadmap that the company has laid: starting to charge more than a year past the game's initial launch, and a year prior to its announced relaunch.

"I think that there is a risk involved in beginning billing, which is true for any MMORPG," he says. "We believe that it is necessary to begin charging in order to provide our best service in operating the game at a high level and offering 24 hour GM services."

"I do believe that there will be players who will be reluctant to pay for the game," he does admit.

But the goal is this: bringing the game to profitability. "That is our plan, including FFXIV 2.0," says Yoshida.

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Harry Fields
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Hmmm FFXIV or SWTOR.... hmmm... tough choice...

Sorry Squeenix, you screwed the pooch on this one and I personally don't see any way you can recover. They may gain some subs in Asia, but the writing is on the wall for this one.

Gregory Kinneman
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One of them comes out in 2 years, one of them comes out in a month. There's plenty of opportunity for SWTOR to get old by the time the new FF comes out. Maybe that's a good thing for both brands.

Harry Fields
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the new FF or the new Engine? The interview article yesterday led me to believe that the core "game" is what it is. If that's the case, They can play with labels such as "new", "v2" or whatever and as soon as they start billing people, I predict a mass exodus of the 3 people in North America still playing LOL.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Jenny Watson
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Atleast Squeenix tried to break the mold a bit. SWTOR knowingly copied WoW for 5+ years, building hype with lies, on an MMO that will be fundamentally worse than WoW. That's what's embarrassing about SWTOR. Not to mention it will be worse than Rift, worse than Blade&Soul, worse than TERA, worse than GW2.

Terry Matthes
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I haven't looked at Final Fantasy games the same since number IX. This series needs to get back to its roots if it want's to regain the place it once held in my heart. I'm sure a lot of other people feel the same.

Harry Fields
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XII was a nice direction. It kinda' had an MMO-ish vibe. It had temporarily restored faith that maybe they could go back to what made Final Fantasy.... well, Final Fantasy. And then XIII came out and I puked a little in my mouth. Each new title seems to further seperate the franchise from it's lineage. Of course, titles like Skyrim make me care not for JRPGs anyway.

Rey Samonte
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@Harry...I felt the same way about XII and XIII. I really enjoyed XII and loved the battle/ai mechanics. I was hoping they would re-use that engine. XIII really let me down. It's sad because I really liked the FF franchise.

Steven Yu
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@ Harry Fields

You didn't exactly spell out what made you unhappy with the series. Just some vague hubris on your part. Me thinks you are just biased against JRPGs in general. Which is fine, since this is just a subjective topic and not an objective one.

(Hint: FF13 was received by the Japanese gamers wholeheartedly and won a lot of accolades)

Rey Samonte
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@Steven...Although I cannot speak for Harry, I can certainly share my disappointments with XIII. For one, it felt more like an interactive movie where you go from hub to hub, triggering cut scenes to push the story. The linear progression of the levels was a huge change of direction when you look back at previous FF titles. I came to expect large worlds to explore from FF games. XIII just didn't have that and coming off XII seemed like a step backwards.

The battle system was a let down as well. It's as if they changed it to make the game accessible to all types of players, new and old. In the process, they pretty much butched the enjoyment of encounters. I know people hated the gambit system in XII because it took away control, but XIII seemed to take it a step further and give you pre-defined team dynamics. At least in XII, they allowed you to configure the team member's AI which provided a lot of control of how they behaved.

In my opinion, XIII was all about the cut scenes. It's as if they tried so hard to get you to like their characters through cut scenes but in the end, missed the mark because I was never really given the chance to get to know each character through control and interaction.

james sadler
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I kind of agree. When I originally played through XIII I liked the fighting system until maybe 1/3 through and then it got boring until maybe 2/3 through when it got interesting again (when switching between paradigms was almost required for some fights). The story, the world, and how the story was told was extremely disappointing though and I felt nothing when I finished the game other than sad. I have hope in FFXIII-2. I played the demo at E3 and from what I have read elsewhere it seems like it is really the game the developers wanted to make.

FFXII to me was a huge departure from the FF franchise and seemed a little too much like they wanted to try out MMO and western RPG mechanics. Granted I grew to really love the Gambit system and pretty open world, but the story was just boring to me (except for Balthier's arch. He was probably the most interesting).

But this article is about FFXIV and not the other FF titles, which there should be a pretty clear line in the sand about. I remember when FFXI came out and I bought it right away. I am not a huge MMO fan, but it was horrible and relayed almost nothing FF to me (kinda like Spirits Within) and FFXIV seems to have followed suit. I am really not sure why they keep throwing the FF brand around to games that don't follow a FF scheme. If anything I think that is what has damaged the brand, not this title's failing.

Harry Fields
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XIII was all about cut scenes and a story that just wasn't interesting in the least about characters who just weren't interesting in the least. The fighting mechanics were OK, but wore thin long before the game concluded.

And yes, this is just subjective opinion :)

Fox English
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@james Though I have yet to play FFXIV due to them taking a step back from XI, I really did end up loving FFXI as time went on. Yeah, at first, it was so blatantly non-FF it hurt, but I think with later expansions it became more and more the definitive entry in the series. The classes/jobs, humor, writing, story, environments, cameos, customization, and spells, just about everything that I loved in the past started coming to the forefront. Disregarding the fact it had to be played with others (for the most part), I hold it in very high regards now (has possibly the best story in the series) and long for when they finally decide to make a single-player version of it for consoles.

If FFXIV can recapture that same kind of imagination and "fun" with later iterations, well, we'll see. I think FFXIV's biggest failure for me as a potential player though is that it is essentially XI-2 at a glance.