It’s been a rocky road for Final Fantasy XIV. The game arrived as Square Enix’s brave new attempt to crack the MMO market. But it failed.
One critic wrote “the kindest thing that can be said about the FF MMO is that it has a good intro movie”.
Square Enix president and CEO Yoichi Wada even apologised to fans. The publisher extended the free trial period, reshuffled the development team, and issued several game updates. But finally, two years later, Square Enix made the tough decision to simply start all over again.
“It wasn’t simply a case of identifying shortcomings in the original game since launch, but acquiring a better understanding of the elements needed to produce the best possible game for FF and MMO fans alike,” FFXIV’s new producer and director Naoki Yoshida?told MCV.
“My initial instinct was that FFXIV should be rebuilt from the ground up.
“Before reaching any kind of decision I had to examine and give careful consideration to major factors like: How big a task this was? Would our revisions fail and how should we announce this news to customers still using the current version of FFXIV?” What followed was the decision to completely overhaul the whole game.
Every asset was revisited and improved. With as little as 10 per cent of the existing game’s assets being ported over, the rest is a new game with maps, battle systems, story and characters deleted and redesigned. The new game even has an apt new title: Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn.
A NUMBERS GAME
The Final Fantasy franchise is one of Square Enix’s most important brands. Since 1987, it has been the forefront of visual technology winning countless awards. And – since 2011 – it has sold over 100 million copies worldwide.
The brand also goes beyond games, with extensive merchandising and the publisher even has its own stores, which for fans are a place of pilgrimage. Square Enix has made sure that the Final Fantasy name is synonymous with a quality product.
Which is why the failure of Final Fantasy XIV is extremely important to repair.
“Final Fantasy will always see the full support of the company,” Square Enix’s VP of Brand Larry Sparks added. “We believe that this will be a successful title and we will do everything we can to realise this success.”
Yoshida adds: “I think it says that a numbered title that forms part of the Final Fantasy series has to not only succeed without question, but also win back the players’ confidence which has been lost along the way.”
With the MMO market becoming increasingly focused on the free-to-play model, releasing any title with an £8.99 monthly premium subscription fee is a challenge.
“There are many different types of business models on the market and each game needs to be built with a particular model in mind. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn follows the traditional subscription model but may consider adopting a brand new business model or scheme further down the line.” adds Yoshida.
“We have already made a promise to our customers that we intend to honour before anything else. We therefore need to succeed with this model before we look at any others in the future.”
Realm Reborn is set to release later this year or early next for PC and PS3, and will be shown for the first time at Gamescom next week. This will prove to be a crucial reveal for the publisher. Square Enix and Final Fantasy has a reputation to uphold, one that may have been damaged by XIV but not irrevocably so. Square Enix has a second chance, and it is determined not to let its fans down again.
Yoshida concluded: “For us to meet this high level of expectation, we did not want to simply focus on in-game content but incorporate the very essence of the Final Fantasy series.
“Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is most of all a new FF title in the series and one I’ve deliberately positioned as a fan service title.”