One Year and a PS4 Version After, Final Fantasy XIV Is an Amazing Success Story that Makes Me Smile

Today marks the first anniversary of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, and it has been a hell of a ride.

Yet, for many the ride started a lot earlier than on August 27th, 2013. Three years before, on September 22nd, 2010, Square Enix released the original Final Fantasy XIV, and all hell broke loose.

It’s hard to distinguish what exactly went wrong, and fingers have been pointed in many directions, even if faulty communication between executives and developers and overconfidence were probably the main culprits. Suffice to say that the launch was disastrous and the game was welcomed with dismay by fans and critics.

A couple months after, Square Enix announced a reshuffle in the leading roles among the development team, and the ascension of Naoki Yoshida in the unified role of Director and Producer.

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As opposed to his predecessors, Yoshida-san wasn’t a big name in the gaming industry. I remember spending quite a while trying to understand who the hell he was. Yet he had what was really necessary to steer the sinking ship in the right direction: a sizable experience as a gamer on both western and Asian MMORPGs. When I heard a while afterwards that Dark Age of Camelot is his favorite game in the genre, I definitely felt that Square Enix had placed the right man in the right place.

Yoshida-san immediately started working hard to improve the game, but it was evident to many, and probably to the developers themselves, that simply patching Final Fantasy XIV was not a recipe for success. Larger plans were set in motion.

One year after the disastrous launch, in October 2011, Square Enix surprised many by announcing that the game would be completely relaunched with what was then called Final Fantasy XIV 2.0, but there was more than that in store.

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The development team actually set in motion a story arc within the game that prompted players to prepare against an impending calamity that had the potential to completely destroy the world. The new questline, centered about the fall of the lesser moon Dalamud, accompanied by a series of events and a lot of lore, carried the remaining players towards the shut down of the servers in November 2012.

That was, doubtlessly, the first real stroke of genius. Gradually, the many players disgruntled by the state of the game found themselves in the middle of an actual epic story which would lead to the end of the world as they knew it. What was for many a chore was suddenly transformed into a meaningful struggle happening side by side with the efforts of the development team led by Yoshida-san.

That long, lovely storyline created a connection between the players, the world and the game that many of them previously played just out of inertia. When the curtain was lowered and Dalamud fell, those feelings were at their climax, and I know many that cried when the “End of an era” cinematic was released. I was among them. The connection with the world of Eorzea was that strong.

And I cried again almost one year after, as Abriael, my Paladin, set foot on the streets of Ul’Dah once again with the launch of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. Call me a crybaby. Call me cheesy, but I’m not ashamed of it. Square Enix had turned the struggle of a dying game, of its players, and of its world into one of the most epic tales told by an MMORPG.

And the players who decided to stick with the game through all its adversities, now called by the game itself “Warriors of Light”, have been immortalized in that emotional, meaningful tale of death and rebirth.

Square Enix definitely deserves criticism for having launched Final Fantasy XIV in its initial state, but it’s doubtless that most other developers would have just put the game in free to play life support for a long (or short) agony, fired a large percentage of the staff, and just moved on after taking our money.

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Square Enix did not do that. Not only did they keep the staff at work and continued to actively update the game, but they launched a completely new version that can definitely be defined a fully new game, allowing anyone that purchased the first to get A Realm Reborn for free, and to keep their old characters on top of that.

Instead of taking our money and leaving us stranded with a “so long and thanks for all the fish,” they spent considerable resources to give us the game we deserved for the very beginning, and this is something which is more unique than rare in this industry.

Of course we can’t really say that they did it in a selfless effort to atone for their previous sins. Obviously Square Enix was working in its own interest to restore faith in the franchise and ultimately turn a failure into a commercial success, but the undeniable effect is that they did right by their customers, and that is worthy of praise.

They definitely could have acted differently, and basically every other company would have, but Square Enix displayed humility, initiative and a large serving of typically Japanese stubbornness, ultimately coming up on top.

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Now, one year later, the game has reached 2.3 million registered users, setting itself as one of the most successful pay to play MMORPGs in the industry, while the Chinese version just entered its open beta, bringing another million pre-orders on its back.

In the meantime a PS4 version has been launched, and with its graphical parity with the PC version it has been acclaimed as one of the best technical accomplishments of this year, growing the fanbase and spearheading almost by itself the launch of the console in Japan.

More content keeps being added regularly: more quests, dungeons, raids, events and a whole lot of fun. It took years of grinding teeth and a complete reboot to get to that point, but Final Fantasy XIV did get there, creating one of the most exemplary success stories in the last few years of the gaming industry.

And in an industry in which negative feelings, rage, hate and commercial flops are becoming more widespread (and by some almost welcomed, especially on the press side of things) than positive thinking and success, this story makes me smile from ear to ear every time I think about it.

And it’s with that smile on my face that I say “Happy Birthday, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn.” You’ve made us cry, but now the sun shines on the new Eorzea.

Join the Discussion

  • Nicholas Perry

    /clap /clap /clap /huzzah

    I can only imagine what the future will bring us!

    • Eric Irving

      It was great in 1.xx, but it was also one of the downfalls of the game. As someone who played 1.xx from start to end, the animation was more of a pretty looking burden.

      The reason what we have now is a game play design choice, not a budget decision. You can see in the /emote gestures that the characters are still fully animated. The reason they are not animated in movement to the point in 1.xx is to be more efficient in the combat system. But it isn’t to say they can’t introduce neat animations for future and current jobs. Like if you watch Ninja videos, the animation in battle and stealth is pretty fluid.

  • SonnyLe

    /cheer

  • Black Heaven

    Sorry, can I call out a possible typo?
    ….earlier than on August 27th, 2013. Three years before, on September 22nd, 2013….

    3 years before 2013 is still 2013? 😛

    I haven’t played 1.0, but I have to say that part where the server shutdown is treated as the ‘end of the world’ really is quite impressive on their part.

    According to a youtube channel I watched, one of the reasons why 1.0 failed so bad is that they focused too much on graphics rather than gameplay. Other video comparisons showed such difference. As such, graphics were shown to be downgraded a bit in favor of the animation speed and other mechanics.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0h9H6tO4-Oc

    As for me, I’m planning on returning when the Rogue class is up, and if I get my enthusiasm back for logging and crafting.

  • PrinceHeir

    Yoshida and his new team is amazing!

    Hiromichi Tanaka and his team should be ashamed on the mess they made for FFXIV.

    Problem is they tried to divert on what made FFXI amazing and instead are trying to get that WoW pie.

    Yoshida supports both Japan and Western communities and how both communities should get the same content day 1 across the globe.

    Freaking wish Sega had someone like him for Phantasy Star Online 2.

    Yoshida should also handle Dragon Quest X since Square Enix seems clueless on what to do with it.

    Glad Yoshida stepped in and set things right! All we need is Final Fantasy XI style expansion packs and this game will live on another 10 years for sure!

    • L’anzce Beatrix

      uhmm is the same team as tanaka, just different upper managements.. XD

  • Nordu

    Hope this game last as long as XI, also the original wasn’t even bad and I played it low res at like 15fps…yeah 15fps.

  • Dennis Djoenz

    Great article. I love the game. lvl 24 last night, but I still don’t have my Chocobo. Dungeons are great too. Congratz FFXIV.

  • William Trengove

    yep…still enjoying this game after the 4 year struggle and a refreshing year of reincarnation

  • Eric Irving

    If SE back in 2010 listened to people and delayed the original FFXIV after the feedback that was given to them during beta, I think it could of worked out like SE originally planned and it could of been mildly successful from there. However, I don’t believe it would of hit the amount of success that FFXIV: ARR has now.

    The failure of FFXIV in my opinion was ultimately a good thing. SE of late was showing a lot of decline in quality of their games around that time and that boot in the ass is what they needed to be motivated to bring the quality back that SE was heavily known for till recently. SE may have some rough spots still, but it is pretty clear that they are self-aware of their recent shortcomings and looking to overcome them in their new games to come.

    Happy 1-year anniversary FFXIV. Not a day has gone by since launch I have not logged in. From playing alpha in the original FFXIV and staying dedicated knowing something good would happen in the long run, I am glad it paid off.

  • http://roccosanimejournal.wordpress.com/ Calamity_Oddity

    Congrats to FFXIV on it’s 1st year. Haven’t played the game, but it certainly is a success story. From an absolute broken game – to what it is now. May be one day I’ll join in the game. Focusing on GW 2 at the moment.

  • Section8

    It’s way too expensive. Pass.

  • Sea-HAWK fan

    Seems like a great game but if you are a game player like me and go from game to game to game, back to a game, back to another game, this isn’t for you.. Monthly fee’s destroy what could have been for me IMO. Maybe I just want to put my copy in after awhile of not playing and see if I can get back into it? NO I have to pay another 12-15 bucks and if I find myself moving on quickly after playing it for a couple hours, I lose 12-15 bucks!!! WTH