Can a game really be too successful?
On December 15th of 2021, Naoki Yoshida (Yoshi P), Producer & Director of FINAL FANTASY XIV revealed the latest update revolving around the ongoing server issues plaguing the launch of their latest expansion: Endwalker.
In an update posted on the official FINAL FANTASY XIV website, Yoshi P announced that they will be providing even more free game time to those affected by the login issue. In a more interesting note, he also revealed that they will be temporarily suspending the sale of the game to new players as well as the creation of new accounts via the game’s free trial, while also halting all active marketing campaigns until further notice.
“Players are currently experiencing extremely long wait times due to the dense concentration of play hours which far exceed our server capacity, especially during the peak times, and so we have decided to temporarily suspend the sale and delivery of FINAL FANTASY XIV Starter Edition and Complete Edition. Additionally, although those with an active subscription are prioritized to log in, Free Trial players are unable to log in outside of late night and early morning hours, and so we will also temporarily suspend new registrations for the Free Trial.These temporary suspensions will be phased in over the next few days as we work with our retail partners. We will be coordinating with them as swiftly as possible, but please bear in mind that this will be a gradual process.” – Yoshi P
This is traditionally unheard of in the MMO space, especially when it occurs a second time from a publisher as big as Square-Enix. Perhaps even more surprising is the players’ response. In a world where not having a specific playlist can result in the shutdown of an entire subreddit, you would think these peak-time login issues would lead to riots in the streets. However, that is not the case with Endwalker. Not only has the game received a large amount of critical praise but it also, at the time of writing, has the highest user score of all time on Metacritic for a AAA release. Outside of the games obvious critical acclaim and fan response, there are actually a few factors that could lead to this type of response. Clearly, FINAL FANTASY XIV is suffering from success.
No King Rules Forever
One Factor is the timing of FINAL FANTASY XIV’s ascension running in direct parallel with World of Warcraft’s dramatic decent. After originally launching FINAL FANTASY XIV’s 1.0 version near the height of Warcraft, it was unceremoniously squashed by the then MMO-Giant. The game was in such a bad state, in fact, that they had an in-game event where they destroyed the entire world and started everything over with the release of A Realm Reborn. (Seriously this happened, and it is one of the best redemption arcs in the history of gaming. If you want to know more it was very well documented in this NoClip documentary).
However, what happened next was kind of magical. They listened to all of the player feedback from the 1.0 release and used it as a blueprint for all of the changes they made in A Realm Reborn. On top of that, they continuously released exceptional expansions with Heavensword, Stormblood, and the critically acclaimed: Shadowbringers. All of this came to a head in 2020 when Square-Enix launched a very generous FINAL FANTASY XIV free trial program.
All of this occurred at the same time as the long-reigning king of the genre, World of Warcraft did the exact opposite. Blizzard was often criticized for not listening to fan feedback, implementing systems fans didn’t ask for, and removing key design features players enjoyed. It was during this time that popular Warcraft content creators such as Asmongold and Rich Campbell jumped over to Final Fantasy along with their legions of fans. In addition to that, World of Warcraft players that remained in Azeroth were soured on the whole Blizzard experience after the recent (and ongoing) Activision controversies came to light.
FINAL FANTASY XIV’s incredible success can also be attributed to same principles that played into the destruction of the original game’s world. The team at Square-Enix, led by Yoshi P, are among the best in the business when it comes to listening to the fans and building the game for them. They are quick to admit when mistakes are made and swiftly fix them, while at the same time frequently interacting with the community. Most important of all, though, is they follow what I consider to be the “Golden Rule” of designing a service-based game. Which is to be OK with your players playing other games. Instead of focusing on building ways to keep them in your ecosystem, by punishing them for leaving, focus on ways to make them want to come back. This philosophy, along with a showcase on just how powerful community interaction is for game developers, is put on display in this great interview Yoshi P had with the folks at OTK. It is no coincidence they took home “Best Ongoing Game” and “Best Community Support” at the 2021 Game Awards.
Hopefully they can find a way to accommodate the flood of players soon as by all accounts what is being offered in Endwalker is fantastic, and with the game’s arrival on Xbox seemingly on the horizon, the game might not yet be done growing. All and all, this is a massive accomplishment for FINAL FANTASY XIV and the Endwalker expansion, especially considering where they came from with the 1.0 release. And in my opinion, it could not have happened to a better or more deserving group of developers.