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Final Fantasy XIV keeping subscriptions to ‘regain trust of fans’, says director

Monday, 19th November 2012 13:46 GMT By Dave Cook

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is currently in development, and while it addresses several issues from the game’s critically-panned original release, it will remain subscription-based while most MMOs are going free-to-play. Producer and director Naoki Yoshida has explained to VG247 that his team is keeping the game’s subscription model as it fulfils a promise made to fans. Find out why below.

As part of an upcoming Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn interview with Yoshida, we asked the developer why Square-Enix was keeping the game’s subscription model intact when the rest of the world seems to be embracing free-to-play.

Yoshida replied, “The main reason why we haven’t decided to take the free-to-play option is that, at the game’s original launch, it didn’t live up to expectations and it let down a lot of fans. We lost the trust of fans who had followed us across our 25-year history. We want to regain that trust and to deliver on past promises.

“One of the promises we originally stated was that we would release the game with a subscription model. Players will be able to play it 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days in the year if they paid a subscription fee.

“So to regain the trust of our players we must of course fulfil this promise. Right now we believe that to be more important than any kind of business decision.”

Yoshida also stressed that the pros and cons of both models are yet to be seen, and argued that it’s hard to make a clear judgement between them both.

“The other thing is that – depending on what kind of game you have – its hard to say which model is better. Is free-to-play better? Are subscriptions better? It just really depends, and it’s hard to say which one is better.”

It’s all rather confusing, but one thing makes sense: that Square-Enix doesn’t want to be running Final Fantasy XIV out of someone else’s pocket, and this is where the need for subscription models makes sense, even if it’s unpalatable to those accustomed to free-to-play.

“The last thing is that our aim is to make an MMO,” Yoshida continued, “and a lot of companies do their development for MMOs by getting money from investors. Then the investors want their money back, so if the game doesn’t make enough money or doesn’t have enough users, then what do we do?

“We’d have to pay our investors back, and free-to-play is an option to get that money back to investors quickly. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is a product that is independent to Square-Enix. All of the money’s coming from us, so we had more time to put it into what we wanted to do. We’re not in a rush to pay anyone back.”

What’s your view on the subscriptions versus free-to-play issue? Is Square shooting itself in the foot by sticking with subscriptions, or is there a volatile existence been F2P developers and investors that we’re yet to see exposed? Let us know below.

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22 Comments

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  1. Unlimax

    If the PS3 version has the same subscriptions system without F2P then Square is indeed shooting itself in the foot !

    #1 2 years ago
  2. Razor

    And you’re both experts, right? ;)

    #2 2 years ago
  3. Dave Cook

    @2 who is?

    #3 2 years ago
  4. Razor

    Oh sorry, were you not doing the “I’m an expert” skit from GAF?

    I thought the “shooting itself in the foot” reference was a nudge to it :)

    #4 2 years ago
  5. Dave Cook

    @4 Oh, no, no :)

    #5 2 years ago
  6. SplatteredHouse

    Sell the box, add pay-for aesthetics and shortcuts. That’s how I’d prefer things. They get more sales of the base title, and, over time the microtransactions amass – en-masse! Then, when it’s time for a big update, sell the expansion and support it with new content and continue to expand.

    Good point by Yoshida, though about how the game you’re making should work with the business model being used.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. FabioPal

    I don’t get his point… “One of the promises we originally stated was that we would release the game with a subscription model”, yes, and he even promised that the game would’ve been awesome…

    And then, “We’d have to pay our investors back, and free-to-play is not an option to get that money back to investors quickly.” considering that “We’re not in a rush to pay anyone back”… they have to go subscription based… my brain just exploded.

    #7 2 years ago
  8. Seda

    “The last thing is that our aim is to make an MMO,” Yoshida continued, “and a lot of companies do their development for MMOs by getting money from investors. Then the investors want their money back, so if the game doesn’t make enough money or doesn’t have enough users, then what do we do?

    “We’d have to pay our investors back, and free-to-play is NOT an option to get that money back to investors quickly. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is a product that is independent to Square-Enix. All of the money’s coming from us, so we had more time to put it into what we wanted to do. We’re not in a rush to pay anyone back.

    Is it possible that the NOT shouldn’t be here? First noted here:

    http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showpost.php?p=44512947&postcount=19

    Yoshida might be saying that the reason why FFXIV will be subscription based is because SE does NOT have investors to pay back and thus doesn’t need to get “that money back to investors quickly”.

    Is this a mistake?

    #8 2 years ago
  9. Dave Cook

    @8 Yeah he’s saying that free-to-play games are usually funded by investors who expect some kind of return, but because FFXIV is independent, they don’t have investors to pay back.

    I’m not getting the issue with the ‘not’. Any chance of elaborating a little? I’ll fix it if need be, but that’s what he said via a translator :)

    #9 2 years ago
  10. Seda

    With the NOT there the argument seems contradictory, and the distinction Yoshida is making between FFXIV and other MMOs doesn’t make sense to me. It seems like he’s saying that the reason why other MMO’s often go free to play is because that is a method to get that money back to investors quickly. But because SE doesn’t need to do that, they aren’t planning on going F2P.

    To quote the person who originally noted this out (link above)

    “What he’s saying here is that other MMOs have investors, and when the game fails to make enough money or drops in userbase, they have to turn to free-to-pay to get money back for investors quickly. But there are no “investors” for FFXIV, and it’s entirely funded by S-E, so they don’t care if it takes longer to build up a userbase and get returns using a subscription model.”

    #10 2 years ago
  11. SplatteredHouse

    @8 it doesn’t seem to be. With a sub, each month they will get an amount based on subscriber total that they can pay back to investors. If they go f2p, they have to rely more on item/service sales coming in, in sufficient quantity, probably over a longer period, to pay investors back.

    Except…He points out that FFXIV is not funded by these investors, it’s all in-house at SE. The more fussy might want to see the what DO we do line alter to “what WOULD we do?”, maybe, but it’s a foreign translation.

    #11 2 years ago
  12. Seda

    @11 Let’s assume the NOT being there is indeed correct. It is confusing to me why he would make the distinction:

    Other MMOs use investor money –> Possibly go F2P

    FFXIV doesn’t use investor money –> stay subscription

    If F2P was not a way to get money back quickly, then why would MMOs that use investor money do it?

    #12 2 years ago
  13. Dave Cook

    @12 Yeah that does make sense. At any rate it’s been edited out. That’s how it was said on the recording, although it was a translated chat, and in this context it’s wrong.

    Lets get back to the issue at hand though: Should this go free – will it after a few months even? – or should it star sub-based?

    #13 2 years ago
  14. SplatteredHouse

    @12 “if the game doesn’t make enough money or doesn’t have enough users” then the sub model cannot support the requirement to repay investors, so they would go f2p (hoping for a bump to appeal in the process) to enable them to continue to repay investors, albeit over an extended term. Because FFXIV is not reliant on outside investment, that allows them the option to stay sub.

    #14 2 years ago
  15. Dave Cook

    @14 Maybe that will happen after launch? I think it would cause a few red faces if they had to then go free-to-play after such an investment. But the MMO market can be a fickle place. Will be interesting to see how the new changes are received.

    #15 2 years ago
  16. SplatteredHouse

    @14, 15 Yoshida is not talking about his game there, but in broader terms of an mmo. see: ” a lot of companies…”

    One thing that’s made this extra fun to decipher/discuss is that your commentary, and Yoshida’s quotes could perhaps be more clearly separated. Despite the paragraphs, the article resembles a bit of a text block. There are open quotations without close, and unless I’m mistaken, open quotations that lead unresolved from Yoshida’s words into Dave’s! :o
    Is it “correct” to re-open quotes following a line-break, if you’re continuing what that same speaker said?

    #16 2 years ago
  17. Rident

    When appointed Yoshida made a series of promises regarding the game one of which was keeping FFXIV a subscription based MMO. They are very strictly addressing these promises made to the fans and players and are ensuring these fans are satisfied (like myself).

    I don’t think they will move to a F2P model. This would upset fans like myself who have supported game through subscriptions and become Legacy members. Also if you take a look at the FFXI model which is still running with a fair number of subscribers using the existing model. I am a subscriber to both of these services and do feel with the level and quality of updates made to the game, it can justify charging a monthly fee. FFXI is 10 years old I believe and is due a new expansion early next year so the subscription numbers must be satisfactory to continue to support the game, and supports their decision to keep FFXIV a subscription based MMO.

    As far as I’m aware, F2P is a very Western style model where as FFXIV and FFXI are very Japanese operated large scale MMOs adopting a model they feel is appropriate. If subscriber numbers were issued and categorised by region, I’m sure the majority would be Japanese or from other Eastern territories judging by the language used in a lot of the in game chat and shouts.

    #17 2 years ago
  18. Rident

    “Players will be able to play it 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days in the year if they paid a subscription fee”

    Not sure if they can fulfill this promise though with previous known server downtime for server maintenance and updates.

    #18 2 years ago
  19. Dave Cook

    @18 was that a big issue previously dude?

    #19 2 years ago
  20. Rident

    I think maybe the thing about regions in my previous comment is a bit irrelevant as there seems there was consideration for F2P

    #20 2 years ago
  21. Rident

    I never found it an issue, annoying sometimes but quickly got over it after updates. They were not too regular either unless there was a new expansion needing patches

    #21 2 years ago
  22. Jagged85

    @Rident:

    “As far as I’m aware, F2P is a very Western style model where as FFXIV and FFXI are very Japanese operated large scale MMOs adopting a model they feel is appropriate. If subscriber numbers were issued and categorised by region, I’m sure the majority would be Japanese or from other Eastern territories judging by the language used in a lot of the in game chat and shouts.”

    Actually, it’s the opposite: The Free-To-Play (F2P) model is a more Eastern-style model, whereas the subscription model is a more Western-style model. The largest markets for F2P games by far, accounting for a majority of the world’s F2P market, are Korea (where it largely originated from in its current ‘virtual goods’ form) and especially China (by virtue of its huge population). The large Japanese social & mobile gaming markets have also been dominated by the F2P model for a long time now. It’s only in recent years that many Western developers (mainly in the social & mobile spaces) have started adopting the F2P model. Among Eastern developers, Square Enix’s subscription model is the exception rather than the norm.

    #22 2 years ago