Final Fantasy 14 producer Naoki Yoshida has said the reason Square Enix decided not use a free-to-play business model is because it’s not always the best option for an MMO, despite the popularity of F2P.
Speaking with GI International, Yoshida said Square decided instead to make the game free for 30-days, hoping that once the trial period was over, the player would be hooked enough to pay a monthly service fee.
“You could actually get through the game to its ending within that trial period,” he said. “It’s more like, if you like the game, you’ll continue to subscribe. Of course, there’s a lot of endgame content and constant patch updates. That’s the stance we take. This is a question that I get quite a lot, about free-to-play versus subscription, but it’s not about which is better. There are pros and cons to each business model.
“With a subscription model, of course, the cons are seen as how you have to keep putting money in on a regular basis to keep playing the game. But there’s also cons for a free-to-play model, in which players can easily quit the game With free-to-play, we need to think about where to earn income, because as game developers, we want to provide the best gameplay experience, but we need to have that revenue from item microtransactions. We have to not only think about game content, but we also have to think about what kind of items to provide in order to continuously gain that revenue. It brings up a question of who we’re making happy in the end.”
Yoshida said while a F2P model convinces more players to join, it’s still not necessarily the best business model, as the team has to take microtransactions into consideration for sustainability. This can cause the companies to set the ARPPU “really high” in order to gain instant revenue and make a quick buck.
“But MMOs take years to build on and maintain. When you think about it, maybe you made a lot of money this month, but what are you going to do next month? By going the subscription-based route, it provides stability,” he explained. “The players will have to pay a specific amount on a constant basis, but that’ll allow for maintenance, so we can have top-notch developers stay on staff. In the end, it turns out to be better for the fans. We can continually update and make the game better.”
In Yoshida’s opinion, some MMO publishers launch right into a F2P model without giving the subscription model a chance.
“They get swept up in the free-to-play trend and don’t think about ways to improve their subscription business,” he said. “A lot of games look at the first two months of subscription numbers, think that’s not going to be a feasible business, and switch over to free-to-play.
“I don’t think it’s necessarily because free-to-play is a better form, though. It’s more about people making a rash decision to switch over and chase a quick buck. With the subscription model, you have that constant flow of revenue. Of course, the initial subscriber numbers might not be as many as the free-to-play model, but we have that constant stream. We’re not thinking just about the business of the moment. We want to think about the long term and being able to have the funding to continue making updates.
“Some people might be focused on quickly gaining revenue, but you have to think about the long term. I think it’s okay for both models to coexist. It all depends on the demands of players.”
Yoshida said he will continue paying attention to “what the players want” and will consider the most optimal format for A Realm Reborn’s future.
Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn was updated this week with patch 2.2, Through the Malestorm. Full release note are through here.