Final Fantasy XIV has managed the use of a phoenix down revival on the scale of an entirely online game – but how did they pull it off?
In a genre that seemed to clutch to its beloved Blizzard Baby, World of Warcraft, the last few years have proven to be an interesting insight into the viability of subscription-based MMOs.
In short, it looks like they’re here to stay. With the success of Final Fantasy XIV – that’s “14” for the plebs – Square Enix has proven that the market very much exists for continuously-updated online experiences with an extra fee tacked on.
The story of Final Fantasy XIV is nothing short of remarkable, and it needed to be. After so many MMOs attempted to “dethrone” World of Warcraft, it became clear that a true competitor would have to be something genuinely unique.
It’s somewhat ironic, then, that when XIV first launched, it was remarkably bad. Version 1.0 was so beleaguered by issues and negative player feedback that Square suspended all monthly memberships while they undertook the mammoth task in game development: remake XIV into a new and better version of itself while continuing to support the original version with free updates.
The process saw Square simultaneously attempt to patch an MMO while crafting a new one more-or-less from the ground up in half of the standard development cycle for MMOs.
By conventional wisdom, the company should have followed up its failure of a numbered Final Fantasy title with a final death knell – yet they refused to submit.
What emerged from the ashes of the original XIV was something extraordinary. Titled A Realm Reborn, the new version of XIV saw drastic improvements to nearly all segments of the game.
Gone were the poor optimization and performance issues that caused the online world to render at the pace of the average household toaster, instead introduced everything from a new and contemporary form of combat to revamped zones, jobs, and an overhauled story that saw itself continue the narrative from the original XIV in good fashion.
Since then, FF: XIV has not only earned the respect and admiration of its long-standing fanbase, it has managed to infect the mainstream and grow its playerbase to levels that now rival, possibly even toppling those of the ancient monolith that is World of Warcraft.
At the time of writing, FFXIV boasts over 10 million subscribed players globally and while it’s difficult to stack their chips against Blizzard’s – since they’ve stopped publicly announcing sub numbers – something tells us that it’s time for the new kid on the block to step up and take the crown once and for all.
Only time will tell how long Square will be able to maintain the momentum behind their new always-online darling, but if their intensive efforts to do the impossible and revive a nearly-dead game are any indicator, the realm of Eorzea will find no shortage of champions to come to its aid in the future.