Wrong! FFXI would not be the game it was if Tanaka listened to his fanbase. Hate him or love him, the game was as good as it was, because he had a vision, and actually carried it Out.
OK, you want to play that card?
Here's what FFXI wasn't: WoW.
You see, FFXI hit the ground first. But it's difficulty curve, its lack of a tutorial, instead relying on a rather thick old-school manual, and challenging mechanics led it to not leading the pack, but rather play second fiddle to WoW's easy-to-access gameplay. Had FFXI been the game it is today, with the ability to solo, some degree of tutorial, and what not, it could have been at least a rival to WoW, if not nearly as big as WoW. Final Fantasy has millions of console fans. It had a built in audience. If they had blown them away, or even adjusted to player feedback sooner, there would not have been server merges. There would not have been a loss of players.
You're right, we got Tanaka's game. Those of us masochistic enough to stick with it got it in the *** from Tanaka over and over again too. Honestly, that is why I initially said no to FFXIV. I did not want that experience again because I HATED
it. I did it once, I was not going to do it again.
The moment a company starts taking orders from their fanbase is the moment their game will spiral down into the abyss. I will give you 2 examples in WOW :) When wow was riding BC into WOTLK, people wanted and demanded a more hardcore approach, they wanted the next expansion to follow BC progress, which was very old school, content was gated, and you had to follow a path, Blizzard ignored the player base and delivered Wrath, and it was a success like they have not seen since or before, they reached 14 million players subs during Wrath.
A wonderful example... not.
The vocal players were asking for hardcore, but Blizzard knew their market better. They knew not gating the content would result in players loving the game more, making it feel more massive and expansive. They didn't want just the player base they had, they wanted the player base who wasn't
playing. You have missed one other major statement. WotLK also had a massive ad campaign. William Shatner, Mr. T, Verne Troyer, Ozzy Ozborne... they rammed that expansion down the throats of not just the players, but the non-players, the TV watching crowd who had heard about their game but thought it sounded TOO hardcore.
This is an example of why FFXI was not nearly the success it could have been. The team at Blizzard knew if they ramped up the difficulty, and gated content, people would not come.
But what happened ? They went to work into Cata, and still everybody felt, they needed to make the expansion more hardcore, and blizzard this time, followed suit and made cata 20X more hardcore than what Wrath was.... And what was the result ? A huge failure, they went from 14 million to 10 Million, droves of people left, end game was horrible, heroics where horrible etc etc. Is the game still successful ? Yes! Is it as successful as it once was ? Not at all.
Another wonderful example.
The game has been out for a very, very long time. The level caps are huge now. Gear fatigue and grind fatigue are a thing now. There are a ton of new MMOs in the space, and a lot of them are free-to-play. People are leaving for many, many reasons. Could the expansion be one of them? Certainly. Destroying the entire original world could have something to do with it, too. I'm sure if someone came along and took a sledgehammer to Bastok, San D'Oria and Windurst, you'd see people contemplating leaving, wondering where the hell their game was going.
And now, look at what I said before: They used WotLK as a way to get the non-MMO player into the game. They did. And when they went back to the design the community wanted, those who weren't onboard likely left. More or less, proving that had they listened to their players, the numbers might have stayed the same or maybe even increased slowly, but instead they catered to people NOT in their demographic and the gamble payed off, mainly because they knew people would be convinced to play.
I have seen this problem creep up in XIV too, and i have predicted that it will be a major if the game does become a success, because yoshi has already been more than willing to do was the player base says, and once you start doing that, at what point do you say No ? Remember when he said "I am perfectly fine with how power level works, and is intended to be that way" yet a month later of being hounded by the crazy fans who felt "But but if somebody gets 50, it negates me being 50, so i am not a snowflake no more :( ) what did he do ? He nerfed it, and the fanbase loved him, but what happens when the fanbase that have been dictating how the game progresses, becomes the minority ? You all do realize that hardcore XI players are not the main demographic that SE is aiming for... So what happens when the casuals come pouring in, and start making demands ? Are you all gonna say "Hey do not listen to them!?" Why not ? They are paying the bill afterall right ?
A developer should have a vision of what his game should be, and sure he should listen to his fanbase in some aspects, but he should not divert from the vision of the game he has, because then the game will suffer for it, because he might listen to you in one or two things, but he will still continue to move foward into that vision he has.
Yes, a developer should have a goal, a plan, but at the end of the day, that plan may need to change. You cannot exist in a vacuum. You want to see what happens with that? Look at FFXI's lifecycle. It started off big, then withered and died as they refused to respond to players. It finally had a resurgence when they became more receptive to player feedback, and now is starting to find an audience again. Listening to your audience =/= doing what they say. It means to understand the game they are asking for, and not outright denying it. If you want to, sure, do so, but it is at your own risk. Many., MANY MMO developers have learned that lesson the hard way.