Most likely, that's a yes. Now whether SE *thinks* FFXI was successful or not really *doesn't* matter. We can sit here in a circle and jerk each other off about how great XI was and what a massive success SE thought it was, but the bottom line is that it's the rest of the world who needs convincing. So far, the arguments have been weak and SE's recent business decisions are just going to force them even further into that small niche market.
Speaking on my own behalf: When it comes to picking what to play, **** the rest of the world. I mean, yeah, an MMORPG needs to have at least a moderately reasonably sized playerbase to fill the servers and pay the bills, but the way I see it... I don't care how much or how little money they're making. I don't care how popular or unpopular it is. I don't care if there are commercials for it or if my mentions of my game of choice are met with "What's that?" None of that means **** to me. All I care about is that I'm logging on to a game that I enjoy. That's it.
DDO only has like... 6 servers, but I enjoy it.
****, I played RO on essenceRO, so only one (private) server. I had fun.
Playing an MMORPG, to me, means I'm logging on to play a game with other people, to accomplish goals together, to build our characters together. So long as there are enough people on one server that groups don't take forever to build, that is "enough players" for me to be happy with that game.
Sure, I want the devs to make money. If they have 10 servers or 25 servers or 50 servers.... if they have 20K or 200K or 2 million people... that's great. For them. But if I'm playing on a server of 20,000 people and FFXIV has 2,000,000 subscribers, then quite frankly, 1,989,999 of them have zero direct effect on my gameplay.
This is doubly true for casual soloers. Now, I have nothing against casual soloers, and if that's how they want to play, then it's their money and I'm not going to stop them. But if I will never interact with a person because they would prefer to play by themselves, then whether they are there or not is largely irrelevant.
That's the problem with developing a game and marketing it as casual/solo friendly: You're not building a Massively Multiplayer Online Game, you're building a Massively Single player Online Game with IRC tacked on to it. And for some people, this system is fine. If it works for you, there's nothing wrong with it for you.
Again, I'm not saying I want the game to fail, I certainly don't. But if FFXIV ends up in the same spot XI is; "not a lot of players, but the people who do play enjoy the game" and I'm enjoying the game, then I'm totally fine with it turning out that way. Sure, a subscriber base of 2-3 million people would be pretty spiffy, but here's the thing: I don't need two (or ten) million people also playing the same game as me to validate to myself my decision to play it.
Maybe they are happy there. But if they were happy there, why design a new game at all, and why make statements like "We want to appeal to a more casual audience"? It's clear, at least to me, that they don't feel that XI was as successful as you seem to think they think it was. It turned a profit, but it certainly lost more people than it gained over the years.
They see games like WoW - graphically inferior, lacking the signature cutscenes and the lore that makes a Squaresoft game a Squaresoft game just dominating the market. You know that has to rankle, at least a little. Success - isn't all about money. Those who think it is, are missing the big picture here.
Whether it's realistic or not, that first paragraph is just marketing. First off, or course they want their new product to be "more successful". They certainly aren't going to say "We hope this game is not as successful as FFXI". As for the casual player comment, like it or not, casual players are a rather big market share. If anything, casuals are the ideal customer. It takes them longer to get through your content because they play less (which also means, since they log on infrequently, they aren't taxing your servers) and their $13/mo is just as good as the $13/mo of someone who logs on for 60 hours a week. Comparatively speaking, "hardcore" players log on far more frequently, burn through content faster (meaning they will want new content more frequently) and tend to me more vocal in terms of changes they want to see made. They're a dedicated playerbase, but they can also be impossible to please at times, and are more of a headache than anything else.
So from a marketing standpoint, it makes sense for them to try to reach out to casual gamers. That's all about making money.