It is why in part I was shocked on how so many people on the Official Forums, FFXVIPro, FFXIVCore, ZAM, FFXIV YG, BG Forums, MMORPG Subforums, FFXIV Gamerscape, generally touted within the lines that "Well FFXI had a troubled launch/release but they ended up doing well." It is almost as if they were either:
A: Stuck in 2003-2004 and never realized all the factors that now affects MMOs in a more pronounced way than they did before
Since many people forget what happened at FFXI's launch (May 2002), I'll recap. The registration servers couldn't handle the load of people blitzing it at the same time. I recall there was one website that noted a blog of someone who started registration at 12 or 2PM local time and they weren't able to get online til 12AM due to all the disconnects and crashes. There were also some ineffective registration codes on boxes and an issue with registration codes being rejected despite being accepted moments earlier if the registration process is disrupted. That complaint only existed on day 1-2. Then Sony caused some added grief by having a shortage of some internet component for the PS2. Square quickly got on top of any growing scandal by giving free service thru the end of June. The main issues over the back end of May was FFXI's weak point... the registration servers and the PS2 broadband component.
The problems were all resolved by mid June (except for the PS2 component shortage). FFXI sold 76k copies that 1st week. FFXI sold 94k copies by mid June. FFXI fell short of their growth estimates (which were quite pie in the sky) but they got strong numbers. From there... 102k by early 7/02, 120k by mid 8/02, 180k by mid 11/02. It hit 200k by the end of 2002 and Square was very happy with those numbers. And for early numbers, if I remember correctly, FFXI had 90k active players by the end of June 2002 and by the end of May 2002, it was something like 45~54k who managed to navigate all those early difficulties and get in to play. So, FFXIV's numbers peaked at where FFXI was somewhere around week 2 or 3. Oh, and FFXI had 20 servers at launch (technically 21 but Atomos is usually treated as a hidden number). Compare the # active/ # copies sold. You can see by the end of June, essentially only a small number were buying FFXI but unable to get online.
The PS2 broadband component shortage was the main limiting factor for months. As can be seen in blogs and forums, the talk quickly turned to figuring out quests, hunting NMs, finding out what drops from who, and trying to organized the 1st pieces of a database (FFXI didn't get a semblance of one til late 2002 and it seemed only by 2003 was there a solid, extensive, up to date database) instead of having technical issues. You can't focus on the details of a game if you have difficulty getting into the game. It was quite funny hearing Japanese players ~the end of Aug 02 complain about how hard Awd Goggie was.
There was more tolerance for the difficulties because a) this was Square (not yet -Enix)'s 1st MMORPG and the servers weren't tested in full before for a full blitz of people wanting to sign up, just with beta (which has controlled numbers, i.e. who you send the beta pack to) and b) the playerbase was all Japanese, it was a console-based game, so it may have been the 1st online MMO experience for many of them, as opposed to FFXI in NA having Everquest, DAoC, Ultima Online players to draw from. Anyone know what the MMO scene in Japan was like circa 2002? (/flash the Elmer signal!) Bridging FFXI & FFXIV
, there were signs of something weird going on even before the FFXIV beta that alienated some people. FFXIV was in development since 2005 and yet after 5.5 years or so, the beta had very little to show in way of zones and enemies. I had the list of FFXI beta's zones though forget where I put it, but suffice to say, it was most of the original zones (2/3, 3/4, 8/10? Not sure), definately well over half. All field areas south of the Northlands were open as were many caves (offhand can't remember if the Beastmen strongholds were open). FFXI's beta had the original 6 job classes, FFXI at launch had those 6 + the 5 original extra jobs (SMN came with RotZ but unlike SAM, NIN, DRG, it didn't require RotZ to get). FFXI started development in late 1999/early 2000. So from start to launch, it had 2.5 years of development. In half the time, it had much more to show, both in beta (Dec 01- Apr 02) and at launch. And in terms of content, missions through Delkfutt's Tower were active at launch, NMs added 6/02, level cap up & HNMs added 9/02 (final missions 8/02 if I remember correctly), Artifact Armor added 11/02 & 12/02 (and some more HNMs then) + Level Cap up again, the earliest BCNMs 2/03. 11 months after launch the 1st expansion was active. Compare FFXI Year 1 to FFXIV Year 1 in terms of how much new content, whole new things were added. And the equivalent of 'now' in FFXI (vis-a-vis FFXIV) would be July 2003. HNM scene was Behemoth, King Behemoth, Fafnir & Adamantoise (others in 12/03), Roc, Simurgh, Serket, Capricious Cassie and a few since demoted HNMs (Cemetary Cherry, Lumber Jack, etc). Sky was 12/03, Dynamis was 2/04. Zilart's missions... thru the 8th one (big battle) at launch in April, Sky opened up in July 2003, final mission Oct 2003. Compare and contrast. It leaves one scratching their head wondering WTF? And now onto FFXIV:
As for FFXIV's numbers, SE touted the 600k-some shipped (680k? 650k?) but the population numbers posted in Fall 2010 and again here reveal FFXIV never had more than a little under 50k people online/active in the game. Most of those copies sat on shelves.
That drop by about half from late 2010 to late 2011, during an entirely free period with lots of hype about the next patch being the golden patch and a lot of white knighting, is eye-widening. FFXIV's free period given the development of FFXIV 2.0 was meant to hook people with a sort of free demo within which one could play the entire game. While a lot is going to be changed, some things presumably are going to be the same (race graphics, race names, nations, world name, history, etc). SE would have wanted to have a strong base of players in FFXIV 1.0 to allow FFXIV to have a good-sized population in hopes to attract others to a bustling game. These numbers show it's a busted game. 11k isn't going to seed anything. For 2.0, the larger the number of 1.0 players active in the year or so before 2.0's launch the better, and how many stay with the pay period would be a gauge of player confidence in FFXIV any.0. The numbers make the odds look less optimistic for 2.0, which was already a longshot/hail mary by odds anyway.
As for competition, yes, around the launch of WoW, one website said the age of competition in MMOs began. There was competition earlier, but the field was a lot less crowded before late 2004, just EQ1, UO, DAOC and a few small flops or ancient remnants like The Realm Online. Of course, both pre-2004 and from 2004-2010, the MMO field was growing in # games & # players. FFXI's strength was it had a large userbase from a divided launch (Japan), it was from a very popular franchise and launched on a console to bridge those franchise fans with the typical MMO platform, the PC. Not sure if SE knew the PC would be bigger in NA so launched it 1st or wanted to launch PC & PS2 simultaneously, but Sony pulling crap with the HDD might have delayed the PS2 launch by 5 months. Sony gutted any longer PS2 base in NA by discontinuing the HDD after late 2004. And FFXI launched with the success of the Final Fantasy name behind it, 1.5 years of content added and kinks worked out (and the importers had been posting early reports in English from FFXI and what it was like, including exploring RotZ zones back at its launch since late 2002); FFXIV 2.0 will have the impression from its failed 1.0 launch around it and a much wider array of competitors and all the negative experiences people had from that earlier era all over the internet (contrast FFXIV 1.0 players' reports with FFXI pre-NA launch importer's reports). FFXI & FFXIV is indeed a tale of two worlds worlds apart.