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A long objective opinion (warning!) about ARR and its futureFollow

#1 Jun 23 2013 at 3:39 AM Rating: Excellent
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This post is adapted from a post of mine in the beta forums General.

Disclaimer: There is no TL;DR version of this post. I don't want to sum up several topics in three sentences. If you are put off by this, feel free to skip the thread entirely.

Dear forum people,

I admit that I have not made hundreds of thousands of posts inside this forum, so that most of you will remember me, but I have a reputation for writing long, well-argued posts / comments / articles etc, in my life, so I would like to offer my insight to the community and the developers alike.

Now, inspired by Director Yoshida's latest comment (which was satisfyingly detailed and long) I feel that I have to describe my feelings about the game under two mantles:

Sovjohn the FF fan and beta tester

I am an experienced MMO player, but was never 100% hardcore, although I have several...months of /played in various games, which usually included PVE end-game raiding.

FF XIV: ARR is impressive, in my eyes and based on the conversations I have had with friends who also tested it. Not flawless, but impressive for a beta product at this point of time.

I believe that significant efforts have been made in order to make this look and feel a true Final Fantasy game, even with the challenges the series has faced in the past few years. Let's remember here that FF is a predominantly console-oriented franchise, and it has had relatively few games released in the PS3/X360 generation, with the actual numbered game being XIII only (and the others being sequels or spin-offs).

Now, there is definitely room for improvement in a lot of in-game functions, however, the progress so far is indeed impressive. The game does not innovate per se, however innovation is a double-edged knife in MMO's, with certain features exciting a part of their player base at first, but failing to excite them for the long-term, once the novelty factor wears off.

The crux of the matter is that, for a beta product, FFXIV:ARR is quite much exceeding expectations. Yes, I would like a global GCD of 1.5-2.0'' to be used instead, but I know all too well that these sort of elements are the ones able to be adjusted when needed without needing an expansion pack or what have you. Indeed, skills, abilities, cooldowns et al are the most frequently changing functions in any MMO, compared to say NPC's or music.

I feel confident that the FF XIV team will indeed produce a polished result by release and beyond, because I have seen what has been achieved from the "v. 1.0" era and the transformation is amazing.

Of course, there are many people out there who cannot and will not be satisfied from ARR, including F2P advocates or FF XI players who were hoping for a "FF XI v 2.0" type of experience, however, they belong in stakeholders due to be disappointed anyhow, for a variety of reasons.

Sovjohn the business development manager / product manager

The roles I have been most associated with, either as an employee or as an entrepreneur of a start-up company are business development and product management. Yes, they are awfully boring terms to throw about, but bear with me. There are several things ARR has done, and continues to do, which tick the right tickboxes in my mind from a business point of view. Let's have a look:

Pricing models

I have made another long post about pricing models, you can find it here:

Quote:
Well - I know subscription 'is a dying model', but mostly this has become the case when games could not justify the subscription. I mean - EVE Online is a prime example of a community-led game which boasts a healthy player base, a developer who listens to feedback and implements accordingly, and a subscription.I haven't seen it failing, and will not see it failing, so long as the player-developer relationship remains healthy. EVE players could not care less if a WOW "outsider", or even us, future "FF outsiders" ever join their game. As long as the company is happy with the status quo / makes money, case is settled.

Now, on the other hand - Games like SWTOR (which I played, and apparently paid a subscription for about 4 months), did not deserve their money. Allow me to elaborate:

  • Leveling / personal quest were fine. Quality really.
  • End-game did exist, in theory, but...
  • ...there were FAR too many game-breaking bugs. Also, numerous balance issues. The game had 3 healing classes and the 1st one was as good as the other 2 combined.
  • EA/Bioware had to recuperate development costs, so they left the game to die, from the very first months. Bug reports were not addressed for ridiculous amounts of time. A typo (Yes, a typo) made in a raid boss HP count meant that "Hard" was easier than "Normal" for about 6 weeks. And they wouldn't fix the bloody typo.
  • The ******** Hero Engine they used had serious issues rendering >10-20 people at the same time. The game had world PVP. Guess how well that went when it was running with 3 FPS (not a joke, literally 3 FPS).



Yes, when I saw the developers talking in an event EA launched in March 2012, I was disgusted by their responses. They seemed to stem from a know-it-all attitude which blatantly disregarded feedback AT ALL.

Sure, these douches did not deserve a subscription fee, ever, once someone went past leveling and experiencing the admittedly well-crafted story.

Does this mean that no game deserves a subscription fee? Hardly so. However, it's hard to justify such a fee if the game is buggy, unfinished, uninspiring on day 1.

That's why I applaud Yoshi-P and team's effort, because they have the actual chance to dazzle enough people to be happy.

And for the end, some numbers:

1,000,000 subscriptions: At least 120,000,000 (USD or EUR, depends on the country) per year. Not a small sum by any means. The actual money from the game purchase are not calculated in here.

3,000,000 "Buy-To-Play" purchases: Did you know that whenever you buy a game at retail, after the margin of the shop, the distributor, and the publisher, the developers get some 15% of total? Do find that out, then. For the sake of simplicity, I will say that 50% of these proceeds are able to be used for game expansion purposes (although the number is high).

3,000,000 X $30 (for a $60 game) = 90,000,000. GW2 has indeed sold 3,000,000 copies, however, if among them I include people like me and my friends, (about 10 people I know in total), out of which nobody played GW2 past 2 months cause "it got boring" "had no RVR system of note" or "gear had no stats, why bother collecting it?"...

...Something tells me it won't make near as much money in year 2. Whoops.

I won't present the case where, say, 2,000,000+ gamers buy a game AND then 1,000,000 sticks around with a sub, cause the number difference will be eye-watering.

And this, dear fellows, is why you should not be entirely sure "F2P" or "B2P" can generate more revenue. Cause if the game can't pull off a P2P model, it can only resort to F2P-ish, or die.ll off a P2P model, it can only resort to F2P-ish, or die.


Suffice it to say that a pricing model and approach for a game is not decided blindly. Projections are made, often using existing data (such as FF XI player base, conversion % of them to XIV, general data about sales in different markets, NA / EU / JP, and several other sources) and market experience / competition analysis.

SE is not a stranger to a "F2P-like" model. There's an iOS game, Guardian Cross, which is either F2P or B2P in theory, however it has an abundance of microtransactions built inside it. And it's a quite successful game, with tens of thousands of players shelling out considerable amounts of money to buy...the latest Bahamut card, the right to upgrade their Leviathan cards, and so on and so forth.

If the company felt that a game such as ARR would be better served by this model, they would build it this way. Still, there is no golden rule about any of these revenue models. Player word of mouth and perception goes a long way towards establishing a game as a success or a failure, and the signs are that, at the very least, the Final Fantasy community does not seem to be disappointed, as they were with 1.0, which was a mess.

Unique selling points

A debate has been started in these forums and elsewhere about the game's unique selling points. It's true, there are few "truly innovative features", although I would classify the multi-classing / jobs / shared skills element to be one of them. However, the best unique selling point, in business jargon, is the multi-platform model implemented.

There are very few MMO's on the PS3, and they are not recognizable enough (say, WOW) to make a difference on the console's marketshare. However, that is not to say that there isn't a market for MMO's in consoles.

In fact, consoles have become very dependent on internet connectivity and multiplayer gaming, and this is expected to be illustrated further in the coming years, with the PS4/XB1 generation. You should keep in mind that PS4 and XB1 are effectively "PC architecture", which is a significant change in console game and systems management, since consoles were ever created.

My personal opinion is that since ARR seems to be doing rather a good job on its PS3 rendition as well (and I would like to remind you all that PS3 has 512(!) MB of RAM - It's a Herculean task to be able to fit MMO features in that limited space, believe it or not), it should expect a healthy percentage of its long-term customers to also come from this pool (And PS4 in the future). If there was no PS4 in the horizon, this might mean a bleak future for the PC client or its graphics quality, but since PS4 will be DirectX 11, creating a powerful PS4 version and a powerful PC version will be very easy.

In terms of product management, the ARR team will have to support 2 products and 2 sub-products in the years to come:

1) PC DirectX 9 version - Today's version
2) PS3 version - Scaled down from 1) to fit PS3 constraints

3) PC DirectX 11 version - Future client for newer PC's
4) PS4 version - Can be exactly the same with PC version this time, only with different UI and functionality

Community interaction / Feedback

Finally, and I am ending this with this topic because making it any longer would probably mean you would need a week to read it, I find the community interaction and feedback responses a very promising sign. It was mind-blowing in my view to read the Phase 2 feedback list, where dozens or hundreds of remarks had been read, discussed internally, and replied, along with a status assigned to them ("Due for P3" "Continuing discussion", etc). I sense that SE has invested significant resources towards facilitating games that its player base wants to play, and this is frankly as good as it gets from a business point of view.

A company / developer who actively attempts to build a healthy relationship with its player base does never fail, financially or otherwise. A notable example of this is CD PROJEKT RED, the "Witcher" games RPG studio, which has built a name for themselves for being player-friendly and mindful of their community, resulting in extremely good results both from a business and a community point of view.

Why did I write this?

The answer is very simple. I'm not fond of trolls, so I would like to contribute a long, well-thought, analytical response to whatever I've seen as Phase3 beta tester thus far, combined with my real life occupational skills, in a way.

Thanks for your time!
#2 Jun 23 2013 at 5:38 AM Rating: Excellent
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You could probably break it into several posts addressing each topic. The easiest way to fish for trolls is to make a long-winded post. People probably won't reply or continue discussion because it takes too long to address everything without forgetting what the **** it was they were trying to express. Personally, I just collapse in a heap when I see walls of text as mighty as what you've constructed here Smiley: lol
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#3 Jun 23 2013 at 6:43 AM Rating: Good
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I could indeed break it into several posts, but then it would not be a complete write-up of my views, especially on the business side of things.

Regardless, thanks for taking the time to respond, and I hope at least a...dozen people have read this (mustering up the courage to do so, and so on and so forth!) =)
#4 Jun 23 2013 at 6:44 AM Rating: Decent
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Sovjohn wrote:
If the company felt that a game such as ARR would be better served by this model, they would build it this way. Still, there is no golden rule about any of these revenue models.

"Golden rules" are all forged by time and experience. We now have 17~ years of mmo price models and "success" to look at. What is success? It's player acquisition and retention.

Early mmos like UO and EQ established subscriptions and either did not have the foresight to see profit in microtransactions, or felt it was too risky. MMOs that came after them, like EQ2, WoW, and others, copied the subscription model because it was proven profitable. There are multiple problems with subscriptions though:

1. Subscriptions are much harder to retain with competition. Most people aren't going to spend 150 dollars a month to play 10 different games.

2. The psychology behind paying for a set amount of time to access something. You either feel pressured to get your money's worth, or even feel that it's not worth subscribing altogether if you don't have as much free time as you'd like. It also can partially or wholly remove the, false or not, sense of ownership people have about their characters.

3. Barrier of entry. Think of it like this: these companies all want as many players as possible, right? Well why are they then putting a wall around the premises, telling people they have to climb it if they want to get in? It's a lot harder to get players who already quit back into the game, and even harder to get people new to the mmo genre.

The problem with using WoW in any example of P2P success is that it was a perfect storm. Not only did EQ ***** itself with awful expansions at that time, but WoW had blizzard's massive following from their other games. They also created an engine that felt a lot smoother than all of the other games at the time, and actually focused a lot on PvP elements, something that the EQ series failed miserably at. MMOs take a long time to make, and all of their competitors released both too late and too early. Too late because WoW already established a massive foothold, and too early because all of the games were not as "smooth feeling" as WoW, and were pushed to launch anyway. MMO enjoyability is directly related to the number of people playing it, too. The number of players actually enhanced the game, making even more players join -- the game was self-sustaining.

I would also argue that trying to cite any game from that time period (2004~) ,as an example of P2P being a viable model now, is short-sighted. Have you looked at the number of new players vs old? I already explained WoW, but look at FFXI: FFXI has almost no new blood. The "success" is almost entirely resting on players who have stuck around since before subscriptions "went out of style". While it's partly because FFXI is dated, it's primarily because there is a barrier of entry. Subscription games end up hemorrhaging players over time, because, again, they rest on players they already have. If you measure success like I did at the beginning of this post, subscription games can't be successful long-term.

"F2P games suck". No, that game you think sucks is what sucks. The model can be done horribly wrong, but a lot of games do it right. What is "right"? A good free to play model is one that allows people who don't want to spend money to be equal to those who do. Some people feel that cash shop items have to be strictly cosmetic, but I disagree. I'll use my favorite MMO as an example: DnF(DFO). Dungeon & Fighter sells: avatars (cosmetic items with stats), pets, item stat rerollers, avatar rerollers, safe & inventory slot expansions, item unbinders (make things tradable again), auction house perks, and that's basically it. It might seem like people who pay have an advantage since the things they sell aren't purely cosmetic, but they don't. Everything they sell can be put on the auction house (except safe&inventory expansions which can be obtained through events anyway). It creates sort of a symbiotic relationship between the publisher and the players. Publisher wants money, paying players want gold, gold paying players want cash shop items. You can get everything someone who pays has in that game very easily, and the makers of DnF are swimming in money. You always have access to the game, there are constant huge update patches equal to or greater than P2P expansions (dfcentral.com if you want to see), and you never feel pressured into paying anything.

I didn't play GW2 much, but my understanding of it is that the cash shop doesn't offer any gameplay-affecting items at all. If you have an aversion to the model I described above, there's no reason why FFXIV's model couldn't be like GW2's, either.

All that being said, I'm still going to be playing FFXIV for at least the first month, unless I grow to dislike it in phase 4.


TLDR: FFXIV has no chance of long-term success with a subscription model in this saturated market.

Edited, Jun 23rd 2013 8:46am by Inida
#5 Jun 23 2013 at 6:54 AM Rating: Excellent
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I hope you dont mind me making a shortened version of your post i believe your being very possitive and want people to know what your saying simply than maybe they will go back and read the wall fo text.

Op likes the fact that yoshi-p is a avid MMOer and believes that things will be up to standards for the game.

He believes that they chose the subscription model for a reason because SE has used F2P model on there other games and have done there research and choose to keep it sub bases.

Not many "Unique" selling points but being able to use multi platforms is a huge plus. Also useing what they can from limitations and making things look great.

Like i said this is a snippet of what is in the OP's post but this is what i gathered from it.

#6 Jun 23 2013 at 7:01 AM Rating: Excellent
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quoted from Inida
Quote:

1. Subscriptions are much harder to retain with competition. Most people aren't going to spend 150 dollars a month to play 10 different games.

2. The psychology behind paying for a set amount of time to access something. You either feel pressured to get your money's worth, or even feel that it's not worth subscribing altogether if you don't have as much free time as you'd like. It also can partially or wholly remove the, false or not, sense of ownership people have about their characters.

3. Barrier of entry. Think of it like this: these companies all want as many players as possible, right? Well why are they then putting a wall around the premises, telling people they have to climb it if they want to get in? It's a lot harder to get players who already quit back into the game, and even harder to get people new to the mmo genre.


TLDR: FFXIV has no chance of long-term success with a subscription model in this saturated market.



1. I have played every MMO in the last 15 years and F2P models put me off. I hated buying mounts and exp pots and keys fromt he shop I always felt like i was missing out if i didnt buy such things. When I pay 10-15$ a month I get to play a game to the fullest and spend alot less in the long run.

2. If people do not like P2P model its due to not knowing what they are getting I find is a plus that not everyone can play because alot of F2P players just log in to troll or hurt the game with RMT.

3. Players numbers in F2P =/= money flow. Player numbers in sub based is guarented money. Thus helping the game progress

I feel If SE keeps content coming out the sub will be worth it.



Also lets not twist this OPs post into a sub/F2P fight

Edited, Jun 23rd 2013 9:12am by silverhope
#7 Jun 23 2013 at 8:38 AM Rating: Decent
A couple points:

The PS3 architecture is greatly different than a PC. Saying it is a "herculean task" is a gross overstatement. First, the major reason you require a larger amount of RAM on a PC is the bloat of the OS and all of the drivers required to run, not to mention the countless background processes. Consoles have a great deal of purpose-built items that handle games differently than a PC, even though they are moving closer to being a PC. Because of that, while they are restricted in some regards, it's not nearly the miracle you would think.

For subscription versus free-to-play, many games have become more profitable since the move from subscriptions to free-to-play, as gamers will willingly part with money more frequently if you give them small payments to make. While I feel that a subscription suits SE's development process better than free-to-play, the reason is more because of how the company is structured rather than the game. SE needs returning revenues to satisfy investors, where as most free-to-plays are run by smaller, less established companies.

Blizzard could go free-to-play, but they have a ton of investors as well, so the most they can put forward is an extended free-to-play section. Honestly, free-to-play is going to be where the games will all eventually go, but for now, we are still in that transitional period while the investors get more comfortable with the idea of no consistency.
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#8 Jun 23 2013 at 8:40 AM Rating: Excellent
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Well written and an informed view point. I don't mind long reads at all when they are done like this. Kudos!

Pawkeshup wrote:
SE needs returning revenues to satisfy investors, where as most free-to-plays are run by smaller, less established companies.


Yoshi~P wrote:
Now, you have Blizzard and you have Square Enix. We’re the only two companies in the industry, basically, that are making MMOs with our own money. That gives us an advantage, because where other companies have to get money from investors and have to pay that back, we don’t have a lot of time to build slowly and be able to pay that back. Investors want their returns right away. With Square Enix and Blizzard, because we’re putting our own money into it, we don’t have those investors to worry about, and that means we can release something and maybe take a little bit of a hit at the beginning, but as long as we’re increasing the amount of people we have, then we’ll get that money and make the players happy. We’ll get into that cycle I talked about before, where we’re creating good content and have that steady income to keep the cycle going.


Edited, Jun 23rd 2013 10:44am by Teneleven
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#9 Jun 23 2013 at 8:40 AM Rating: Good
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Since i do not want to get into much talking i will just express myself wit this Smiley: clap

(also on a side note keep rating me down Smiley: lol it seems i have a personal stalker that rates me down go onnn make my day :P )
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#10 Jun 23 2013 at 9:08 AM Rating: Decent
Teneleven wrote:
Well written and an informed view point. I don't mind long reads at all when they are done like this. Kudos!

Pawkeshup wrote:
SE needs returning revenues to satisfy investors, where as most free-to-plays are run by smaller, less established companies.


Yoshi~P wrote:
Now, you have Blizzard and you have Square Enix. We’re the only two companies in the industry, basically, that are making MMOs with our own money. That gives us an advantage, because where other companies have to get money from investors and have to pay that back, we don’t have a lot of time to build slowly and be able to pay that back. Investors want their returns right away. With Square Enix and Blizzard, because we’re putting our own money into it, we don’t have those investors to worry about, and that means we can release something and maybe take a little bit of a hit at the beginning, but as long as we’re increasing the amount of people we have, then we’ll get that money and make the players happy. We’ll get into that cycle I talked about before, where we’re creating good content and have that steady income to keep the cycle going.

*********

http://investor.activision.com/disclaimer7.cfm

http://www.hd.square-enix.com/eng/ir/

Both are publicly traded companies, both ultimately answer to investors. Both are large firms that are expected to be bankable by investors. That's why they need recurring revenues. That little bit of company fluff spouted by Y-P is straight from the lawyers. To contrast this:

http://www.turbine.com/en/

Turbine is a subsidiary of Warner Bros. Warner Bros. itself is a smaller part of Time-Warner

http://ir.timewarner.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=70972&p=irol-irhome

Time Warner is not going to bother with a small cog in an extremely large machine, so they have the benefit to try a relatively risky model to improve revenue for their game. In reality, Turbine is more free to ***** up because it's a small, flea-sized part of the massive juggernaut, where as Blizzard and Square-Enix NEED to make money for each product, and show this directly to their investors.
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The idea of old school is way more interesting than the reality
#11 Jun 23 2013 at 9:42 AM Rating: Excellent
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I realize that SE has investors. I just remember reading that not to long ago. I can also see how a company can use it's own profits (after investors have been paid back) to fund a project. In which case, if true, the above comment from Yoshida is correct.

Edit: Also, it horrible business practice to not make returns on anything you do.

Edited, Jun 23rd 2013 11:43am by Teneleven
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#12 Jun 23 2013 at 9:50 AM Rating: Decent
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I only have one thing to say about it all is only time will tell..

I think they have a hit.
They have two hurdles mainly:
Over coming the FFXIV earlier reputation.
F2P which I don't like anyway.

I really don't think FFXI is a hurdle. I still play it. Its finally dieing. The new add on is not too popular, sold well but the new area is slow for a new mod.
The game is broken now.. Still fun though. FFXIV seems to over come allot that I did hate about FFXI, like I hated having to look quest up on the wiki because they made no sense. The story/quests took a far back seat to combat (all you do is seem to fight, it is a rpg so there should be questing). At the end of FFXI here everything is a darn moogle trail .. boring and lazy development. Seemed like quest went out of style with Abyssea.



Edited, Jun 23rd 2013 11:51am by Nashred

Edited, Jun 23rd 2013 11:54am by Nashred
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#13 Jun 23 2013 at 10:21 AM Rating: Good
Teneleven wrote:
I realize that SE has investors. I just remember reading that not to long ago. I can also see how a company can use it's own profits (after investors have been paid back) to fund a project. In which case, if true, the above comment from Yoshida is correct.

Edit: Also, it horrible business practice to not make returns on anything you do.


The edit you made is the reason they aren't going to risk F2P. F2P is a dicey proposition to an investor. You are making a product with no intention of a direct profit. Tell that to an investor, and you will watch him get up from the table and take his money elsewhere. Turbine is a small, small cog, and so long as they cover operation costs (which they obviously are), and help to hold onto a licence for WB, WB doesn't give a **** what they do. And a smartly done, well executed Freemium model, allowing the gamer to essentially vote with their dollars, as well as keep your world filled with players to act as additional marketing and reason for other players to join, can actually be far more profitable than a subscription. Look at map packs for CoD games. Players will willingly spend to "keep up with the Jonses." You just need to offer the right incentives to get them to.

However, whenever a company as big as SE sinks money into a project, the investors are right there, watching the balance sheets. Their re-invention of FFXIV, I am sure, has given more than one investor pause. But likely, they are selling it as needed reputation rebuilding, and are using FFXI as a benchmark of what they can do in this market. So it become a "trust us, we know what we're doing" pitch. In fact, you can thank that sentiment for why you see goblins, pugils and the like in FFXIV, and looking more like their FFXI counterparts. It's equal parts fan service and investor soothing. They are basically saying "Look, we have this massive success, FFXI. We're adding stuff from it in FFXIV. It will help, wait and see!" And the investor is soothed. For the fans, it's "Hey, we're so sorry for 1.0, LOOK MOOGLES, JOBS, AIRSHIPS, MATERIA AND ****!!" And the fans are excited.

The reality is that Y-P was being a corporate tool in that post, giving a by-rote line of "We are a gaming company who makes the games we want to make." In reality, they are a traded company whose money comes from more than just their games. They still need to answer to their investors and backers, and that's why they even bother saying things like Tomb Raider undersold. Because they have to say that for rules of full disclosure. They need to make public record their sales figures, their expected sales figures, their profits and losses so that investors can see them.

Saying all that, I know that SE would let FFXIV wither and die as a F2P. Why? Because they would be just trying to recoop their cash and then get out before the roof falls in. It would be a straight up cash grab, more buy-to-win than free-to-play in the same way All the Bravest was nothing more than a cash grab. It would be bad PR, it would be poorly handled (All their freemium has been, why stop now), and then they would simply back away from XIV and let it die off by attrition. Making it a subscription means they need to answer to their investors. And by investors, I mean every single subscription holder. We become that the moment we give them this recurring revenue stream. They need that now, with the repeated botched releases and spending. They need a second FFXI. So with that subscription helping their bottom line, yea, they will dedicate a team to keeping us happy.
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The idea of old school is way more interesting than the reality
#14 Jun 23 2013 at 10:34 AM Rating: Excellent
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I think what Yoshi P was saying is that SE didn't seek any venture capital for ARR. Yes, SE is ultimately beholden to their stockholders, but they don't have Joe Vulture Capitalist over there with his posse of loan sharks demanding that he get his money back within one year.
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#15 Jun 23 2013 at 11:03 AM Rating: Good
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silverhope wrote:
F2P models put me off.


I don't mind the F2P model if done correctly. The consequence of F2P I find though is whatever game is filled with juvenile delinquents spamming up chat channels with inane childish drivel. I'm not saying P2P model games are free from this, but it does pose such a massive filter on the quantity of garbage spewing hormonal ragamuffins thinking they really are bequest from the divine.
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#16 Jun 23 2013 at 11:04 AM Rating: Decent
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I think what he's trying to say is that they use money that they have to develop their games, not borrowed money from investors. It's like the difference between Home Depot and Lowe's. HD owns every single item in their stores and it's paid for up front, whereas Lowe's buys all of their product on credit, sells it, and pays it back afterward. It gives Home Depot quite a few advantages. It's not the exact same thing, but it's the only example I could think of. If all the money they have to dev is fronted, those investors are going to rush things and want their money back asap as well as a lot of control over the project. Square isn't relying on the money received through stock buyers and other investors to pay for their game development. Do I have that right?

*edit
Quote:
I think what Yoshi P was saying is that SE didn't seek any venture capital for ARR. Yes, SE is ultimately beholden to their stockholders, but they don't have Joe Vulture Capitalist over there with his posse of loan sharks demanding that he get his money back within one year.

I read this after, Catwho basically said the same thing, in a much simpler and less time wasting way.

Edited, Jun 23rd 2013 1:09pm by Transmigration
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#17 Jun 23 2013 at 11:23 AM Rating: Decent
Catwho wrote:
I think what Yoshi P was saying is that SE didn't seek any venture capital for ARR. Yes, SE is ultimately beholden to their stockholders, but they don't have Joe Vulture Capitalist over there with his posse of loan sharks demanding that he get his money back within one year.

Neither did Turbine, or most MMO makers. Venture capitalists aren't in the habit of investing in MMOs.
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#18 Jun 23 2013 at 11:42 AM Rating: Good
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I appreciate the responses :) and I would like to continue the discussion:

Inida wrote:

"Golden rules" are all forged by time and experience. We now have 17~ years of mmo price models and "success" to look at. What is success? It's player acquisition and retention.

Early mmos like UO and EQ established subscriptions and either did not have the foresight to see profit in microtransactions, or felt it was too risky. MMOs that came after them, like EQ2, WoW, and others, copied the subscription model because it was proven profitable. There are multiple problems with subscriptions though:

1. Subscriptions are much harder to retain with competition. Most people aren't going to spend 150 dollars a month to play 10 different games.

2. The psychology behind paying for a set amount of time to access something. You either feel pressured to get your money's worth, or even feel that it's not worth subscribing altogether if you don't have as much free time as you'd like. It also can partially or wholly remove the, false or not, sense of ownership people have about their characters.

3. Barrier of entry. Think of it like this: these companies all want as many players as possible, right? Well why are they then putting a wall around the premises, telling people they have to climb it if they want to get in? It's a lot harder to get players who already quit back into the game, and even harder to get people new to the mmo genre.


The points you are making about subscriptions are valid ones. However, I can see counter-points being made, both from personal experience and from a business point of view.

1) This is a fact. Perception is a very important factor, and most players dabbling with MMO's have one active MMO, perhaps at best another which they play sporadically. It is not feasible or easy to actually keep busy with 3+ MMO's, while maintaining a semblance of a life outside them. Even certain friends I have who are chronically unemployed and play far too many games, do not busy themselves with several MMO's in particular. The genre is somewhat vast, and it's very much unlike an online match of snooker, which could well be over in 10'. A vast range of activities takes 1+ hours to complete, by their very nature (say, a dungeon).

2) A direct analogy with this can be made with any subscription in life, as opposed to "pay as you go" models. Usually, it goes like this: Certain mobile phone contracts in most countries offer unbeatable value for heavy users. These may cost $50 / €50 and more per month, however they offer several / many hours of voice calls, plus mobile internet, plus text messages, the whole package. It is certainly feasible to get these very same provisions using a Pay As You Go package, but more often than not, this would end up costing exponentially more.

I have been in the "sub doesn't reflect my money's worth", but only when I grew tired of a game entirely, including WOW, or when I saw a game go on in limbo state with very unfriendly and incompetent developers who were clearly operating in a hostile environment (SWTOR goes here). When I grew tired, I grew tired. Even if the game was F2P 100%, I would not go back.

3) You must consider your demographics when referring to such behaviors. I will speak from experience: I know a dozen people or so who are avid MMO gamers. They have played WOW, SWTOR, GW2, and some others (AOC, WAR, DAOC, huge **** list). They are not a demographic who would enjoy playing a F2P game, because when they'd play a game, they'd play it, period. They wouldn't log-in to a persistent world to play 30' a week and then be on their way. There is a minimum common denominator in massive online games, and that is "time to complete a set of tasks". I haven't seen any games until today where you can magically shorten a mass PVP match to 3'. Even where Arenas are played, there is the matchmaking factor and the preparation time before the match. If someone does not feel their money are worth it in a subscription game, the game has serious issues (see SWTOR) first and foremost.

Inida wrote:
The problem with using WoW in any example of P2P success is that it was a perfect storm. Not only did EQ ***** itself with awful expansions at that time, but WoW had blizzard's massive following from their other games. They also created an engine that felt a lot smoother than all of the other games at the time, and actually focused a lot on PvP elements, something that the EQ series failed miserably at. MMOs take a long time to make, and all of their competitors released both too late and too early. Too late because WoW already established a massive foothold, and too early because all of the games were not as "smooth feeling" as WoW, and were pushed to launch anyway. MMO enjoyability is directly related to the number of people playing it, too. The number of players actually enhanced the game, making even more players join -- the game was self-sustaining.

I would also argue that trying to cite any game from that time period (2004~) ,as an example of P2P being a viable model now, is short-sighted. Have you looked at the number of new players vs old? I already explained WoW, but look at FFXI: FFXI has almost no new blood. The "success" is almost entirely resting on players who have stuck around since before subscriptions "went out of style". While it's partly because FFXI is dated, it's primarily because there is a barrier of entry. Subscription games end up hemorrhaging players over time, because, again, they rest on players they already have. If you measure success like I did at the beginning of this post, subscription games can't be successful long-term.


I will save you your breath. Nobody is comparing newer games to WOW. The last game which tried to pull that off, and failed miserably due to a plethora of reasons (quality just wasn't there in the end) was SWTOR. When they saw that recuperating their $200 m.+ investment was not going to happen because players would not stick around, they introduced a perverted F2P model which actually ushers people to subscribe. This is a fault of the publisher (first and foremost, who ordered the game released earlier than it should to "capture christmas period" and the developers (who did not react to the myriad of problems in a timely manner).

My comparison is usually made with cases like EVE online, which has a far greater analogy of numbers with what FFXIV could achieve worldwide. Nobody dares to include...5,000,000 subscriptions in their estimates.

Inida wrote:
"F2P games suck". No, that game you think sucks is what sucks. The model can be done horribly wrong, but a lot of games do it right. What is "right"? A good free to play model is one that allows people who don't want to spend money to be equal to those who do. Some people feel that cash shop items have to be strictly cosmetic, but I disagree. I'll use my favorite MMO as an example: DnF(DFO). Dungeon & Fighter sells: avatars (cosmetic items with stats), pets, item stat rerollers, avatar rerollers, safe & inventory slot expansions, item unbinders (make things tradable again), auction house perks, and that's basically it. It might seem like people who pay have an advantage since the things they sell aren't purely cosmetic, but they don't. Everything they sell can be put on the auction house (except safe&inventory expansions which can be obtained through events anyway). It creates sort of a symbiotic relationship between the publisher and the players. Publisher wants money, paying players want gold, gold paying players want cash shop items. You can get everything someone who pays has in that game very easily, and the makers of DnF are swimming in money. You always have access to the game, there are constant huge update patches equal to or greater than P2P expansions (dfcentral.com if you want to see), and you never feel pressured into paying anything.

I didn't play GW2 much, but my understanding of it is that the cash shop doesn't offer any gameplay-affecting items at all. If you have an aversion to the model I described above, there's no reason why FFXIV's model couldn't be like GW2's, either.


People invest their time and efforts differently in a F2P and P2P game. A F2P game, in my mind, is less of a commitment, since you do not pay anything month-in month-out, however, this means that you (or your friends, or your server) can get "bored" pretty quickly. There are implementations ranging from GW2 (That's B2P and does not 'force' the players to pay for anything really) to SWTOR (Very limited, very troublesome F2P, tries to lure you in and make you subscribe) to "Pay-to-win" games which sell loot on their cash shop.

My point is that while F2P seems more accessible, in the end it is much more expensive for the player, the individual player, if no alternative route (subscription) is offered. And this is a bad deal for the players. Of course, if a game dares to ask for a subscription while WOW is still alive, it must offer:

Breadth of content
Quality of systems / graphics
Frequent updates (content and otherwise), several times a year
Expansion packs adding many features every 2 years or so

...So it is not easy to achieve. However, it is not impossible to achieve a modest number of subscribers (I'd say a million worldwide is modest for FF XIV, with PS3 / PS4 support and all). I admit that I am expecting Japanese numbers to contribute significantly towards that end, but apparently there are many fans of the franchise out there, even if they are not MMO players necessarily.

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As of July 2012, a combined total of 9.6 million units has been sold for both Final Fantasy XIII and its sequel Final Fantasy XIII-2


Inida wrote:
All that being said, I'm still going to be playing FFXIV for at least the first month, unless I grow to dislike it in phase 4.


Hey, you will do well to do that! Playing for open beta & the free month will give you ample time to justify a subscription to yourself (if you are having fun) or not (if you don't) =)

Thanks for the detailed response by the way, much appreciated.
#19 Jun 23 2013 at 11:51 AM Rating: Good
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Pawkeshup, Averter of the Apocalypse wrote:
A couple points:

The PS3 architecture is greatly different than a PC. Saying it is a "herculean task" is a gross overstatement. First, the major reason you require a larger amount of RAM on a PC is the bloat of the OS and all of the drivers required to run, not to mention the countless background processes. Consoles have a great deal of purpose-built items that handle games differently than a PC, even though they are moving closer to being a PC. Because of that, while they are restricted in some regards, it's not nearly the miracle you would think.


I know and understand a console architecture compared to a PC one. However, even so, a limited amount of RAM means that you have limited amounts of "temporary storage" so to speak. It is an entirely different story to have coded a game like, say, Witcher 2, where the objects needed to be tracked are one (you, the PC), and the remaining game is a combination of scripted actions and triggers mostly, and an entirely different story to have to relay information to the client:

X player, Y player, Z player, their names, their other attributes (classes etc), what are they doing at a particular time, where are the mobs, what's happening in the city, in your chat, blah, blah blah. I find it commendable that there are multiplayer FPS games with say 32 players online at the same time, on a console, imagine how I feel about a situation where you are in a FATE with 40 people and it magically works.

Pawkeshup, Averter of the Apocalypse wrote:
For subscription versus free-to-play, many games have become more profitable since the move from subscriptions to free-to-play, as gamers will willingly part with money more frequently if you give them small payments to make. While I feel that a subscription suits SE's development process better than free-to-play, the reason is more because of how the company is structured rather than the game. SE needs returning revenues to satisfy investors, where as most free-to-plays are run by smaller, less established companies.

Blizzard could go free-to-play, but they have a ton of investors as well, so the most they can put forward is an extended free-to-play section. Honestly, free-to-play is going to be where the games will all eventually go, but for now, we are still in that transitional period while the investors get more comfortable with the idea of no consistency.


I agree with that, however as I said, if I knew that paying here, paying there, paying a little every day would basically cause me to spend 50 EUR this month on a "F2P game", I would actually be discouraged. And this is very frequent in certain F2P implementations.

Thanks for the response, as always =)
#20 Jun 23 2013 at 12:03 PM Rating: Good
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Pawkeshup, Averter of the Apocalypse wrote:


However, whenever a company as big as SE sinks money into a project, the investors are right there, watching the balance sheets. Their re-invention of FFXIV, I am sure, has given more than one investor pause. But likely, they are selling it as needed reputation rebuilding, and are using FFXI as a benchmark of what they can do in this market. So it become a "trust us, we know what we're doing" pitch. In fact, you can thank that sentiment for why you see goblins, pugils and the like in FFXIV, and looking more like their FFXI counterparts. It's equal parts fan service and investor soothing. They are basically saying "Look, we have this massive success, FFXI. We're adding stuff from it in FFXIV. It will help, wait and see!" And the investor is soothed. For the fans, it's "Hey, we're so sorry for 1.0, LOOK MOOGLES, JOBS, AIRSHIPS, MATERIA AND sh*t!!" And the fans are excited.

Saying all that, I know that SE would let FFXIV wither and die as a F2P. Why? Because they would be just trying to recoop their cash and then get out before the roof falls in. It would be a straight up cash grab, more buy-to-win than free-to-play in the same way All the Bravest was nothing more than a cash grab. It would be bad PR, it would be poorly handled (All their freemium has been, why stop now), and then they would simply back away from XIV and let it die off by attrition. Making it a subscription means they need to answer to their investors. And by investors, I mean every single subscription holder. We become that the moment we give them this recurring revenue stream. They need that now, with the repeated botched releases and spending. They need a second FFXI. So with that subscription helping their bottom line, yea, they will dedicate a team to keeping us happy.


This is the silver lining in what you describe. Of course investors (and the company itself) was not happy with what happened with FF XIV 1.0, so the signs are there that they will continue pumping support and updates in ARR to make up for it, even if their direct recuperation of the FF XIV mess + re-development costs comes after 5+ years. They have the "cash to burn" up to a point. And yes, their recent financials are not exactly healthy, however companies / corporations from a size upwards can "take the heat" for a considerable period of time.

I cannot fathom that XIV:ARR is in the same boat as, say, SWTOR. SWTOR made it very public that EA bankrolled Bioware with $200+ m. to make it happen, and wanted instant / immediate returns. They had said back then that they were aiming for 2,000,000 subscribers (This would effectively return their investment in a year or thereabouts, after taking away the OPEX).

And because they were over-budget dramatically, I suspect, they left the game to rot in its first 3-4 months, a crucial period where if you are running a subscription business, you need to keep the player happy for the first 30 day (free) period, and for at least 2-3 months after it. You need to deliver. Don't sleep if you have to, but you need to deliver for the players.

They never did.

Catwho wrote:
I think what Yoshi P was saying is that SE didn't seek any venture capital for ARR. Yes, SE is ultimately beholden to their stockholders, but they don't have Joe Vulture Capitalist over there with his posse of loan sharks demanding that he get his money back within one year.


Transmigration wrote:
I think what he's trying to say is that they use money that they have to develop their games, not borrowed money from investors. It's like the difference between Home Depot and Lowe's. HD owns every single item in their stores and it's paid for up front, whereas Lowe's buys all of their product on credit, sells it, and pays it back afterward. It gives Home Depot quite a few advantages. It's not the exact same thing, but it's the only example I could think of. If all the money they have to dev is fronted, those investors are going to rush things and want their money back asap as well as a lot of control over the project. Square isn't relying on the money received through stock buyers and other investors to pay for their game development. Do I have that right?

*edit
Quote:
I think what Yoshi P was saying is that SE didn't seek any venture capital for ARR. Yes, SE is ultimately beholden to their stockholders, but they don't have Joe Vulture Capitalist over there with his posse of loan sharks demanding that he get his money back within one year.

I read this after, Catwho basically said the same thing, in a much simpler and less time wasting way.

Edited, Jun 23rd 2013 1:09pm by Transmigration


Yeah, you get the same point as I do. Blizzard (since we're talking investors) is a part of Blizzard Activision, however they do not "need" to request external funding or new loans or whatever to bankroll Diablo III or "Project Titan". These are "internal investments", and with these companies being:

The publisher
The distributor (in several cases) and
The developer

...they have much less to lose to external third parties. Of course, if their own games (see FF XIV 1.0) are failures, this hurts them as a company worse than a kick in the nuts would, for the very same reason.
#21 Jun 23 2013 at 12:12 PM Rating: Decent
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PS3 architecture is vastly different from a pc not just being a game system... It is the custom cell processor. Sony did not make the same mistake this time with the ps4 it is pretty much a out of the box AMD CPU and GPU and it has lots of memory and fast memory at that. Almost makes it look like the PS3 limitations may eventually hold back FFXIV like the PS2 did to FFXI..


I hate F2P it is being nickled and dimed to death.. Give me one fee and give me access to the whole game and everything in it...

Edited, Jun 23rd 2013 2:20pm by Nashred
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