The highlight of FFXIV's first month was SE promising to fix the game.
The first month of Final Fantasy XIV came and went without much fanfare; or, at least, without much positive fanfare.
Ever since the game’s official launch – which Square Enix pulled off with no glaring setbacks – any positive reactions to the game have been largely drowned out by horrendous reviews, angry forum posters and gamers who remain on the fence about investing in this new MMO. In response to the criticism, Square Enix extended the game’s free-trial period for a month and promised to fix the most problematic aspects of the game by the year’s end.
Not exactly the way you imagined the first month of the new game would unfold, is it?
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Regardless of whether you love or hate Final Fantasy XIV, by now everyone can (and should) agree that this game was launched way too early. There’s no need to rehash all of the reasons here. Anyone who plays this game on a regular basis is well aware of its shortcomings. The difference is that while players such as myself find this game to be enjoyable even in its unfinished state, others are clearly not satisfied with their in-game experiences. Some have gone as far as to call the game “unplayable,” despite the fact that many people are happily playing.
Going forward, the real question is this: If you’re among those who are still on the fence about playing FFXIV, how much time are you willing to give Square Enix before finally deciding to take your business elsewhere?
If you’re one of those swing vote players, then I’d imagine a big part of your decision will rest upon what happens during the next two months. Most of the game’s biggest problems would be solved (or nearly solved) if Square Enix follows through on November and December version update plans. I don’t think the development team would have gone public with its update plans if there wasn’t a strong sense of confidence -- not optimism, but confidence -- that these fixes would be doable as pledged.
Then again, this is the same company that has still not finished the Wings of the Goddess expansion for Final Fantasy XI. For those of you unfamiliar with FFXI, the Wings of the Goddess expansion was launched in November 2007. Yes, you read that right -- three years later, it is still not complete.
What happens if Square Enix doesn’t get around to making the big fixes in November and December? What if only some of the fixes are made? What if everything planned is implemented, but the updates don’t adequately solve all the problems? For example, what if the menus are simplified, but the user interface remains slowed by server lag? If Square Enix asks for a deadline extension for its proposed fixes, how long are you willing to give SE the benefit of the doubt?
My guess is there are many people who have faith in Square Enix, but also many others whose patience is wearing thin. The game has already lost a sizable number of players, and others are likely withholding their purchases because of the negative reviews. However, a large percentage of those players could just be waiting to see what happens in November and December. I personally know several linkshell mates who are taking a wait-and-see approach before deciding their investment in this game.
Only time will tell if those fixes go far enough to satisfy the masses. I’m confident they will. I also believe many people sincerely want to enjoy this game, particularly those who played Final Fantasy XI. As long as most of the fixes work as intended, I feel most on-the-fence gamers will give Square Enix the benefit of the doubt. Square Enix could help its cause by going above and beyond the call of duty; introduce some new content ahead of schedule, or perhaps make some player-friendly adjustments to the item durability system. If I were a higher-up at Square Enix, I’d even consider extending the free trial for a second time. In short, I’d do whatever it takes to lose as few subscribers as possible.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again and again: Final Fantasy XIV has a lot going for it. Some of the criticism heaped on this game is undeserved or skewed, depending on your background in gaming. For example, people who came to FFXIV from other MMOs may criticize the game for having slow travel times between camps and cities. Meanwhile, those who migrated from FFXI understand that the teleport system -- even with limited use of anima -- makes traveling far more easier than the early days of Vana’diel.
I was satisfied with my first month in FFXIV. I’ve never played an MMO at launch until now, so I’m not even going to touch the “all games are like this at launch” card. I’m simply having fun exploring, fighting and crafting. My time in the game isn’t spent grinding on any specific job; rather, I’ve been leveling three crafts and two battle jobs, and all are close to being equal in level. Thanks to the guildleve system, players can level crafts without investing tons of gil -- another thing that wasn’t easily possible in FFXI.
That said, I’m completely aware that many people were not satisfied with their first month of FFXIV. In fact, “not satisfied“ may be a gross understatement. And even those who were satisfied have plenty of reason to doubt the future of this game. Like it or not, the early blunders of Square Enix could have a huge impact on the long-term health of this game. Yes, more people will subscribe at the Playstation 3 launch. Yes, Square Enix could pull off its upcoming fixes to perfection, bringing back many players who are currently sitting on the fences. The reviews are already out though and some damage can’t be undone. Square Enix has already lost players who will never come back.
Overall, the first month of FFXIV can’t be viewed as anything other than a failure, but I don’t think a single bad month will doom this game to mediocrity. Failure during the next two months would be significantly more devastating.
As we brace for the next two months of Final Fantasy XIV, it’s up to the players to decide whether "better late than never" is an acceptable answer from Square Enix. And if late turns into later, where will players draw the line?