Whether former FFXIV players will notice the recent update remains to be seen.
If a tree falls in the woods, but nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
The answer to this question may be relevant to Final Fantasy XIV, which underwent a significant overhaul during last week’s all-worlds maintenance. The version update was the first of two life-saving surgeries for the ailing MMO, which was roundly blasted by fan sites and the gaming media soon after launch day. The next major version update, which will focus on adding new content, is planned for December.
For two months, dissatisfied and angered gamers flooded the fan sites to voice their displeasure with the game. Other players simply left; some moved to the fence line, while others cancelled their subscriptions. Many said they would return once the game was improved.
Well, the improvements happened – but where is everyone?
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It’s hard to say whether the game’s consistent population has changed dramatically since the update. During the maintenance, Square Enix removed the feature that allowed players to see how many others were logged in at any given time. What I do know is that my mostly empty linkshell is still mostly empty. We have more than 20 members, most of which were Final Fantasy XI players who were rearing to go in Eorzea – and they’re not back yet.
Granted, I have just one linkshell, and I’m just one person. But the camps on my server don’t seem any fuller than they did a week ago, and I’m not seeing huge crowds of people around the guildleve counter either.
The forums are definitely more positive now than they’ve been since launch day. Our FFXI General Forum isn’t filled with rant threads and angry posts directed at Square Enix. Perhaps more importantly, the community’s response to the first large update has been overwhelmingly positive. There is definitely concern over how the update has affected party play, and the new UI has rough edges in need of polishing.
Still, the successful update hasn’t seemed to translate into more players, at least not to the degree that I expected – which is strange considering how many players claimed the UI was their top issue with the game.
Not even a week has passed since the update, but I can’t help but feel a slight sense of concern. The source of my concern is the tree-falling-in-the-woods dilemma. In terms of bringing players back to Final Fantasy XIV, did this massive update matter if nobody was around to experience it?
The December update could be another chance for Square Enix to entice jaded players back into the game. The update is supposed to focus on content which, in my opinion, is needed more than the improvements to the user interface. Don’t get me wrong, because I love the new user interface, but what good are better, smoother controls if there are still too few reasons to use them? Perhaps more players will return once they’re given more to do with their time in game.
Then again, maybe the December update won’t bring players back. When all is said and done, maybe the greatest contribution of this year's massive updates will be to keep more people from leaving.
After all, the Playstation 3 release -- which is right around the corner -- is certain to bring more players to the game. The game will be more full and polished by then. Perhaps most importantly, gaming magazines are likely to review FFXIV from the perspective of PS3 users. Assuming Square Enix continues to aggressively improve the game, the PS3 launch could be an opportunity for Final Fantasy XIV to garner some positive press. And that would be a great thing, but even glowing reviews in March may not bring back the players who have already left. If they're not back by the end of December, they'll be long gone by spring.
Until then, I'll keep logging in and checking my linkshell list. I'll hope to see my old FFXI friends, who were all so excited about playing FFXIV. If only they were logged in right now, they would understand why they should be playing this game.
But when the tree fell, they weren't around to hear it, and I'm not sure if they'll ever be back.