While I am very optimistic about this game, I am becoming overly pessimistic about SE.
A great game is great, only if a competent team is running it.
And sadly, the last few weeks have shown SE is far from competent.
HOWEVER: Launch will show whether or not this game will succeed. So maybe I'm making this post 2 days too early.
Here is just a list of some major problems that have recently appeared:
1. Gay Marriage Threads Deleted / People Banned
It doesn't matter what your view on gay marriage is. When threads on a topic are getting 40+ pages a day, that's a serious issue in your game. Instead of "cleaning up the threads," SE decided to just delete all threads pertaining to gay marriage, and dish out bans to supporters (while apparently not banning people who stated things like "all you **** should just die").
As a result, a number of websites strongly criticized SE, and a change.org petition gained over 1000 signatures (http://www.change.org/petitions/square-enix-allow-same-sex-marriage-in-final-fantasy-xiv-a-realm-reborn)
The most depressing part about this is that one of the mods posted that they are o.k with people civilly discussing gay marriage.
So the next day someone posted a well thought out interesting thread on it. And to no surprise the thread was deleted.
In other words, SE is -saying- one thing, while acting in an opposite way. People do notice this.
Apparently not banning those people? I don't know, if we're assuming things to be true here, it sounds like we're looking for excuses to be pessimistic. I will agree deleting a thread on it is ridiculous--If it was based on ingame marriage that is and not a rant bashing SE and calling them homophobic, since the former is a gameplay idea and the latter is baseless
2. Error 3102 & 90000
Throughout the entire open beta, many people were unable to access the game at all.
Threads on the forum reached 1000s of pages on the issue
And the forums just shut down (I'm assuming they overloaded)
SEs solution to this? Give players 6 extra hours.... from 5am to 11 am..... on a weekday....
The hitler reacts youtube video summed this issue up pretty well...
Why is this a problem?:
Open betas are generally meant to show off the game to new players, not sure if it's worth dishing out $70 on a game. From a marketing perspective this was a disaster. If anything, the beta did the opposite, scaring people away from it.
The lack of communication basically showed that either the devs don't care, or they are just unorganized.
And in a competitive MMO world where most devs/mods respond to serious issues within 30min of the problem arising and then post hourly updates (GW2, SWTOR), this open beta basically showed that SE is not up to the task of competing.
I agree--from a marketing perspective it was a bad move. That being said-- beta test are the game makers opportunities to make sure no bugs like that are in the game when it gets released to the market. Yoshi-P has given his word that those errors are fixed--so from a beta perspective sounds good. As far as creating hype for the game yeah it failed for those unable to play, but this in itself doesn't diminish the actual games quality.
3. Character Creation Suspension and Server Overloads
One of the major things you do in any open beta or launch is ensure your servers are working well. Most major betas in the last few years have done this surprisingly well.
After experiencing server overloads -every- other beta, you would think SE would learn from their mistakes and extend server capacity to handle larger loads.
But instead, they suspended character creation, resulting in 1000s of people unable to play with their friends.
In an era when games are trying to eradicate servers (ESO), or have overflow servers (SWTOR, GW2), SE is still doing things the old-fashioned way, and failing at them.
Again, for potential new players (basically the entire point of this game re-design), this is one of those turn-off points.
Technically they did ensure their servers were working--it took servers crashing during the beta to give them data to try and help make sure they don't crash the same way when it actually counts--when the full version launches.
4. Pre-Order Code Server Overload
After overloading the game servers, one would think that SE would realize "hey lots of people are going to flood our servers."
If they did, it would be an indication they are learning from their sever mistakes
There are lots of options. They could get more server capacity, spread out the registrations over multiple servers, or create a system where you enter your code, it's confirmed, and you get a message saying they will e-mail you when it's processed.
However, this is not the case.
For days, people were getting Pre-order code errors, and were completely unable to register their CE.
When registration got through, the next steps weren't clear. And the 100s of questions on this forum show that quite clearly.
Agreed, this part this part they messed up on. Wasn't so much I couldn't enter the pre-order code..(eventually did today by the way) but the horrible instructions on the website on how to handle the error gotten from the immense volume of people trying to put in their codes. Even if it took me until the 24th i'd had been okay as long as they took appropriate action. Reminded me of the barber at the barbershop leaving a sign that just says "be back later" when I wanted to when to come back and what later was.
7. Forum Limitations
One of the best parts of forums is finding useful guides, explanatory posts, help, etc.
SE has instead opted to ridiculous limitations, preventing any serious threads from being created.
It is very difficult to make an optimal argument in only 1000 words.
And this should have been clear on the Beta Forums, where nearly everyone edited their posts to over-take the limits.
However, SE has opted for one of the most limiting forums I have ever seen for a game.
Given their history of deleting entire threads instead of cleaning up specific offensive posts, I'm assuming this is a cost-saving method.
However, with huge limitations like this, it is hard to have any serious discussions or constructive posts on the forums.
It also makes the forums look constrictive when compared to other MMOs out there.
Optimal argument? Possibly the reason I hate customer service >.> But yeah, I mean this shouldn't even be on the list as to why the game shouldn't succeed. I agree, arguments and debates can be long winded, but a 1,000+ word essay describing a glitch or bug? The reporting of which I thought was the reason behind the beta forums-- very unlikely.
8. Customer Support Issues
This is no surprise
The number of complains about SE's customer support is outrageous.
I've seen people being banned multiple times because someone necrod a thread they had already been banned for
People post about spending 3 hours in a queue only to be told to send an email because a representative isn't available
People spend 3 hours on the phone waiting to talk to someone
People being told they can't merge accounts, when the only reason they have 2 accounts is because SE made things overly complicated in betas (or laggy)
E-mails that take 2 days just to be acknowledge, and 2 more days to get a 1-sentance reply
FFXIV ARR is a game with almost no real support
Are you saying people who had been banned multiple times for a post-- after being unbanned decided to post in the same topic? If.. thats they case they deserved to be banned, no matter how old the topic is. They were picking a fight with the mods.
Also, are you saying or suggesting some of these things happened to you, or are they just hearsay? Anyway from my experience SE has had mediocre to below average customer experience but they still know how to make a good game.
I take this one a bit personally, as I run a marketing company.
This is probably one of the worst commercials I have ever seen in my life (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zCAqc9J3iZc)
I have to assume they skipped the entire market testing process, because it's just -that- terrible
Rather than attract players to this game, it makes the game look like some corny children's low budget RPG.
Not the image you want for an epic redesign.
The saddest part is that FFXIV looks amazing. Within a few hours i'm betting forum-goers could throw together footage to create a more appealing and effective commercial.
When a company screws up this hard you know there will be problems (remember the windows vista Seinfeld commercials?)
That commercial was hilariously bad, I wouldn't take it personal, heck it even brought a smile to my day.
I really really love this game and I'm hoping i'm dead wrong here.
But at this point, I can't see this game going further than the Niche market it already has a hold on.
What do you think?
SE probably did lose some customers off of beta 4, unfortunately having worked in sales I know that people have
to occassionally be impressed before trying anything and people want anything thats free if its even remotely attractive
i.e. the chance to play a beta. But they never promised a fully functional non glitched beta phase IV--they promised a reboot of a much better game than they had made previous.
That being said--if the game is good-- word of mouth will lead to sells. Lots of games didn't have a free trial version to play or the best advertising and became massive hits.
Square Enix doesn't need brilliant PR skills to make this a great game--but to bring back old FFXIV 1.0 and convince new ARR to purchase. That being said, your first couple of sentences clarified my thoughts entirely-- when the game releases will be when we find out if its a success but not prior to that.