Final Fantasy 14 won’t be going free-to-play anytime soon.
Each new expansion of Square Enix’s MMORPG has extended its meme-worthy free trial to include more and more of the game. As announced recently at the Las Vegas Fan Fest, that free trial will be expanded to include Stormblood up to level 70 when next expansion Dawntrail is released next year.
But will the company ever reach a point where that free trial is extended to the full game? Director Naoki Yoshida told Eurogamer it won’t, though the free trial will likely be expanded further.
“I believe the free trial will continue to be expanded, but we have no plans of making the client itself free at the moment,” said Yoshida. “Since a huge amount of time and money has been invested in the expansion packages, the revenue from sales of the expansion package itself is still very important in order to continue to make expansions on this scale. We would like to constantly aim for the best on the business side as well to continue making a lot of content to be enjoyed.”
Yoshida’s comments come as A Realm Reborn, the infamous restart of Final Fantasy 14, reaches its tenth anniversary this year. The game has proven incredibly successful since then, becoming in 2021 the company’s most profitable game in the series.
But at what point does Yoshida and his team move on from Eorzea to a new game?
“We don’t have plans to move on to a new game as that would be something even more difficult than having the realm be ‘reborn’,” he said. “That might change if I am hit with some kind of inspiration though.”
The game infamously got off to a rough start in 2010, as players and critics panned its gameplay and unfinished state. Square Enix suspended subscription fees and put Yoshida in charge. Its turnaround as A Realm Reborn has become one of the biggest success stories in gaming history – something Yoshida is proud of, though it was unexpected.
“As an experienced MMORPG player myself, I had somehow felt that it wouldn’t be possible for an MMORPG which failed upon launch to revive itself,” he said. “However, it’s precisely for that reason why to me A Realm Reborn presented itself as a good challenge, and it makes me happy to hear people acknowledge its value.
“I am proud that our operations on FF14 remain strong, and the initial goal was ‘to firstly reach 10 years!’ so rather than feeling surprised about it, I’d of course like to appreciate the support of the players first, and acknowledge it as a result of the efforts of the Development and Operations teams.”
Keeping the game fresh over 10 years – and the playerbase growing – is no easy feat, and Yoshida acknowledged the team must balance the needs of both veteran players and newcomers. Creating excitement with each new expansion has also contributed to maintaining interest in the game in the long term.
“Considering that players have been playing in the long term, from the get go, it is most important to create something that will excite them when they see the announcement,” said Yoshida. “That is to say, we need to keep the ‘excitement’ larger than the constantly lingering feelings of ‘boredom’ if we want all the players to continue playing.
“New grand stories, new jobs, new settings for the adventure; these things are important, but to upgrade the system and to make it possible to do things that were previously impossible are also important. I believe the first graphics update can be seen as part of this category.”
Next year’s Dawntrail will mark update 7.0 of Final Fantasy 14, bringing a graphics update along with new story content. It will be the first visual change in 10 years, bringing the game some way up to current standards while maintaining the same artistic vision.
This was all announced at the Las Vegas Fan Fest, where fans celebrated the game and treated its developers like rockstars. Yoshida is surely the frontman of the development team, but the likes of composer Masayoshi Soken and writer Natsuko Ishikawa have garnered plenty of praise from fans.
“The attention tends to focus on staff who have come on to the front stage, but the server engineers maintain their specialist mindset, the UI teams provide steady work responding to feedback, and members continue to produce massive amounts of VFX and matching SFX,” said Yoshida. “The Development and Operations teams in gaming aren’t employed to come into the spotlight, so their names aren’t known upfront, but there are countless staff who support FF14 through their growth. The vocal support given to them is a source of encouragement for the entire team.”
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