Will Gamers Ever See a Final Fantasy Free to Play Title?
As Square Enix‘s MMORPG Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (FFXIV) moves ever closer to relaunch, I’ve seen certain comments come up time and time again whenever and wherever the title is discussed. The comment usually reads something like this, “I’ll maybe try the game when it goes free to play, which it inevitably will.” I’ve edited out the language that usually accompanies this comment, but how likely is it to happen? Will gamers ever see FFXIV or ANY Final Fantasy free to play title? Yes, I know FFXIV did have a stint as a Final Fantasy free to play title, but I don’t count that since it was not intended to stay that way.
I thought I’d break it down from a few different views and give my opinion on it and dissect if gamers would ever see such a title whether it was FFXIV or any future MMORPG from the franchise. Again it is only my personal opinion we’re talking about here which doesn’t mean a whole lot in the grand scheme, but I’d certainly like to hear your opinions in the comments too!
Strictly looking at MMORPGs as a business, it makes perfect sense for Square Enix to at some point attempt a Final Fantasy free to play game. F2P gets your title in front of a larger number of eyeballs and that’s always a good thing for business. While the merits of a free to play model are certainly up for debate among both developers and gamers, in the larger scope, F2P is fantastic advertising if nothing else. Giving players access to your title for free and then charging for X, Y, and Z gives you a larger potential customer pool than a box release or subscription ever could, World of Warcraft not withstanding.
Final Fantasy Free to Play Business Verdict: Probable
Square Enix’s Viewpoint
I mark a difference between “business” and “Square Enix” viewpoints because, well quite frankly, Square Enix does things sometimes that actually surprise me from a business standpoint. So how does Square Enix look at Final Fantasy free to play? While I have no inside knowledge from Square Enix personally, I get the feeling that they feel the Final Fantasy franchise may be “above” the F2P model. Square Enix probably feels this way about a number of its IPs, but I think Final Fantasy stands in its own category for them. Certain IPs are just flat out iconic and I get the sense that Square Enix feels a Final Fantasy free to play title almost “demeans” the franchise. Ironically enough, they don’t feel the same way about Kingdom Hearts which was recently revealed to be getting its own free to play browser card game spin off. I don’t feel that Square Enix would allow the Final Fantasy tag to be used for F2P off shoots like this.
There’s also another factor here though. Final Fantasy XI is still subscription based and is getting another expansion soon. FFXIV will be relaunching and will still have a subscription. Given its age, FFXI is likely to close before it ever goes free to play so that leaves FFXIV. Could A Realm Reborn ever go free to play? I don’t think so. Look at these two possible outcomes for the MMORPG’s relaunch:
- FFXIV relaunches and does well. By well I mean it captures enough of the Final Fantasy fan base to at least turn a profit of some type. Square Enix will ride the subscription train feeling they made the right decision to include the subscription.
- (OMG I hope this doesn’t happen…) FFXIV relaunches and falls flat on its face just like version 1.0 did. In this case, Square Enix will certainly NOT be investing money to take a game it has already spent time and money revamping to try and revamp the game again as a free to play title. A second failure means FFXIV is gone and Square Enix will move forward as fast as they can to let the game remain in the past. Given two consecutive failures I don’t even know if Final Fantasy would receive the MMO treatment again in ANY fashion.
Final Fantasy Free to Play Square Enix Verdict: Unlikely
Again we are going to make a distinction between “gamers” and “Final Fantasy fans.” In general, gamers would look favorably upon a Final Fantasy free to play release. Most gamers would know right away whether they would play it or not, but at least the opportunity to try it if desired would be appreciated. Here’s the problem though. In my personal opinion, Square Enix isn’t marketing FFXIV (or any Final Fantasy MMO for that matter) to the gamers at large. They market to the core Final Fantasy fans. This can already be seen in FFXIV‘s advertising and promotional material from the upcoming relaunch AND the initial FFXIV release. While the gaming population at large would probably love a Final Fantasy free to play game of some type, Square Enix isn’t out to oblige you and gamers aren’t waiting for them to do so.
Final Fantasy Free to Play Gamer Verdict: While desirable, Unlikely
Final Fantasy MMO Fan Viewpoint
This might surprise you if you aren’t a Final Fantasy MMO player but the majority of Final Fantasy MMO gamers do not want a free to play option in their titles. The FFXI and FFXIV forums have had this discussion numerous times and while there are certainly voices that would LOVE to see a Final Fantasy free to play MMO in the conversation, the overwhelming majority of FFXI players (past and present) are still perfectly happy to pay their subscription. FFXIV fans will also be happy to pay their subscription to not only have full access but to also keep F2P players out (yes…that stigma still exists) provided the game is enjoyable and playable.
Final Fantasy Free to Play Final Fantasy MMO Fan Verdict: Not Wanted at Large
In my humble opinion, a Final Fantasy free to play MMORPG just isn’t going to happen as the land lays right now. For Square Enix to even consider a F2P version in the future, FFXIV will need to relaunch with enough success for Square Enix to even decide to try another MMO in the future. At the same time, the MMO payment model paradigm would need to continue its shift to F2P as the “norm.” Quite frankly, we aren’t there yet, and neither is Square Enix. I’ll summarize by saying:
Final Fantasy Free to Play “Final” Verdict: Highly Improbable
What do you think?