I don’t think it’s a secret that Final Fantasy XIV has fallen short of both Square Enix’s and fans’ expectations of the game: the second Final Fantasy MMO had a lot of pre-release hype, but upon launch, it became clear that game was… well, not very good. With only a year of time between it’s announcement and it’s release, it was clear that the game was an unfinished, buggy mess that barely had a few hours worth of content and was missing a lot of the features that were promised earlier by the devs. While the game has a small (and misguided) fanbase, the game has never attracted the popularity of WoW or even it’s predecessor, Final Fantasy XI, and sold far below expectations. Square responded by firing key members of the game’s staff and announcing that the game would be subscription-free until they fixed it.
Nowadays, the only time you hear people say the name “Final Fantasy XIV” is when they bring it up as a joke, and the game has even been publicly labelled by Square-Enix’s own president as an embarrassment. But now Square is hoping to change all that with a massive overhaul to the game, which basically retains the original game’s basic framework but discards everything else. There’s a stigma associated with the Final Fantasy brand now, and Square has obviously put a lot of effort into erasing it.
Everything is being redesigned and streamlined. Even the basics, such as the game’s UI and HUD, are being overhauled, and the developers are promising that the new interface will be far more intuitive and will “meet the global standard for MMO[‘s],” a far cry from the original game’s infamously obtuse control scheme. In probably the biggest change, the game’s much touted seamless world is being ditched for a more traditional zone-based map, which the developers say will allow them to create more “dynamic areas.” Furthermore, Square-Enix will resume charging the game’s original planned monthly fee, for the first time since the game’s launch, once the Version 2.0 changes go into effect.
These changes will be implemented to the PC version sometime between October and December of this year, and Square-Enix will also concurrently run a closed-beta of the oft-delayed Playstation 3 version around the same time. Square-Enix says FFXIV ver. 2.0 will see a full retail release sometime around January 2013, which means PS3 players will have to wait quite awhile before they can see if FFXIV really lives up to the hype/infamy it’s gained.
It’s an understatement to say that the launch of FFXIV was a trainwreck, even by modern MMO standards, where new MMO’s are often released in a semi-unfinished state. The game was a very uncharacteristic critical and sales failure for Square-Enix, and this massive overhaul, which basically turns FFXIV into a completely different game, is a drastic but logically choice. It’s obvious Square has staked a lot of money, time, and their pride on making FFXIV work, but it still remains to be seen if jaded fans will give the game another chance or if the damage done to the franchise is too bad to fix.