Today marks the eleventh anniversary of Final Fantasy XI’s original launch in Japan. Since the game’s launch more than a decade ago, FFXI has faced fierce competition from newer, flashier, and more accessible MMO’s, but despite all that, the game has remained a profitable title for Square.
In fact, before his departure from the company earlier this year, former Square Enix CEO Yoichi Wada described FFXI as “the most profitable Final Fantasy ever.” While most other MMO’s have switched over to a free-to-play model, FFXI continues to chug along with its subscription based business, content with its small but dedicated audience of 500,000 active subscribers.
The game’s latest expansion, Seekers of Adoulin, actually just came out a few weeks ago, and added two new job classes to the game, the elemental Geomancers and the versatile Rune Fencers. While the expansion was distributed digitally in Western territories, FFXI is still popular enough in Japan to warrant a physical release, and the Seekers of Adoulin expansion disc had the honor of being the final PS2 title released in that territory.
To celebrate the game’s 11th anniversary, Square-Enix is hosting a number of special events in-game, including a raffle that gives players the chance to win rare pieces of gear, and a contest that will allow the winner to design a shield that will be featured in the game.
There have been newer MMO’s that feature more streamlined menus, that are easier to pick up and play, that cost less, feature better graphics and have a bigger audience, but somehow, Final Fantasy XI has managed to outlast them all. It seems that FFXI, just like the original Everquest or my beloved Phantasy Star Online (which has a thriving community based around fan servers,) is simply one of those games with a small, hardcore contingent of fans who simply refuse to give up on the game and move onto something else.
Square Enix is hoping that the fans who supported Final Fantasy XI these past eleven years will also support the upcoming relaunch of Final Fantasy XIV. Hoping to erase the memory of XIV’s disastrous original launch, Square has spent the last 3 years reworking XIV into an almost entirely new game, entitled “Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn”. Square has already announced that they expect the new version of XIV to be one of their biggest titles, and it’s certainly going to have to be something special if they want it to last as long as FFXI has.