Ahead of the release of the highly-anticipated “Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn” for PlayStation 4, FoxNews.com talked to director and producer Naoki Yoshida about how he worked to revive the series following the dismal reception of “Final Fantasy XIV,” and whether the new game can compete in the difficult market of massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG). This interview has been edited and condensed.
1. Why do you think “Final Fantasy XIV” fell flat when it was released, and how did this influence your approach to creating “Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn”?
Square Enix achieved great success during the PlayStation 2 console gaming era. However, because that success was so great, we would cling, not intentionally but naturally, to the game creation methods and the desire for the high graphics quality of that era. This resulted in hurting the game experience, which should be the most important element in a video game, which is very apparent in the original version of “Final Fantasy XIV.” In turn, that affected the Japanese game market, which resulted in large-scale MMORPG development becoming sparser, which inevitably lead to Japanese game developers lacking experience in playing and creating an MMORPG. And finally, I believe we cannot deny that we became biased in our thinking due to overconfidence in our own brand.
With (the new game), we decided on a certain level of graphic quality and dedicated game design efforts that placed the highest priority on game experience and honest communication with the fans. I felt that by accepting the failure of the original “Final Fantasy XIV,” we would be able to sincerely create the new game.
2. The idea of revamping and re-releasing a piece of media due to flaws is largely unheard of. What made you decide not to just move on, but to go back and revamp the game?
With 26 years and 14 numbered titles, no movie, music, or video game franchise has ever had as long a history than Final Fantasy. I felt that the failure of the original “Final Fantasy XIV” was something that seriously undermined the trust toward the Final Fantasy series. If we were to continue with this series, I thought regaining that trust was something paramount; this is the biggest reason why I wanted to go back and revamp the game.
Hypothetically, if we had stopped service on “Final Fantasy XIV” immediately and rushed to release “Final Fantasy XV,” I have no doubt that fans would think, “I will never buy another Final Fantasy or Square Enix game again.” With “Final Fantasy XIV” being an MMORPG, in order to give back to those who went out of their way to spend a lot of money on a high-end PC so that they could play the original game, and also to expand on the franchise moving forward, I thought that regaining the trust on the very same title was the most effective solution.
3. How did you go about fixing the title, and what has been the reaction to its re-release?
The fight against time was the toughest element. In order to fulfill the promise I made to the fans to launch a PlayStation 3 version, we needed to release “Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn” before the current-gen market came to a close. So I selected a core staff with MMORPG knowledge to work on the game design and planning, and we did not begin coding until that designing process was finished. In creating “Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn,” we prioritized the players’ game experience.
It seems simple when written out, but the road was truly rough. I can’t thank the development team enough. In addition, by utilizing live streaming videos and other social media tools, our open communication with fans definitely created a trusting relationship. I’m truly sorry that players had trouble with server congestion at launch, which was in large part due to player numbers that exceeded our expectations. However, I am honestly very happy to see the great response and the number of people connecting to play.
4. How do you feel about “Final Fantasy XIV” competing in such a difficult market as multiplayer online games?
Ultimately, it all boils down to being able to continue providing a fun gaming experience persistently. Even with the original “Final Fantasy XIV,” we continued to update via patches while simultaneously developing “A Realm Reborn.” This resulted in our subscriber numbers growing to three times what they were when we started when we ultimately closed down the service. I would like to point out that increasing the number of subscribers without shifting to a free-to-play business model is unheard of in the MMORPG market.
The greatest takeaways from that experience were that we must never give up on updates and to continually prioritize the gaming experience. It may seem simple, but when you see large MMOs not being able to update on schedule, I’m sure you’ll agree that launching and maintaining a large MMO it is quite difficult. In order to compete and survive in such a tough market, the most important thing is the amount of content in each update patch and the speed in which we release them. Square Enix and the “Final Fantasy XIV” team are prepared to do this.