Final Fantasy XIV free-to-play? Now that I’ve stoked your interest — and captured a few search results from Google — let me tell you that it could one day be possible, though it would take a consensus the likes of which MMO players never seem to enjoy.
Speaking to GamesIndustry.biz, FFXIV Game Director Naoki Yoshida boasted about the game’s high player count — more on that in a bit — and the difficulty in convincing players to pay a subscription fee in 2017. The game does allow players to play for free to level 35, and Yoshida says that limit could be raised to level 50 when the game’s next expansion launches.
Could FFXIV be even more free-to-play than that? Yoshida doesn’t totally rule it out, saying:
“That being said, if 80% or 90% of our players are demanding we go free-to-play, then we might need to look at shifting our business model. But we would also need to change our game design to match that business model. It all depends on what the game design should be based on what our players’ needs are.”
That’s not likely to happen, but anything’s possible, and people’s opinions of F2P in the MMO industry have changed over time. Four years ago, one person thought that FFXIV couldn’t go free-to-play, that it would make revenue too difficult to predict. That person was … Naoki Yoshida. Hopefully, Square Enix will hire an economist or two before making the switch.
With regards to the “10 million players” FFXIV has and the line in the article that states it’s “only 2m short of the 12m active subscribers World of Warcraft enjoyed at its peak,” that seems to be a bit of a false equivalence. There was a press release in August that stated that FFXIV had “10 million cumulative players,” but that almost certainly refers to total accounts created, as opposed to the 12 million active players World of Warcraft once enjoyed. S-E has been a little dodgy with its wording (hence “cumulative”), but FFXIV was said to have “accumulated a total of five million paid subscribers” two years ago, with no word of active players at that time. Adding a couple of years, an expansion, and free trial accounts could certainly have pumped that number up over 10 million (or even nearly 12 million as this FFXIV stats site seems to indicate), but there’s nothing to indicate it’s anywhere near WoW at its peak, despite the article’s language.