With many MMO games with a monthly paid subscription service making the transition to a free-to-play model and supporting themselves via DLC and microtransactions, we were thinking that Square Enix may join the likes of Star Wars: The Old Republic and DC Universe Online and bring the revamped Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn out with similar pricing models next month.
Well, don't hold your breath. In an interview in this week's copy of MCV, the game's producer Naoki Yoshida, defended the game's need for regular income.
"Everyone has an opinion. But we believe to have a successful MMO that has regular, large-scale updates, then the project needs a stable income. If you are going free-to-play with microtransactions, one month you may have a lot of money, but you might not the next. That makes it hard to plan for the future. Also, subscription offers stability to your staff. They know that if they don't make enough money from free-to-play one month, their job is gone."
Yoshida also mentioned that many new MMOs need to repay investors quickly, but Square Enix aren't in that position, so can afford something of a slow-burner start. Many other titles panic and go FTP for a quick financial boost to pay back investors. "What makes us -and the likes of Blizzard- different is that we are using our own money. We don't have investors to pay. So even if we don't hit our subscription goal immediately, we can still keep that subscription going. And because we have no investors, any money we make can be put straight back into the game."
Some of Yoshida's reasoning does ring true. However, he fails to mention that Blizzard have lost millions of subscribers recently and they have moved towards pay-to-win microtransactions, a sign many are taking that they will be providing a FTP option soon.
Also Square Enix will need to make money on their game sooner rather than later. The initial launch of XIV was a disaster, meaning gamers will be very cautious to subscribe again. The company also failed to meet its ridiculously high sales targets for games like Tomb Raider and Hitman: Absolution and the re-development of A Realm Reborn has cost millions and Square Enix can't afford to fail again.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is out August 27th on PC and PS3.