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Final Fantasy XIV: ARR Interview With Producer Naoki Yoshida, "We Could Consider Free-to-Play" But Never Pay-to-Win

Posted on Wednesday, February 12 @ 18:48:26 Eastern by
I got a chance to sit down with Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn producer/director Naoki Yoshida to talk about the upcoming PlayStation 4 port of the game. Yoshida spoke through a translator and I shared the interview with an editor from GamesRadar. These interviews can sometimes be difficult given the time constraints and intermediary, but Yoshida was genuine, likable, and forthcoming about all things Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn.

I even made a smart-ass comment about Yoshida's very cool metal rings and whether a player could potentially find the Ring of Yoshida in-game. The producer/director behind one of the more popular MMOs in recent memory played it cool.

FFXIV will launch a beta later this month for PlayStation 4 owners both in the United States and Europe, but notably on the console's launch day in Japan as well (they hope). Final Fantasy XIV's rebirth has come a long way, but Yoshida clearly believes it has a healthy life ahead of it as a subscription-based MMO. Even with my limited experience in MMOs, it was clear that Yoshida believed passionately in delivering the best possible experience and felt grateful for players who have subscribed and are enjoying the game so far.

Read on for the developers responses to a number of different topics surrounding the MMORPG genre.

On choosing between Final Fantasy XIV's variety of interfaces on PS4

I like to use my PC gaming mouse and keyboard at home. But I’m the producer of the game, so I need to see what the gaming experience is like for the end-user. I play on the controller as well to make sure that players don’t feel like they can’t keep up on GamePad. I have to make sure the user interface works for every option, so at the office I use the console options. During this media tour I’ll use my laptop computer with a controller plugged in to relax.

On 400,000,000 hours of playtime since launch

I’m a hardcore MMO player and I love to play games and I see how people put in a lot of hours, perhaps more than they put into their real life. I’m so happy to see people playing 24/7.

On PC versus console

Player bases are different in each region. In Japan, many players play on the console, there isn’t the same culture around the PC. The percentage is higher on console, but as players get deeper into the game and play higher-level content those player switch to PC. In terms of America, the percentage is 50-50, an even split between PS3 and PC. In terms of Europe, the PC version has more players.

The Final Fantasy brand has gained its popularity through players on console and while many are familiar with it on console, not many have experienced an MMO on console. Knowing that A Realm Reborn would come out on PS4, console players have been eagerly waiting both for the PS4 version and to upgrade from PS3 to PS4.

On subscriptions versus free-to-play or other MMO business models

The original Final Fantasy XIV was promised as a subscription MMORPG. The Elder Scrolls Online will release as a subscription MMO soon as did Star Wars The Old Republic, but there’s a big reason MMOs want to start with subscribers. Once you reach a certain number of subscribers it’s a stable source of income. With micro transactions it depends. The item can sell well and give you a spike in sales but that doesn’t mean the item will continue to sell well.

With an MMORPG, updates are very important so we have to hire skilled designers and programmers and keep them to provide you with the best gameplay experience. To have that stable income and revenue is important and it helps the team stabilize too. It’s difficult to gauge the ups and downs of micro transactions, so it’s better to have a subscription based MMO. I believe that MMO producers like me are the nice guys, we just want to keep people playing rather than focus on nickel-and-diming people.

With regard to switching to free-to-play, the MMO business is very risky and a lot of investment is needed to build, maintain and continue a game, so you need investors. When investors see subscriber numbers dropping, they might demand their money back so that has probably driven the decision for other MMOs to switch models. We’re not fixated with a subscription model for A Realm Reborn, but I do feel that players can be assured that their game is stable in this way. To get as many people in the world to play the game, having it available for free is an effective method. We’d need to gauge the response and the needs of the market but we could consider free-to-play.

There are people already subscribed to the game but they still ask for us to sell them certain items. The needs of players are changing and it’s not a difference of which business model is right or wrong, but our goal is to cater to the needs of the players.

On special paid items

I would consider in terms of items, optional things that would change the aesthetics like your skin color or your race but not your stats. If it’s like the Ring of Yoshida, it’s cool but it can cross the line and help you clear end game content and help you beat certain monsters. That has the risk of people calling the game pay-to-win. That’s not something I want to do.

Unique items would be cool but it would be something aesthetic and totally optional and given out for free even as sort of a moment or in memoriam.

For more, check out our full PS4 preview of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. You can also hear more from Yoshida about developing for PS4 here.

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