A realm reborn.
A second chance.
That is the story of Final Fantasy XIV, Square-Enix’s huge online sequel to their successful and long-running Final Fantasy XI Online.
In every aspect, Final Fantasy XIV was dead on arrival. The poorly made, rushed, and highly un-optimized MMO looked lovely on paper, images, and video but in practice (beta) and result (released product) it was nigh unplayable and just down right not fun.
Owning A Failure
In a most surprising turn of events, though, Square-Enix did not defend their game. Instead they condemned it, made the developing team own up to the mistakes, apologize for their product, and immediately start trying to remedy the issue. However, in the MMO scene that is almost always a moot point. You cannot expect to come back from a dismal MMO launch. It spells instant doom for your insanely high priced project nearly overnight. You’ll keep a few hundred or thousand players who actually enjoyed what released but beyond that it will be a failure in all regards.
So why is Final Fantasy XIV still alive? Why did this game escape that fate? Because Square-Enix did two things extremely right: 1) believed in the game’s initial mission and concept, and 2) was not afraid to edit features, take them out altogether, and just replace them with new ones. They also got rid of the subscription fee until they “fixed the game”. This was huge news as it basically turned the game into a buy-a-box then free-to-play MMO. This essentially turned every buyer into a premium beta tester. These players, which included myself for a time, were very dedicated to Final Fantasy XIV and they stayed to help Square-Enix shape the future of Eorzea.
In short, they helped a lot and in fact, if you look at the release version of Final Fantasy XIV and put it side to side with what is still playable to those who were loyal to the game, it is almost entirely different.
It wasn’t different enough, though. With every change Square-Enix did, it just wasn’t driving new players to the game. Even with a planned “re-launch” at the retail scene that never went through, the company had seemingly exhausted every possible way of reversing the harm that the product’s launch caused.
All except one option… They scrapped the entire game and decided to completely remake Final Fantasy XIV.
Back To The Drawing Board
Yes, Square-Enix still believes in what they initially set out to do. They wanted to provide an MMO for every type of player. They wanted to appeal to the core, the casual, and supportive. The concept was there but the execution was horrid. So the company invested more time and money into an already failed product to morph it into a winner. Sounds like a ton of wasted money, right? Normally, I’d say there is no other way to explain it. However, Final Fantasy XIV is a different story.
After months and months of talks, updates, patches, and interviews, Square-Enix finally revealed their plans to revitalize Final Fantasy XIV in a way that the gaming world has never seen before. The released product is already huge. Final Fantasy XIV is a really big game with metric tons of detail and game mechanics. Square-Enix is throwing everything out the window, keeping true to the original concept, understanding their mistakes, owning up to the faults, and have produced the greatest comeback story in gaming history.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is bar none the most amazing and ingenious story the company has ever thought of and the industry has ever seen.
This company is taking a failed MMO, months and months of trial and error, a brand new dev team, and has seemingly salvaged Final Fantasy XIV. How, though? How is that even possible?
Destroying A World
Look at it this way: Final Fantasy XIV failed. It was a bad game. It has its following and that’s all fine and dandy but the game failed for Square-Enix. They took the in-game world and built-up lore and crafted an ending for it. Yes, Square-Enix made an ending for Final Fantasy XIV. For what purpose, though? To destroy it.
The world of Eorzea was destroyed after a multi-month long questline that led up to the worldwide disaster that tore apart and devastated Final Fantasy XIV’s game world. All so Square-Enix could reveal A Realm Reborn which would revive Final Fantasy XIV in the same game world and give it all a second chance at life.
The entire aspect of destroying an MMO world to make way for a new one is intriguing and, honestly, entertaining. Watching the end of Eorzea was very fun and insanely visual. Square-Enix has put everything they’ve got into this project and they made sure the end of the current Final Fantasy XIV was just as grand as A Realm Reborn.
A Realm Reborn is a brand new MMO set in the ashes of Final Fantasy XIV. You can almost set a comparison to the 6-Million Dollar Man. A failure rebuilt into a super project. Square-Enix has been chronicling the changes to Final Fantasy XIV and even giving a look back at the story of Final Fantasy XIV leading up to A Realm Reborn.
The MMO’s Comeback Kid
It has been a rocky and risky road but the results are looking impressive. A Realm Reborn actually looks better and seemingly plays much better. The videos we have seen have set the bar pretty high with the style, design, and presentation of this MMO rebirth.
While Square-Enix is gearing up for beta tests for both the PS3 (long delayed) and the PC, the MMO community seems more interested in seeing if this will actually work out for Square-Enix.
This truly has evolved into a Karate Kid-type story. After being beaten down and defeated, Final Fantasy XIV is looking to take the MMO scene by storm.
A Realm Reborn still remains a massive risk for Square-Enix, though. The comeback has to come full circle or Final Fantasy XIV may find its name up there with the likes of Star Wars: The Old Republic in the list of massive gaming financial turmoils.
Just today, Square-Enix has announced the recruiting form for the beta test of A Realm Reborn and has also released an amazing CGI trailer that shows the end of Eorzea and Final Fantasy XIV in a beautiful cinematic that begins with destruction and ends in a symbolic second chance.
The story of Final Fantasy XIV is very far from over and if Square-Enix maintains this level of effort and dedication, A Realm Reborn will truly become the most amazing comeback story in gaming history.