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Square Enix Envisions Five More Years of Content for Final Fantasy XIV, Aiming for 30 Million Registered Players

Final Fantasy XIV will be getting at least another five years of content if the game’s audience continues to grow in the way it’s doing right now. According to the Washington Post, with 20 million registered players and that number growing all the time, developer and publisher Square Enix won’t rest on their laurels until that number hits 30 million.

The game has certainly managed to turn its fortunes around since launch. When it arrived on PC in 2010, the game had a whole load of issues that led to it being considered a failure and unfinished. The title struggled on for two years before the servers were closed in 2012. Producer and director Naoki Yoshida was brought in to turn the game around and that he has done. The game was rebuilt from the ground up and re-released as Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn in 2013, this time on PS3 too. Since then it has gone from strength to strength, hitting 20 million registered players last July. Yoshida said they won’t be stopping there, though:

Even now, our CEO is encouraging us to strive for more players and for 30 million adventurers, and he still has future plans for us. Luckily, we don’t see any stopping in our momentum. At one point we thought maybe we might plateau, but fortunately our player base just continues to expand and grow.

With the rate the player audience is growing, Square Enix predicts there’ll be at least another five years to play out in the world of Hydaelyn. To keep that audience entertained, they need more content. The next update will be the Endwalker expansion, due to release this fall.

The expansion has been in development for quite a while, Yoshida and four other story writers having conceived the story by October 2019. About 70% of the expansion is then planned out by the game design team in around 10 business days, before going through an approval process that takes around a month. Programmers then take around two weeks to develop the basic game mechanics. The team sticks to this structure so everyone knows where they are in regards to cost and project management. The problem is that being this rigid leaves a “major risk of boredom and fatigue” according to Yoshida. As such, the remaining 30% of the expansion is left purely for new challenges and new pieces of content to keep things fresh. Every expansion since Heavensward in 2015 has gone through this process.

This structure means the team is unlikely to put the game on any other platforms, with the exception of the PlayStation 5 version that’s due to enter beta soon. Too much time is spent creating expansions to be able to expand the game to Xbox Series X/S, for example:

We provide content on a fairly regular basis and our cycle is rather condensed. And it is a fairly stable cadence that we continue to follow. … We have to think about long-term planning with additional platforms, we need additional testing for that particular platform. So it kind of exponentially grows the amount of resources that needs to be allocated.

While the content keeps arriving for FFXIV, Yoshida will also be diverting some of his attention towards Final Fantasy XVI. He’s not willing to comment on that yet as he doesn’t want to build up false hopes:

We don’t want to say something that’s half baked and cause speculation on the title. With any Final Fantasy fan, depending on which Final Fantasy title is your jam, the point that you get excited will tend to differ… Each person will probably have their own sort of idea or image of what the next Final Fantasy should be. Saying something half baked is definitely very high risk. If something gets spoken about, someone will pick it up on social and it starts to spread around and people will form expectations. So with ‘Final Fantasy XVI,’ whenever we do reveal more information on it, we hope to show what kind of game it’s going to bring, and what kind of excitement we can bring.

In the meantime, FFXIV will continue marching onwards and bringing new content. The PlayStation 5 version of the MMO will enter open beta on April 13. For now, PS5 players can continue playing the PS4 version of the title via backwards compatibility.

[Source: Washington Post]