Michael is a 2006 Graduate of Collins College and has earned a Bachelor of Arts in Game Design branching into IT/Coding Fields.
A Troubling Situation
Final Fantasy XIV has gone through MANY changes in its lifetime. From the abysmal initial launch, the desperation of A Realm Reborn, the perfection of Heavensward, the mixed yet not well-received Stormblood, and finally, the 2019 expansion Shadowbringers. But over time, there is something gravely amiss about the game that is not being addressed by the community. That has been the continuing decrease and "trimming" of content while expecting players to continue paying full price. This reduction of in-game content is a problem on multiple fronts, and therefore, it is important to discuss why and perhaps what steps are needed to take place to hold the Development Team accountable.
The Growing Imbalance
As mentioned before, there is a growing imbalance of subpar gameplay mixed with the expectation of players having to pay full price for this content. A prime example of this comes from a more recent revelation from the game's "Live Letters" when the entity called "Yoshi-P" decreed that there will only be one dungeon per patch moving forward from the Shadowbringers expansion. In the past, most expansions prior to this came with at least two dungeons and a series of fulfilling quests in between those dungeons.
This is the first problem: The Development Team's or rather Yoshi-P's lack of effort is on full display. After having completed an expansion, they expect a break from creating content in a Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG); sadly, such is not the case as MMORPGs are constantly ongoing projects. That said, it is important to provide a large number of quests and objectives to keep players interested or they lose interest quickly.
Paying More While Receiving Less . . .
This then brings up the potential question, why pay full price for a game reducing in both content and value? The answer is no, you should not; however, Yoshi-P expects customers to blindly do so while continuing to offer substandard efforts.
What's worse is that no one contests this; perhaps they are wary of speaking out due to having their game licenses revoked and no longer allowed to play the game. Perhaps there is a different reason. This remains uncertain.
However, I would not be surprised if this growing unbalances of lackluster and lacking efforts and apathy ultimately brings all-new dungeons and means of gameplay to a grinding halt while still charging new full price. This is a problem.
Blind Complacency, Giving Way to Complicity
We, the audience, and participants of this game are equally to blame for this sad state of events. Primarily, we should see ourselves as the final shareholders of the game in which our enjoyment is the fuel and fire needed to continue providing quality content for all players instead of leaving a majority of content by the wayside and just drip-feeding lackluster content for the select subset of people (Hello, Raids).
This is a problem in that our complacency, meaning the belief that "they are working on something better down the road," has stunted our satisfaction for the current content provided being less and less rewarding and engaging. Worse still, we are paying full price subscriptions for content that is deliberately being held against us.
Additionally, the subscription model itself is questionable due to a recent Free Login Campaign they touted to sucker new/returning players into re-subscribing. Here's the problem with that campaign; it proves that the need to provide a subscription is meaningless when you could provide the content at no-cost once beyond the initial game purchase. Many defenders of the model state that the money is being used to maintain both servers and employees as well, and that the removal of such subscription business models would be disastrous.
Two flaws come up with that argument; the first being the company in question: Square-Enix Holdings, Inc. This is a multi-billion dollar conglomerate with several entertainment divisions responsible for making revenue for the company. The fact that this company is not capable of providing a quality of life for their employees via a livable wage and benefits packages ensuring said quality-of-life proves that SE (Square-Enix) was and forever remains a failure of a company.
Their business model was doomed from inception.
Following this is the second flaw; server maintenance concerns. Even factoring such business expenditures as cost, utility, location, and a crew needed to make necessary repairs and updates, that's only in the few tens of thousands of dollars. Annually. Such calculated expenses as these are capable of being covered by the American Sector of Players ALONE via their subscriptions.
This now opens a new question, where are the remaining funds going? It can't be towards the employees as they would be more inclined to create better content if this was the case . . . in that regard, it could only have been hemorrhaged by poor management and even worse marketing tactics that fall short of deceptive. Square-Enix is bleeding in our money.
Knowing this practice is now flawed and beyond a reasonable doubt, the onus still falls on us; we as players have become complicit in our own exploitation and acceptance of lower-quality content. We allowed ourselves to believe that Yoshi-P has our best interests at heart when in reality, he's simply bottle-necking content while expecting us to pay out more for content that should have long been implemented, or at the very least a much deeper and richer gameplay experience than what was currently presented.
The constant excuses from Yoshi-P are the following, of which our complicity has accepted these demonstrable lies as the gospel:
- We lack "resources." What "resources" and why do you lack them? Why did you not plan for this? What are you doing with the money, OUR resource, that we've given to you?
- We already implemented this [questionable practice, aka pay-to-win option] in [insert Global Area]. We are asking for feedback. Why are you asking for feedback on something you already implemented, and why are you implementing something that would be more detrimental to the overall experience? (Side note: the shortcut of "Potions" is an entirely different discussion that will be addressed at a later article)
- We are focusing on new content. At the expense of everything before it? So what's the point of playing the game if you have no interest in preserving or enriching the existing content? What is our money being used for if not to the betterment of the playing experience?
- We are streamlining quests. You're eliminating existing content? WHY? That goes against the very NATURE of a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game, ROLE-PLAYING GAMES IN GENERAL, and completely eliminates needed context in terms of the story itself, so why do ANY of that? Finally, as an aside, why bother doing any of that when you already implemented a questionable practice to artificially build up a community?
Just from these responses alone, the glaring problem of our complicity and complacency is the justification of sub-par, substandard efforts from a Development Team and "Leadership" that clearly see players as payers and not individuals that want to get the full experience of the world of Eorzea; but make no mistake, this is as much on us as it is on them.
Where's the Money Going?
At last, we reach the real question that goes into this whole discussion in its entirety. At the end of the day, we are paying customers, purchasing access to a gameplay experience each month (or set of months depending on billing choice), and we have every RIGHT and EXPECTATION to know exactly where our money, OUR INVESTMENT OF TIME AND FUNDING, is being put towards.
I understand that not all of SE or the FFXIV development team is going to reveal sensitive company trading secrets. That's not what this is about. This is about knowing how our investment is being placed in regards to this game, Final Fantasy XIV Online. And here is my stance on such matters:
- The money we are spending on this game is not reflecting the quality that should be placed on a medium such as this, where our limited funding for entertainment is being squandered by the Developers and Yoshi-P for their own dubious purposes.
- Quality of Life and Quality of Content is on the decline, despite SE's efforts to proclaim more players are "joining the game." This proves a discrepancy in that a larger player base would mean larger funds, which means larger and more robust content; such content has not been put into place nor practice based on the expansions/patches existing.
- It is continuing to become more evident that dwindling content with greater cost to customers is the new direction Yoshi-P is seeking to achieve going forward. This must be stopped.
Sadly, this trend is not an isolated incident in this particular space of entertainment. With the overwhelming exploitation of loot boxes and microtransactions ushered in the 2010s, SE just saw the opportunity to entrap their own "whales" in their space, us, and bleed us dry of our limited funding. Enough is enough.
The End Result
Ultimately, the content of Final Fantasy XIV is as wide as the ocean, yet shallower than a puddle. Just as the saying suggests, we will continue to receive a variety of ideas that will literally go nowhere in terms of depth; Diadem, Eureka, and even Aquapolis come to mind. Even PvP, which is known to have SOME depth to it, has been homogenized and lacks any value to whatever now constitutes as "depth."
The current situation is dire, in that we have continued to accept whatever excuse the Development Team has concocted, and the imbalance of quality content with overpricing/microtransactions continues to run unchecked. Our complacency gave way to unwitting complicity which Yoshi-P has seized advantage on.
Finally, the heart of the matter is the simple fact that our money is being wasted by this company on this dwindling game is criminal in nature and deed. But what can we really do about it outside of "Speaking With Our Wallet" as they are already rich enough to not care?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Michael Rivers