New FFXIV producer admits launch failings

Insists struggling MMO can recover.

The new producer brought in to steady the sinking Final Fantasy XIV Online ship has detailed the internal issues that blighted the game's launch.

Publisher Square Enix brought Naoki Yoshida in to replace franchise veteran Hiromichi Tanaka late last year, following poor reviews and a disgruntled player base.

Speaking in an interview with Gamasutra, Yoshida highlighted two main issues behind the game's lacklustre launch: a lack of communication with the player base and insufficient support for the original development team.

"XIV had many issues," he admitted. "There was technology trouble, in-game trouble. The game at the time of release did not live up to expectations that players had of current generation MMOs.

"And Square Enix wasn't working close enough with their user base. They weren't working with them. It was pretty much by themselves. And so this whole change came about in order to address these issues.

Yoshida also explained how management had been slow to respond when it became clear that the development team needed more help in the run up to launch.

"You could see that they were having a very hard time. They were working very hard. And the company's timing to say, 'Okay, we can give some help to you guys from our team' - or to put out that helping hand to the team - we realised that the timing that they offered help was probably a little too late.

"I mean, again, everyone has their own projects, and they're worried about their own projects, but they could have helped a little earlier, possibly."

The game eventually launched in September 2010 though Square Enix opted to suspend monthly subscription fees following widespread complaints that the game wasn't up to scratch. The PlayStation 3 launch has also been delayed indefinitely.

Despite these troubles, Yoshida insisted that the game could bounce back and become profitable.

"One of the reasons I believe that it's very hard to recover from a bad launch is that with many Western MMOs, because the teams are so large and they require such a large budget - because of all the assets and all the things they have to make - a lot of those projects rely on investment, and it can't be done by a single company alone.

"And then when a game, like a large Western MMO, has a large launch and it fails, then the investors start to pull back," he continued.

"Then the money stops flowing. And when the money stops flowing, the development teams have to make their development team sizes smaller, which means they can't get enough content for the fixes, or they have to go to a different payment model like free-to-play.

"On the other hand, with FFXIV, operations and development are all funded 100 per cent by Square Enix, so as long as we decide to continue backing the project and we don't give up, we can continue to provide things to the players, see what they want, then go back and retry things, redo things. Basically, it comes up to us. We're not at the strings of the investors."

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