Following a somewhat rocky launch which was plagued with network problems, Square's Final Fantasy XI received its first major patch last weekend, with all the PlayOnline servers taken down for major bug fixes and upgrades and a new version of the game required for players to log on. However, although the patch seems to have fixed many issues, other problems continue to plague the ambitious online RPG. Most embarrassingly for Square - and indeed for Sony - is the revelation that the game is entirely incompatible with certain models of PS2. Some (unspecified) PS2 models allegedly refuse entirely to boot the game, instead displaying an error message and ceasing to function. Sony is thought to be aware of the problem, and players encountering it have been asked to notify the company, although it's not known what kind of fix is planned. Perhaps even more damaging for the commercial success of the game, however, is the situation regarding the PS2 hard drive in Japan. FFXI requires a hard drive to be installed before you can play it, and it appears that poor sales of the game to date (compared with other titles in the Final Fantasy series) are almost entirely attributable to the massive shortages of hard drive stocks. Most consumers are being forced to buy PS2 hard drives as part of an ISP service bundle rather than at retail, effectively squeezing out anyone who already has a broadband connection, and even those lucky enough to be allocated a drive are having to wait up to seven weeks for it to arrive. There are reports of gamers desperate to try the title having to ring around multiple ISPs on a regular basis until they find one who actually has a unit in stock (and is prepared to sell it). Final Fantasy XI is due to be released in North America and Europe in 2003 on PlayStation 2 and PC. Hopefully the lessons learned from the troubled Japanese launch will be applied to releases in other territories, and once the game finally arrives it'll actually be a polished - and working - product.
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