So, who here remembers the Final Fantasy XIV launch? I certainly do; I was there and I’ve been here since, after all. And who here remembers how the game launched to critical acclaim and overwhelming popularity?
Yeah, okay. I liked the game at launch, but that was more because of the underlying philosophies and approaches, not because the whole thing was polished to a fine shine. It was almost two years ago now, and the game has had to go through a lot of growing pains in that time, fixing a lot of elements that didn’t work and adjusting stuff that was almost there but not quite. It’s been a long process of hammering out fixes and improvements, one that included a long stretch of no subscription fee as the game cleaned itself up.
We’re nearly at the end of that process now, but Square-Enix is trying to show everyone that the company appreciates players who have been around during the game’s teething troubles. That’s the Legacy program in a nutshell — a chance for players to signify having been around for an extended period of time. A badge of honor, a show of loyalty, and arguably another little bit of bait to get people to subscribe now instead of later.
As we know of right now, there are going to be three rewards for players who get to be part of the campaign. The first is the option to have a character name in the game credits, which is neat but totally irrelevant. The odds of someone actually looking through and remembering your character’s name aren’t as bad as the odds of you suddenly being declared the heir to the British throne, but they’re close. I like the idea of Rhio Aldul being made into an establishment, but this is more of a nod than a real boon.
Behind door number two, you get your special chocobo. Again, this is nice, but I’d like to point out that at this point I have two identical mounts. We’ve been told that mounts will not be the same when 2.0 goes live, but I wonder if that third one is really going to provide me a whole lot of extra utility. Plus, you just know that people will be strutting around on their special Legacy birds from dusk until dawn once they’re available, because wouldn’t you?
That leaves the subscription price. And that… well, okay, that’s actually a pretty good deal. It also reveals that players aren’t going to be stuck with the current plan of an extra fee for each character — you can go bare-bones and have a single character, but the next step up just gives you several without a problem.
No, the game still isn’t structured in such a way that you’ll really need an alt in the first place. But it’s nice to have the option, especially since leveling another character is not nearly as daunting as it was in Final Fantasy XI. Hitting the cap is not difficult now, especially if you’ve got a high-level main character to provide some food and Materia-enhanced equipment. You’ll fly up to a reasonable level pretty quickly.
So those extra alts actually mean something. With the promise of a functional mail system, they can fulfill the age-old role of mules, or just give you a chance to play through Final Fantasy XIV with a slightly different twist. Having a discount for all of that is welcome, definitely. And if you’re part of the Legacy program, you get that lowered price forever, even if you subscribe for a while and then take a break.
The obvious rationale, of course, is that they want you to subscribe now and stick it out through the end of this iteration.
One of the things I found interesting as I was typing up last week’s column was how similar FFXI was to FFXIV at launch. Not in a mechanical sense, but in the simple fact that neither game launched with a finished set of features. The difference was that FFXI launched a decade ago, back when there were far fewer choices and much more reason to just tough it out if the game didn’t perform up to par. And there’s also the fact that we here in the states didn’t even see the game until it had a year and a half to clean up its act.
It’s been about a year and a half now, and FFXIV has certainly cleaned up its act. Systems that worked have been expanded, systems that didn’t have been either fixed or snipped. But aside from courting new customers, Square no doubt wants to re-gather some of the existing customers that were displeased with the initial launch. It’s not a coincidence that the free week came at the same time the program was announced — it’s meant to get you back in the game to play around, and then start thinking that maybe a couple more months of subscription fees are well worth it for a permanently lowered price.
You can call it a bait and switch; me, I look at it as a positive sign. There’s a real sense that the company is trying to bring back anyone who didn’t like the initial launch, and they’re doing so in a much more tangible fashion than certain other companies. And if you’re still not happy with the game after trying it out pre-2.0, you get another free month when that goes live.
More than anything, it’s sending a message that whatever might have happened in the past, the staff is devoted to making this game fun for everyone, while at the same time they want to recognize people who hang through the rough stretches. That’s laudable, and it makes me happy to be on-board with the game. More so than the option to get a special chocobo, really.