Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is still a fairly new game. The re-launch is only a year old but even if we were to count 1.0, it isn’t like FFXIV is as ancient as say World of Warcraft, Everquest, or even Final Fantasy XI.
With each passing expansion it becomes more difficult for MMORPGs attract new players. The advertising push behind the initial launch is in the rear view mirror, and aside from dedicated MMORPG blogs, coverage from the press slows dramatically. It’s at that point where developers start to focus on keeping the players they have hooked instead of spending resources on attracting new subscribers.
While not nearly as old as some of its competition, FFXIV is approaching a crossroads. With its first expansion looming in the horizon, will the focus be on attracting new players or developing end game content for the large amount of players that are now level capped on at least one job? The best place to find the answer to this question will be in the history books.
Let’s examine Chains of Promathia, the first expansion for FFXI after its international release (second overall in Japan). In comparison to all of the expansions that followed it, it was really the only one that attempted to cater to both new and veteran players. It was also extremely polarizing for players for a long time.
Chains of Promathia didn’t add any new jobs, so the bulk of the content came in the form of level capped missions. The level cap for these missions gradually increased culminating into a final end game area, Al’taieu (dubbed “Sea”). Not a bad formula except for one glaring problem; in FFXI, at that time, players couldn’t sync their gear down. Veteran players with level 75 jobs had to buy new gear sets for each battle. Also, because the new zones were capped as well, everyone had to slog through dangerous zones to get where they needed to go regardless of how high their job actually was.
Like a dead artist, Chains of Promathia was eventually embraced by the community when the level sync feature was added years later. However, the damage was already done. At a crucial time when World of Warcraft was picking up steam and growing into the juggernaut that it is today, Square Enix splintered its player base by creating an expansion that turned off many veteran players thirsty for new content and unwilling to pretend they were a lower level than they actually were.
That brings us to the present day and the upcoming expansion for FFXIV. Is it even worth it to create content that new players will be able to enjoy? Will enough new people subscribe and appreciate it to make it worth the effort? How SE decides to set up the mission structure in their newest expansion will set the tone for the entire future of the MMORPG.