Final Fantasy XI Plans Include Mobile
MARCH 19, 2015 • The first multi-platform MMO, Final Fantasy XI, has had a successful run since appearing on the PlayStation 2 and the PC back in 2002. By 2005, the title had passed 500,000 subscribers and later added the Xbox 360 and PS3 (via backward compatibility). Thirteen years into the game’s run, Square Enix Co., Ltd. has announced major plans for the MMO. Most interestingly, the company has entered into a partnership with Nexon, Co., Ltd. to produce a full-fledged mobile version of Final Fantasy XI. In addition to adapting standard MMO features to smartphones, dynamic events that spawn under a variety of conditions will be added. A 2016 release in Japan, Korea, North America, Europe and Asia is planned. Sharing the world and lore of Final Fantasy XI is another mobile title, Final Fantasy Grandmasters. The development partner in this case in Crooz Inc., and the RPG is expected late in 2015 in Japan only. As for Final Fantasy XI, one more scenario expansion Rhapsodies of Vana’diel, is planned. The first chapter will appear this May, with the following two chapters releasing in August and November. The scenario will serve as a wrap up of Final Fantasy XI’s ongoing narrative that will tie-in characters and story points through the years. After this final content expansion there will be no further version updates, although minor balance adjustments and bug fixes will continue. In March 2016, service on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox 360 will cease. Final Fantasy XI service on the PC will continue, however.
Impact: At its peak, Final Fantasy XI was generating over $100 million in annual revenue for Square Enix. It is telling that in the same week that Nintendo Co. Ltd. announced it had major plans to develop separate content for mobile, Square Enix laid out its own smartphone designs to extend the Final Fantasy XI franchise. Square Enix has been involved in mobile for quite some time, having already done very nicely with Kaku-San-Sei Million Arthur, Dragon Quest Monsters Super Light, Sangokushi Ranbu and Schoolgirl Strikers. But Final Fantasy XI is a major franchise, and it is no coincidence that the smartphone version of the MMO will arrive at around the same time the console editions are retired. Visualizing the mechanics of playing a MMO on a tablet or smartphone does not come easily to us, but in all fairness, we had the same observation about playing MMOs on consoles. Neither has the mobile interface prevented MMO titles such as Arcane Legends, Avabel Online, Dragon Eternity or Order & Chaos Online from becoming popular. Yet Final Fantasy is a big franchise and how well Square Enix and its partners move this property to smart devices will have a major impact on the market. DFC can’t help but foresee mobile-crazy Asia as the main target for Final Fantasy XI, yet extending service worldwide is no small commitment and we will be curious to see how well the MMO does in Europe and the U.S.
As MMO sunsets go, what Square Enix has planned for Final Fantasy XI is pretty classy. In most cases a date is set a few months ahead and there are a few special events before the servers are shut down. But to tie-in the past via a homage of three full chapters of content is a great overture to fans and is what game services such as MMOs should strive for. Console users are also getting 10 months to enjoy the last chapters before the plug is pulled. Lastly, Square Enix is keeping Final Fantasy XI running on PCs. For how long is anyone’s guess, but in the company’s 2014 annual report the MMO is proudly listed as one of three contributing to a total of 1 million current subscribers, so Final Fantasy XI on the PC may be with us for a while.