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Final Fantasy Retrospective: The Seventh Generation Years

The crystal began shedding its light silently....

Final Fantasy XIV: Watching the World Burn

In 2005, Square Enix announced that they were working on a new MMO game. This was at the height of the popularity of Final Fantasy XI, and the MMORPG genre as a whole. The project was only known as Rapture, and the company would not divulge if the game was a sequel to Final Fantasy XI or an entirely new franchise.

Things would remain vague for a few years after the first mention of Rapture. Initially, the game was said to be in development for PlayStation 3 and Windows PC, mirroring the path that Final Fantasy XI had taken. However, in February of 2007, producer Hiromichi Tanaka stated that he was working on a next-gen MMORPG for the Xbox 360 and PC, with PS3 a possibility. This was no doubt a reaction to the shifting video game market; the Xbox 360 had seen early success over the PlayStation 3 at that time, with Sony playing catch up.

Ultimately, Rapture was indeed revealed to be a new online Final Fantasy game. Instead of being title Final Fantasy XI-2 as many speculated, Square Enix announced that the next online FF game would be Final Fantasy XIV. It was announced as a title in development for PlayStation 3 and PC at E3 2009, a day after it was revealed that Final Fantasy XIII would be coming to Xbox 360. The cause for the cancellation of the 360 version of FF XIV stemmed from the inability to work with Microsoft’s strict Xbox Live policies. To date, the only MMORPG for the Xbox 360 to be released has been Final Fantasy XI.

Final Fantasy XIV was headed up by the same team that created and helped maintain Final Fantasy XI. It was directed by Nobuaki Komoto and produced by Hiromichi Tanaka. Akihiko Yoshida of Final Fantasy XII and Tactics fame was appointed as art director, and Nobuo Uematsu was once again the lead music composer.

Even though Final Fantasy XIV was an MMO designed to take advantage of the power of the PlayStation 3 and PCs, the game was put on the fast track to release. Following the official announcement in 2009, FF XIV entered into alpha testing in April of 2010. This alpha period lasted a scant 11 weeks, with the closed beta test beginning in July. PS3 copies of Final Fantasy XIII included enrollment onto a waitlist for a chance to get into the open beta test, but this never materialized. The PC open beta began on September 1st and ended on the 19th, just a few days before its September 22 release date.

The release of Final Fantasy XIV was met with poor reviews from nearly every outlet that covered it. It has a Metacritic score of 49, the lowest in the series. The game was largely considered to be unfinished, lacking many of the features and design elements that had come to be expected by the MMORPG genre by that time. Additionally, FF XIV was devoid of many of the improvements that had been made to Final Fantasy XI over the years, resulting in a game that seemed rushed and incomplete. This carried over to the game’s sales, which amounted to around half a million units by the end of the year.

The game that Final Fantasy XIV was at launch proved to be an embarrassment for Square Enix. Company president Yoichi Wada initiated a major restructuring of the development team in December of 2010. This removed Hiromichi Tanaka     as the producer of the game. Tanaka later resigned from the company.

As part of a desperate play to keep the struggling (and expensive) game running, Wada announced that the 30 day trial period would be extended while the new FF XIV team got up to speed and made sweeping changes. Later, it was announced that the trial extension would be extended indefinitely, and Square Enix ultimately didn’t begin charging a monthly fee for Final Fantasy XIV until January 2012.

In addition to the extended trial period and the vast changes to the game’s design, Yoichi Wada also announced that the PlayStation 3 game was on hold until the team could deliver a console version of the game that included all of the improvements to the PC version. Major changes were brought to nearly every aspect of the game, including the battle system. At launch, players needed to constantly queue up attacks and skills, but eventually a transition to the auto-attack style of Final Fantasy XI was implemented.

Between the declining fan enthusiasm for the Final Fantasy XIII games and the botched beginning of XIV, it was clear that an aggressive strategy would need to be utilized to save the new online entry in the series. This prompted the announcement of Final Fantasy 2.0: a redesign of the game from inside out. First revealed late in 2011, the 2.0 initiative promised sweeping changes to the core mechanics, a new user interface, and a plethora of features and systems that fans of Final Fantasy XI could appreciate. In addition to gameplay changes, FF XIV 2.0 would feature a new graphics engine and a redesign of many of the zones within the world of Eorzea, as the generic “cut and paste” environments were one of the major criticisms of the game.

Final Fantasy XIV continued to see improvements to the base game as the team worked on the 2.0 redesign. However, it was reported that the actual number of paid subscribers for Final Fantasy XIV was as low as 10,000, a far cry from the 1 million subscribers Final Fantasy XI had enjoyed at its peak.

In August of 2012, it was announced that the relaunch of Final Fantasy XIV would be known as A Realm Reborn. Trailers and company press releases indicated that a world-shattering event would drastically change the landscape of XIV forever, not unlike the Cataclysm expansion to World of Warcraft. The servers to the original Final Fantasy XIV were shut down in November 2012, with the alpha test for A Realm Reborn going live shortly thereafter.

While the Final Fantasy franchise had seen its share of missteps over the past 25 years, XIV was an unmitigated disaster. Its initial failure has caused untold damage to the bottom line of Square Enix, and only time will tell if it was a fatal error. At the time of this writing, positive buzz has begun to generate around the reboot, but it could very well be a case of too little, too late.

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12/28/2012 at 01:56 PM

"By the time that the game had been released in North America, console gamers had been exposed to many successful Western designed RPGs, such as Mass Effect, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and Fallout 3."

Nobody cared about bad games like that, final fantasy had its most successful gen ever.

"The market had changed, and the linear progression through a story that was nonsensical to many players cast serious doubt on the future of the series."

The market hasnt changed even slightly


12/28/2012 at 04:57 PM

Nobodyz cared about BAD games lik dat?! HAH you iz retard moron. Suck on it fanboy jezebel


12/28/2012 at 01:57 PM

What a bad generalized article. 


Lets just pretend 90 percent of the final fantasy titles didnt happen this gen. And focus on the 1 percent

Julian Titus Senior Editor

12/28/2012 at 02:04 PM

Sorry you feel that way. With this retrospective I chose to focus on only the main 14 games. I've kicked around the idea of a look at the sequels, spin offs, and namesakes but I haven't come to a decision on it.

Our Take

Angelo Grant Staff Writer

12/28/2012 at 03:18 PM

 As big of an FF fan as I am, even I have to admit that, for me, generation was tragic for the core releases.

We've always got Crisis Core and FFTA though, and we did have some great JRPGs come out this gen. I can even cheat a little and say that, since FF XI was released for the 360, we can count that toward the positive side of 7th gen FF (and that makes 3 if you count XIV! the tradition continues!)
All in all, this was the decade that taught me that SE is run by people, not magicians, and they can't hit home runs every time they release a game.

Julian Titus Senior Editor

12/28/2012 at 04:02 PM

And I'd like to say that my excitement for the core franchise has never wavered. I quite enjoyed FF XIII and XIII-2. XIV bummed me out, but A Realm Reborn is one of my most anticipated 2013 games. I'm less enthused about Lightning Returns, but that stems more from my desire for FF XV than any actual dislike for a third XIII story.


01/06/2013 at 02:29 PM

"We wanted to create a new game, even a new genre. (...) In a lot of senses FFXIII is more like an FPS than an RPG," director Motomu Toriyama added.

He should have been immediately fired for making that statement.  It is now clear to me, that this man is one of the reasons for the series pandering to the FPS crowd.  He is one of the reasons why the series has stumbled so badly.

You better believe that I'll be keeping an eye out for that name.  If I see his name linked to any future Final Fantasy, I will not buy it.


02/24/2013 at 12:46 PM

All the hate towards Final Fantasy XIII has always baffled me. I mean, it wasn't perfect, but no Final Fantasy was ever perfect. I appreciated the fact that SE was willing to try some new approaches because at least with that attitude the Final Fantasy series will never grow stagnant. There were some significant changes to the Final Fantasy formula, and it's not my place to say for sure whether those were changes for good or bad, but at least they're trying to shake things up.

But one thing I will say is, this wait for Final Fantasy Versus XIII is killing me slowly.


02/26/2013 at 12:10 PM

I picked up FFXIII at launch and I only put about 15 hours into it. I loved the Paradigm Shift battle system. I found it very fun and fast-paced, but the story just didn't pull me in, and the linear style didn't match with my old-world expectations from RPGs. I still want to put in the extra time to get passed that "20 hour" demo period, but we'll see.

I wanted to try FFXIV from the get-go, but the tragic launch waylayed that. I'm anxious to see what A Realm Reborn brings to the table.

Excellent retrospective. Don't listen to the anonymous trolls in the other posts.

Julian Titus Senior Editor

02/26/2013 at 12:41 PM

XIII really does change a lot once you can finally choose who you want in your party and are able to roam around. The story is nonsensical, but I actually liked the cast a lot.

I got a chance to talk about A Realm Reborn with a friend that was in the alpha in a recent episode of Nerds Without Pants. She also played XIV through most of that dark time and talks about how many improvements were made to the game.

Thanks again for all your kind feedback!


03/01/2013 at 09:26 AM

I have played FF all my life (across at least 4 consoles and PC), and indeed this last gen has been the one that finally made me lose all interest in the series. FF X was the last game I really enjoyed, but I played XI and XII quite a bit. XIII is where I just gave up. It's clear to me that SE no longer understands what goes into a good FF, or even a standard RPG for that matter. It's sad, but I have said farewell to the series.

And judging from the comments I can see that pixlbit is not the place for me. Looks like a lot of kids that probably haven't been playing games for longer than this last console generation.

Travis Hawks Senior Editor

03/01/2013 at 09:52 AM

I, for one, have been playing games for quite a while.  My first Final Fantasy game was the first Final Fantasy game and I still quite enjoyed XIII.  Should you ever return, know that there are old folk here too even if we don't have the same opinions.


03/01/2013 at 09:55 AM

Yeah I'm a 58 year old  kid. Lol


04/20/2013 at 05:17 AM

I've played every single final fantasy game, in one form or another, excluding the hard to find game boy classic FF.  As far as I'm concerned, the series died off with a swan song in Final Fantasy 6.  Everything beyond that seemed to forget what made the Final Fantasy series so special.  (An approving nod to FF IX for trying to return to it's roots). 

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