Square Enix Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker has a sidequest in Garlemald with a Garlean child that encapsulates compelling storytelling with empathy empathetic writing

Final Fantasy XIV: How a Critical Failure Created the Greatest MMORPG

On September 30, 2010, Square Enix released Final Fantasy XIV 1.0. The game was a critical and commercial failure, widely panned for its gameplay, interface, and general lack of finish. In the aftermath, though, Naoki Yoshida, AKA Yoshi-P, and his team, came along with an idea: Burn it all to the ground. The concept? Unheard of. The execution? Measured and well done. The result was the transformation of the critical failure that was Final Fantasy XIV into one of the greatest MMORPGs through a new version of the game called A Realm Reborn, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary this month.

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Yoshi-P’s plan to revitalize Final Fantasy XIV saw him and his team build the closing of the original servers into the very narrative. The team gave fans, and even non-fans, something phenomenal to watch and be a part of when, on November 11, 2012, Bahamut the Elder Primal obliterated Eorzea, the game’s main region. Reactions to the destruction could, at times, be mixed. Many fans have taken to Reddit over the years to discuss their experiences of the last days of Final Fantasy XIV 1.0. There were even support groups founded to try and reconcile this troubled relationship. Though large numbers of players didn’t enjoy the game, they still lamented the loss of this broken home of theirs.

Still, this unprecedented event went down in history as the beginning of something truly magical. From the ashes of 1.0 came A Realm Reborn and with it a whole new world of possibilities. Released on August 27, 2013, A Realm Reborn had humble beginnings. This new Eorzea was filled with interesting characters, and as A Realm Reborn came to its climax, the foundation had been laid for a far more impressive world. The gamble worked. Players returned to the Final Fantasy XIV for A Realm Reborn, which received a much warmer critical reception than 1.0.

To celebrate the success of A Realm Reborn, Final Fantasy XIV Fan Fest was announced and an almost decade-long celebration has been held around the world annually. Perhaps the biggest moment that came out of Final Fantasy XIV Fan Fest was the announcement of the game’s first expansion: Heavensward. With mythic storytelling, several new character classes, a new race and flight, there was nowhere to go, but up. It began a tradition of stellar expansions that have entertained gamers for years. It got many gamers through the COVID-19 pandemic. I include myself in those numbers, as the game helped me stay in contact with my friends. I remember even getting into the legendary long lines whenever there was a new expansion. Heavensward was far from the only expansion, though, and in 2021, the storyline for A Realm Reborn came to a climax with Endwalker.

Final Fantasy XIV Fan Fest in Las Vegas revealed the FFXIV Dawntrail expansion, plus a digital-only Xbox Series X | S port of the game.

The scope of Final Fantasy XIV‘s revitalization did not stop at expansion packs. In 2017, an eight-part mini-series debuted called Final Fantasy XIV: Dad of Light, which is a comedy-drama about a son who rekindles his bond with his emotionally distant father through the titular game. It’s a sweet and charming mini-series that is possibly one of the greatest advertisements for a product. The premise is actually based on real-life events that happened to a player who introduced his own father to the game. Which, to me, is the legacy of Final Fantasy XIV. It has inspired so many with touching stories of coming together, not just as a community, but at times as a family.

It’s fascinating to look back now and see how this world and these characters have evolved from their humble beginnings. Also, I find it wild that a game developer came up with the idea to fully scrap a title and then rebuild it from the ground up. I’ve never heard of something like this on such a scale. That’s part of the reason why I respect Yoshi-P and his team. Many developers would have cut their losses and issued a meaningless apology, but not with Final Fantasy XIV. Instead, players were given a whole new world to explore, and from there we’ve become “Warriors of Light.”

Now, with the latest expansion, Dawntrail, coming in 2024, there are more even adventures on the horizon, and a game that looked like a failure upon release has become a truly great MMORPG.

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Graham Day
Graham has been writing online for close to a decade. This includes writing about games, books, films and so much more. He loves stories of all kinds across every form of media. For the Escapist he tries to come up with his own unique angles on the stories we adore. He was born in Dublin, Ireland and has been an actor, an amateur animator, writer and artist. He also runs his own website based in Ireland.