After a shaky release and months of free gameplay, Final Fantasy XIV is out to earn your hard-won Gil.
Slapping the Final Fantasy name on a product can help a developer get away with a lot, but it can't excuse an unplayable game. Square Enix learned this lesson the hard way during the launch of Final Fantasy XIV. Plagued with bugs and poor design decisions, the game was not long for this world. Square Enix took immediate corrective action by suspending subscription fees while it fixed the latest MMO installment in its popular franchise. The game is not quite ready for the subscription model yet, but according to Square Enix, it will be in January 2012. Until then, players will have a chance to buy subscription time at a discount; after that, the free ride's over.
Subscription fees will hit the world of Eorzea on January 6, 2012, locking the account of any player who hasn't paid his or her way. The good news is that fans who act early can adventure at a discount; until the new update hits, players can pre-purchase time at the rate of $6.99 for 30 days, $17.97 for 90 days, and $29.94 for 180 days of playtime. Fees will increase accordingly afterwards.
A completely redesigned Version 2.0 of the game will roll out between October and December 2012, which begs the question of why Square Enix wants to implement subscription fees a full ten months before that happens. While the pre-order subscription prices appear very reasonable, Square Enix is still asking customers to pay for what is still an incomplete game. Granted, Square Enix has been working on Final Fantasy XIV for the better part of a year, and it may well be in a playable state. The real question is whether a competent MMO with subscription fees and brand name recognition can compete in a market saturated by World of Warcraft and BioWare's upcoming Star Wars: The Old Republic.
Square Enix's last online outing, Final Fantasy XI, proved to be fairly successful despite never capturing a market share similar to its bigger competitors. Final Fantasy XIV may try to eke out a similar spot, but if you want to see for yourself, you'll have to get your wallet out.