Rationalizing FFXIV: A Realm Reborn's Subscription Model

Among the slew of free to play games, FFXIV:ARR's director explains the decision to stick with a sub.

While many MMOs make the conversion to free to play, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn has made a bold (some would say foolish) decision to launch with the traditional subscription based model. Like a few other big box titles, such as World of Warcraft, FFXIV:ARR will cost $14.99 month to month, $42 for three months ($13.99/mo), or $78 for six months ($12.99/mo). Albeit a bit traditionalist, such pricing has proved to be tried a true. 

How "Tried and True" can Subs be if so Many Games are going Free to Play?

Well, according to FFXIV:ARR's game director and producer, Naoki Yoshida, choosing between a fee to play model and a subscription model comes down to where a studio's money is coming from.

When Money comes from the Outside

Simply put, the size of a game development studio directly affects how that studio gets its money. For example, a smaller, lesser known studio, will require the help of outside sources to develop their game. Until the recent Kickstarter revolution, the traditional method of obtaining money for a game was through investors. In this traditional system, investors put up their personal money with the intention that the money will be returned to them.

Here we see the common investor, celebrating his recent success.

So what does this mean for the studio that has decided to team up with investors? Well, it means the company needs to fulfill their agreement to pay back their investors. It is this, the need to repay, that often drives companies to a free to play model. As Yoshida put it in his interview with Venturebeat:

"If your game gets a lot of users and a lot of subscriptions right away, your investors will be happy and you can pay them. But what happens if you don’t hit that number right away?"

Well what happens is, staff doesn't get paid, content isn't created, but most pressing, investors are expecting returns. Yoshida explains an option:

"One option to get instant money is free-to-play, or selling these items. To get that money so you can pay off your staff, pay off your investors, and start making new content, switching to free-to-play, selling items, and using that money is one way to do it."

So there you have it: games like SWTOR and Rift chose to make the switch to free to play, because their subscriptions were not pulling in the revenues expected. Switching to a free to play model allows for a quick and large burst of revenue!

When Money Comes from the Inside

Now, this method of funding is rather rare. According to Yoshida, only Square Enix and Blizzard fund their MMOs with their own money. So, what does this mean? This means there is a more stable income, staff doesn't have to worry about not getting paid, and there are no investors expecting large returns (although there are higher level employees in the company).

Because there are no investors waiting with baited breath, games like World of Warcraft, and Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn have a bit more breathing room. Essentially, as Yoshida puts it, "as long as we're increasing the amount of people we have, then we'll get that money [cost of development, and profit] and make the players happy."

Yea...but WoW is Wow!

Now you may be saying "Sure, that makes sense, but World of Warcraft has millions of subscribers--of course they're not thinking of going free to play." While this is a valid argument, you have to think about where WoW started. Blizzard was already a successful company, with a few successful IPs, but they had never attempted an MMO.

Luckily, because World of Warcraft was an internally funded project, Blizzard had more time to work out kinks, and slowly but surely build up its enormous following which continues to sustain the game today.

What about FFXIV:ARR's Future, Will they Eventually go Free to Play?

I am not by any means saying the FFXIV:ARR will be the next World of Warcraft, and neither is Yoshida. However, Final Fantasy is one of the most recognizable franchises in video game history, with an extremely strong history of great games (with a few exceptions, FFXIV 1.0 included). Such a powerful IP is sure to draw in new players, both MMO fans, and Final Fantasy fans who've yet to try an MMO. But will IP strength alone help maintain a healthy subscriber base for FFXIV:ARR?

Yoshida seems confident that the game won't be switching to a free to play model any time soon. And why is that? Content, and lots of it. Yoshida is confident his team will be able to produce enough content to keep players happily paying their monthly subscriptions. As he put it

"Players need that new content. Not being able to provide it is fatal. If they were able to produce as much content as players wanted, then people would have stayed there. We don’t really believe it’s a problem with the business model. It’s how that’s handled."

What do You Think?

It goes without saying that the F2P vs. Subscription debate is one of the hottest topics in the MMO industry these days. Players, developers, and business analysts alike are touting the merits of both models, often very passionately. I cannot tell you how many arguments I've seen break out between my friends about which business model is better.

Therefore I ask you: Do you think Yoshida's decision to launch FFXIV:ARR is a good decision? Do you think the game will thrive on a subscription, or be forced into the free to play model like so many other AAA MMO titles? And how do you feel about the F2P debate as a whole?

As always,

Comment below, game hard, and stay safe!

Published Jun. 20th 2013
  • Michael_2473
    Don't you think it should be the opposite way around. When the money is coming from outside thats when it should be monthly, However its not that, if you dont have anyone to pay back doesn't that mean that you need less money than you did when you did have someone to pay back. Look at guild wars that was a b2p (buy to play). Once you bought it you owned it although they did have a cash shop. I absolutely believe the cash shops can bring in just as much money as a subscription price along with paying for the dlc's that come out. You should easily make enough money if not more than you would have with subscription fees. Lotro is free to play yet they still make all the money they need using the prior method. They have the cash shop and when a dlc comes out you have to pay around 30-40 dollars if not more and to this day they are still able to keep content flowing to the consumers and money flowing to the workers.
  • Allaiyah
    My gut intuition tells me that FFXIV will HAVE to switch to FTP eventually.

    Dungeons & Dragons, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Star Trek...All of these are as popular as Final Fantasy if not moreso, & none of their MMOs could stay in the subscription game. Elder Scrolls Online likely won't make it to christmas without switching to FTP.
  • Loui_4972
    I've never paid for a subscription game and this will be the first time I'm doing so for my PS4.

    As long as content keeps flowing monthly then they will have my money... Simply said, I'm paying $60 for what you already made and paying the subscription to fund your content.

    A lot of people think that a game you paid for already shouldn't charge you monthly... That's a little bogus considering the money you paid for the disc doesn't maintain the costs of running servers and creating content. In my opinion, I pay $80/$60/$40 for an MMO I love, it better damn well have a steady way to maintaining itself and my fun.

    I will always love F2P, the fact that you can try out the games with your friends easily without doubt is awesome but I can't help to think of it from the developers side, will they make ends meet? Will they be able to create content? Will they be able to even keep up the game? This of course only comes to mind with games I enjoy.

    F2P seems like a gamble you take when the game hasn't met expectations or a way to fund a game that has not been completed which will most likely limit the game to a cash shop on release and as a result could create inconsistent profit. Unless your NEXON, god of F2P and cash shops.

    The only thing that pisses me off, is that they don't have a cheaper alternative to the sub. Maybe discounts for loyal customers who have been with them for 1 year or 2? Maybe $120 a year subscription (technically $10 a month) instead of $156+ a year ($13/$15 a month). Might seem like something greedy on my part or something that does not make a difference BUT it does help keep existing customers paying and gives off attractive alternatives to subs.
  • Edward_8032
    I am not actually completely opposed to subscription fees, but I am opposed to 15 dollar a month fees. It seems to me that a more realistic figure is 5 to 10 dollars a month. Once you start talking 10+ you are talking about a serious chunk from the family budget. Also the first month should always be free on any MMO you buy. Have any of the game creators tried finding a decent job in most parts of the US right now? You find a good one and 300 people apply and they hire 2 people. Time to stop milking the consumer because the cow is out of milk!
  • Fat Gamer
    Not every game needs to cater to f2p players. I always see comments of " i don't have time to play enough to make $15 a month worth it". Well then, go play one of the hundreds of MMOs that are already f2p. There should be a few games that focus on serious gamers, there's more than enough that pander to casuals already.
  • WJ_6657
    I think that after buying the actual disk for the game it should be F2P I don't have the money to pay $15 a month on a game I don't play all that often. FF 14ARR should have premium accounts with exclusive servers for subscribers thus those who want F2P get it and those who P2P get it too.
  • chrismetzen
    Coz WoW is running out of ideas... old engine, recycled bosses, recycled areas, lore that is not interesting anymore. Face it blizzard is loosing their touch. All they said was "stick with us and it will make sense". I've been loyal for 8 years I guess it's time to let it go. Ghostcrawler left blizz, maybe he knows something that we don't. The community is getting worse too. Lots of elitist jerks. After paying to watch blizzcon and seeing Warlords of Draenor... killing Garrosh was my final nail in my wow days.
  • someone_3105
    why would i want to pay to play a game like this when i can pay the same amount and play wow witch is 100 times face it wow is the game giant of the mmo world and it always will be
  • dragxis
    I don't think it's all that great that ps4 gamers are going have to be paying internet as well as ps plus membership ( which is required to play online ) as well as the ffxiv fee i think they are going to lose a lot of
  • Tsumuri
    I much prefer the F2P model, as I don't always have a lot of time to play, though sometimes I have more time, but really the issue is when I KNOW that I'm putting another $15 toward a game regardless of if I have time for it right now, I hate that feeling. I'm not saying I enjoy the way most games nickle and dime you for every single tiny thing, but there are also games like Guild Wars 2 where you buy then game, and then there are nice things you can get from their market that don't imbalance the game and still make it worthwhile to drop some money into it If I want.
  • Jay _3869
    my opinion on this is very simple in my experience playing mmo's coming from games like wow and lineage. playing games like silk road online, i personally feel that it's better to pay for the monthly sub. why very simple i like the feel that if i earn it because of the time i put into the game to earn it. i personally think when you pay for certain things it takes away from the attraction of the game, what i feel most is missing is that sense of accomplishment when you get a piece gear. it's nice to know that when people inspect your hard work, and see the time that you put into a game, and not think that you bought it, but again that is my opinion on p2p and f2p
  • Krisgard
    I've found that MMO's that begin as F2P attract very immature, idiotic, vulgar players. They also tend to have little interest in socializing or forming friendships (which makes for terrible guilds). Not to mention F2P attracts a lot of "gold sellers" and their chat spam.

    My experience with MMO's that begin as monthly subs, has always been positive.
  • Spr1nk3ls
    Featured Contributor
    After playing NW, I would rather pay 14.99 per month. I ended up dropping 100$ the first month between buying the founders pack, bags and repecs. I've spent additional money to open more slots for my characters, vanity items and companions etc. All in all I have prolly spent more money in 1-2 months at NW than I would have collectively for several months sub.
  • GabrielKross
    Featured Columnist
    To be honest, I'm actually glad it will be P2P. I've seen first hand the degradation of games once they go F2P. Tera Online's quality went downhill once the game went F2P. I'd rather not see that happen with FFXIV.
  • Krisgard
    True, but I wouldn't use TERA as an example of this as the community was already "notorious" for being bad lol. I'm a huge fan of Korean art style, namely with the aesthetics of racial models, so I was willing to forgive a lot.
  • GabrielKross
    Featured Columnist
    well the community isn't the reason the quality of the game went bad.
  • iboshi_7735
    I actually played Tera a lot when the game was P2P...The community on the server that I played on was a great and amazing community...And it honestly DID get worse when it became F2P...it held it's ground for about 2 months...but after that...It didn't seem worth it to play...I think when you have to pay for a game..you feel the need to EARN that $15 that you spend on it...make the best with the time you have on it.

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