The subscription fee
Here's the thing -- I could, definitely, devote an entire column to discussing the renewal of the billing system. It stuck out in my mind when I first read it, definitely. The problem is that the column wouldn't be very interesting. When billing starts up, you'll either decide you do want to pay for access to the game or don't, and you'll make your choice based on that. Any further discussion on it is pretty much superfluous.
There was a little more discussion on the question of "why now" earlier this week, but there's also the simple fact that in many ways, the free-to-play setup was essentially a bandage. And just as you would a bandage, it's better to just decide to rip it off and do so quickly rather than let it linger. The longer Square-Enix waited to reinstate the subscription, the harder it would be when it finally came around again. After a year, that seems like a fair decision, if not necessarily a popular one.
And let's face it. We've had a year to play the game completely for free, with no price beyond the price of admission. By the time the fees are actually put into place, it will have been 13 months in total. You can make the case that it was necessary, but it was definitely unprecedented and showed a lot of goodwill on the part of the developers. If you still don't think that the game is worth a subscription, you've got the right to decline, but you've also had a free year to reach that decision. There's not a lot else to say.
Second verse, different from the first
Of course, the other big news was the announcement of version 2.0 around this time next year, which will include the PlayStation 3 client, a variety of other updates, and the wholesale revamp of the world. And to be sure, the idea of having two years of story content that players can participate in only up to this point is pretty unique and cool. It's the sort of thing that will really mark off veteran characters and give players something to look back upon as a growing experience.
It is also still firmly in the magical land of Theoryville.
The fact of the matter is that we still have virtually no clear ideas about what will be coming by the time 2.0 rolls around. We don't know whether the content leading up to it will be awesome, will suck, or will just consist of a handful of legacy quests that are ultimately irrelevant. We just know that it will exist. The revamp to the world, the changes to the UI, the large-scale implementation of a new story -- all of that is going to be hanging upon what happens in the many, many patches scheduled between now and then. If those patches continue the trend of 1.19, it's going to be awesome. If they continue the trend of 1.16, then it won't matter.
Don't get me wrong -- I'm excited about this. I like the idea of really making this something that's a limited event, something players will be running through that's not perpetual. But the devilet is in the details, and right now we don't have any of those. Reacting to the news that the PS3 version is another year off and that there will be a grand relaunch-ish deal at that time is something that's hard to do a year out.
But the roadmap...
There are some really spectacular things on the roadmap. Housing, for instance, is on there -- and anyone who reads my columns regularly knows that I absolutely adore housing. The job system seems interesting, albeit focused on large-group play which is still a bit lacking at the moment (which may change with 1.20; it remains to be seen). And I love all of the ideas on display, the hints of what we should see happening over the next year, the implication that as a roleplayer and a player in general I can tell an interesting portion of my character's story leading up to a big change in the world.
But what it's going to come down to is implementation. And while the latest patch is absolutely great, it's not a foregone conclusion. Thus far, the game has managed to keep the ideas that I like while stripping away a great deal of extraneous garbage, so I have no reall qualms about the subscription fee. That means essentially nothing, as I'm a bad litmus test for this. And there's a lot of interesting stuff on the horizon of the MMO space, ranging from Star Wars: The Old Republic to the more distant WildStar.
In short, it's going to be an interesting year. But right now, it's just a twinkle and some promises, so I'm having a more sedate reaction. Check back in a few months.
As always, feedback is welcome in the comments below or via mail to email@example.com. Next week, barring some unexpected major news once again, I'm going to take a look at what Final Fantasy XI desperately needs over the next year because we're coming close to the end of this one and it hasn't been kind.
On related notes...
If you somehow managed to miss the fact that I had an interview with Naoki Yoshida this week, well -- I had an interview with Naoki Yoshida this week. Do take a look.
Also, if you're generally here just for this column and nothing else: Aside from being a figment of my imagination, you may have missed that Matt Daniel will be taking on Final Fantasy XIV in the latest series of Choose My Adventure. I had my own run on that a few months ago, and it was pretty awesome, so do give Matt's columns a look-see. Matt is a wonderful human being, and I fully expect to be answering texted questions from him regarding the game like some sort of ersatz Eorzeapedia.
From Eorzea to Vana'diel, there is a constant: the moogles. And for analysis and opinions about the online portions of the Final Fantasy series, there is also a constant: The Mog Log. Longtime series fan Eliot Lefebvre serves up a new installment of the log every Saturday, covering almost anything related to Square-Enix's vibrant online worlds.