As a longtime player of Final Fantasy XI, and active subscriber of both it and Final Fantasy XIV, it’s refreshing to read these comments from Yoshida. It’s clear that he gets the current state of both of those games, and selfishly, it’s good to hear that I don’t need to worry about FFXI shutting down anytime soon. He mentions in the full response that there are patches on the way, and if you’ve been following FFXI, you know that the game has consistently received plenty of updates and even new content over the last few years.
Final Fantasy XI has stayed alive for this long, despite the existence of Final Fantasy XIV, because they are so distinct from one another, FFXIV isn’t able to cannibalize FFXI’s player base. When Final Fantasy XIV and eventually its relaunched edition, A Realm Reborn, released there were mass migrations of players that wanted to just play the latest, and most supported Square Enix MMORPG. Years later though as of 2018, both populations seem stable and separate. While Final Fantasy XI still probably attracts some new players interested in playing an old-school style MMORPG, most players are either returning, or never left, and it’s primarily because of the last thing that Yoshida mentioned in his answer: Vana’diel is full of memories.
There’s a connection that hardcore Final Fantasy XI players have with Vana’diel that has not been easily replicated in other MMORPGs, especially modern ones. FFXI in its early years – and even still today to a lesser extent – was harsh, unforgiving, and incredibly reliant on group play.
If you didn’t have a Linkshell (AKA: clan), or weren’t willing to work hard to put groups together to accomplish things in-game, you were pretty much out of luck. If you stuck with it for years though, you very likely made lifelong friendships. It was almost unavoidable. Even though almost all of them don’t play FFXI anymore, I still keep in touch with a lot of my old Linkshell buddies. Also, because Final Fantasy XI was such a struggle at times, every little victory you had whether it was completing a mission, unlocking a new area, or defeating a difficult boss with your friends, felt like such a meaningful accomplishment, and the memory is seared into your brain.
I still pay for a subscription even though I hardly.play XI. Just being able to log in and pick up where I left off is worth it to me. I’m almost sure I’ll pay for a sub until it’s dead. Right there with you, I wish to support the game so while I can afford it I keep my sub alive even when I’m taking a break. My favorite thing about FFXI is that it doesn’t have to depend on other Final Fantasy Titles to make it’s story so good. I feel like half of FFXIV is it’s references and easter eggs towards the other titles. XI is/was top notch on it’s own merits in so many ways.
Because what we’re getting out of XI isn’t the same thing at all. XIV is a really lovely theme park MMO with a ton of fan service. The set pieces and the music are absolutely the best in the entire genre. FFXI is an old MMO that has rough edges and never got the benefit of continued improvement like other older MMOs. Like we still have the terrible PlayOnline launcher, the graphics were never updated from DX8.1 so they perform badly and look worse, the patching process is based around 2002 pre-broadband ideas, etc. But XI has a better core design, I think. There’s a ton of relevant content and a horizontal progression that doesn’t mirror any modern MMO. The world isn’t just pretty scenery. It’s put together with forethought instead of the many places in XIV where things feel kinda thrown together. The story is higher quality in general, particular CoP, WotG, and Rhapsodies; although Heavensward story was great a lot of the MSQ in FFXIV were trash. Classes have strong differentiation and instead of the usual trilogy with interchangeable flat classes you have a design that is about class synergy. Rarely are you limited to one single strategy to for progression.
I played FFXIV 1.0 and it’s amazing how the game has progressed since then. I applaud Square-Enix but they would have to at the very least fix class design and make changes to progression for me to come back to it (I quit right after Stormblood came out). I’ll probably continue to play XI, taking breaks now and again. The horizontal progression model is just better than the endless treadmill of vertical progression. Also, the current design of XI, with Trust magic and the solo viability of certain classes, makes it so that I’ve always got something to do. So it continues to be engaging.