Did the Extended Free Trial Hurt FFXIV?

Allowed to play for free, angry gamers sparked a month of chaos in the online community.

Despite the unfinished state of the game, one of the biggest problems with Final Fantasy XIV has nothing to do with the game itself.

Flaming and bickering engulfed the community fan sites shortly after launch day. Many people who were upset with the game used the forums to vent their frustrations. Speaking in defense of the game meant being in denial of the truth. Many wars of words ensued, none of it contributing to the quality of the Final Fantasy XIV community.

Square Enix responded to the anger of its fans by extending the 30-day free trial period for Final Fantasy XIV. By giving players another free month, the folks at SE probably figured they stood a better chance of retaining users until the upcoming version updates. At the time, I praised Square Enix for acting so decisively to retain its playerbase. Seemed like a no-brainer. To a large degree, it still seemed like the right thing to do.

However, if the folks at SE could leap into a cavernous maw and go back in time, I wonder if they’d do the same thing again.

Discuss this in the ZAM forums.

Consider this: one of the strengths of Final Fantasy XI was the game’s tight-knit community, both in and out of the game. The ZAM FFXI General Forum was always a great place to discuss the game’s most relevant issues. Over time, the community adopted social norms which were, for the most part, beneficial to almost everyone who visited the forums. Over-the-top rants, dead-horse threads and “FFXI is Dying!” threads were rarely tolerated.

A large MMO needs that kind of community in order to be successful. Having a positive, tight-knit community means people will be happier while playing their game. Happy customers create a more positive buzz, which brings in new subscribers, which creates an environment in which the professional reviewers might highlight the good instead of the bad.

And this is why I’m second-guessing Square Enix’s decision to extend FFXIV’s free trial.

The game’s online community was already deeply fractured when the extension notice was issued, and the move did little to restore faith in Square Enix. In fact, many people intensified their criticism of SE, accusing the company of trying to buy back their affection while turning a deaf ear to their concerns. Never mind the fact that Square Enix had just announced its plans to revamp the game by the end of the year; many players were simply too enraged to give Square Enix any credit.

The mood of the FFXIV community has only gotten worse since then. Fewer productive and insightful threads have been appearing in the forums. The number of rant threads spiked. Those who dared to praise Square Enix or FFXIV were often belittled, flamed and karma bombed. Not surprisingly, the number of players logging into the game has also declined. Many players are sitting on the sidelines waiting for the game to be improved, but I'm certain there are others who simply feel turned off by the negativity surrounding the game.

This kind of behavior would have never been allowed in the FFXI forums, but that’s because Final Fantasy XI wasn’t populated by players who hated playing the game.

There are thousands of gamers who are having fun playing Final Fantasy XIV. I know this because each server has anywhere from 800 to 1,200 people logged into it at any given time. However, many of those players hate the game in its current state – some of them will never enjoy the game regardless of what Square Enix does.

How many times in the past few weeks have you read this in the forums: “I’m only here until the free trial period is over. I’m not going to pay any money to play this awful, embarrassing, unmitigated disaster of a game.”

And how many times have you seen this response: “If you hate the game that much, then why are you still here?”

The answer, of course, is because Square Enix is letting them play for free.

Final Fantasy XIV would have lost some subscribers had Square Enix not extended the free trial period. However, wouldn’t those cancellations have come from the people who dislike the game the most? Aren’t those the people who are most responsible for the hostile, unstable attitude that has permeated the forums? And what would the state of the game’s online community be like if those people had been gone for the past three weeks?

I can’t help but think that we’d all feel better about where FFXIV is going, and that we’d be having more positive discussions about the unique and entertaining aspects of the game. We’d be excited instead of tentative about the upcoming version updates. And maybe, just maybe, a more nurturing attitude offline might have translated to a more enjoyable experience online.

I would like to think Square Enix did the right thing by extending the free trial period. It was a classy move that should have resonated with players. Instead, the collective playerbase snatched SE’s olive branch and beat the company over the head with it, using the extended trial period as a deadline for SE to fix everything, or else.

Regardless of whether the move was good or bad, the free trial period is about to end, according to the warning emails recently sent by SE. If the extended trial did directly contribute to problems, then those problems are about to work themselves out.

But the damage may already be done.



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Posted in wrong area
# Nov 20 2010 at 10:14 PM Rating: Good
339 posts
- edited to remove post -

Edited, Nov 20th 2010 11:20pm by HalfLight
Fantasy Earth Zero: Part II
# Nov 17 2010 at 1:03 AM Rating: Decent
438 posts
Welcome to the 2nd extension on your free play. That's right, this is the "covering my *** with the stockholders" CEO edition, and you can expect to see the "selling the game off to a f2p company" sometime next year if it fails.

Don't say you didn't see it coming!
Probably the target of the free trials
# Nov 16 2010 at 9:54 AM Rating: Decent
37 posts
I'm one of those people that will only play the game (in it's current state) for as long as it's free. At least until SE shows me that those updates.

In that sense I think the free trials are mandatory for the people that are divided on the game. I WANT to like the game. I really do. But it's a love/hate relationship that can change any second because of the various glitches/missing elements in the game.

I'm glad they extended the free trial yet again. I'm looking forward to the update late this month. Hopefully these updates will be just the thing to lure me into paying.

Edited, Nov 16th 2010 5:23pm by Enelia
Nope. Extending the free trial was still a good idea.
# Nov 16 2010 at 2:36 AM Rating: Decent
I actually still think the extended free trial was a good idea, as I don't think the flames would have subsided at all had SE left it alone.

Besides, even angry, negative posts can still serve a productive purpose in that they let SE know exactly how many people feel about the game, which in turn should spur SE to make improvements to the game.

Also, I like that I'm getting 60 days of free playtime instead of just 30. :P

Edited, Nov 16th 2010 3:39am by Rhianu
waiting on my hate mail lol :)
# Nov 16 2010 at 1:58 AM Rating: Decent
I will be continuing to play. People need to realize that being able to play before the game is done is a blessing. Think about it SE is willing to listen to improve the game in the ways "we" want it. Like a child its being molded to our wants and they're compensating us for it. Unfortunately people have become so lazy and inpatient that everything has to be perfect instantly if not they grab the torches and pitchforks and start a mob. I hope anyone that reads this will step back and look at the bigger picture but i doubt it.
waiting on my hate mail lol :)
# Nov 16 2010 at 8:33 AM Rating: Good
24 posts
If they deliver on those updates slated for the end of this month and next, you will notice a huge difference in the community and with morale overall.

Bring those awesome updates SE and let FFXIV flourish!
Good riddance to bad rubbish
# Nov 16 2010 at 1:23 AM Rating: Decent
676 posts
The sooner the monthly fee kicks in the sooner we can get the forums to being a more pleasant place to be. Granted, there will still be non-subscribers who cling onto the forums and continue to complain, and there will be subscribers who continue to complain, but the bulk of them will likely leave.

I'm not saying complaining is a bad thing, especially given the issues the game has to overcome, but most of them are just regurgitated issues that everyone already knows about, adding little to nothing to the subject.

I'm continuing my subscription and I look forward to seeing what the updates bring to the game. Unfortunately, it could be make or break for SE. They might never recover from the bad press surrounding this game, no matter how great future updates are, simply because the community won't let sleeping dogs lie. I hope that isn't the case.

How can I remain so optimistic about the future? Simple. FFXI was an incredible game. Not flawless, but still a well polished gemstone in comparison to rival MMOs. This is the same company and the foundations are in place for something far greater than we have experienced so far. The polish is lacking, but its the foundations which make or break a game. Even the most well polished game gets boring if it has weak gaming foundations. FFXIV has strong roots and this will keep it growing.

I only hope the community grows strong with it.
FFXIV, present, past, and future.
# Nov 16 2010 at 12:57 AM Rating: Excellent
24 posts
SE made the decision to extend the trial period because they "agreed" that the current state of the game wasn't up to par. But I guess they wrote the check for an approximate amount summing up to about 500 thousand dollars.

I get your point about those who come in here and state they are leaving, etc., but I don't understand why if it wasn't tolerated before, why is it suddenly okay now? I would assume that it is because of the sheer magnitude of issues, and those who paid in the upwards of $100 dollars to essentially help finish a beta test. Is the game not fun? Not at all. There are quite a few things to do in this game, but like many have mentioned before, there are just so many fundamental flaws that it leads one to think what was going on in beta.

I think if everyone just took a step back and actually listened for a moment instead of going 'fanboi crazy' or 'omg FFXIV gonna fail", then something more constructive might happen. Unfortunately, this game has only a left and a right for the most part. Of course, I am a long time Squaresoft fan, I want this game to succeed as well. But this community will only truly improve once SE delivers on some of these promised updates.

Perhaps if money was easier to come by in this failing economy, maybe it wouldn't have stung so much. Or perhaps not having to get a third party involved in billing it could have been easier. But with money being so tight, and the holiday season approaching, SE will need to deliver, and deliver swiftly they must.

Don't confuse me with someone who wants the game to fail. I want it too succeed as much as the next person, but I also like honesty and fairness across both sides of this story. Because it is the people who vote with their dollars that will make this game either be a great success, or just another small MMO. And trust me, I know there are people who are fine with that, but this game has much more potential, and I think the decision by SE to extend the trial period was a testament to that end.

Edited, Nov 16th 2010 2:00am by Mathias2k
Damage done, indeed.
# Nov 16 2010 at 12:19 AM Rating: Good
34 posts
To be honest, the free trial extension did seem like a deadline, nothing more, nothing less. What I mean is, we will be paying a month's subscription right when the update goes out, not knowing if it'll truly be that great. If anything, it would have been nice to get an extra free week or two AFTER the update goes out. Players would then have a chance to try it out and consider staying.

Well, my girlfriend and I cancelled our accounts today. We'll give it some months, then check back to see how things in the game are. Perhaps on the PS3 release. In the meantime, good luck, Square Enix and have fun, Eorzeans! See you in the future, hopefully!

EDIT: Funny how the free trial period is extended an extra month the day after this post, lol. Even then, I'm not sure of going back just yet...

Edited, Nov 17th 2010 2:14am by Ezinel
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