FF14 Subscription Number Speculation

How many active subs does Final Fantasy 14 have? More than WoW?

The answer to the latter question is “lol no,” but the former is a bit trickier. The official word circa July 2015 was the following:

During today’s Japan Expo, Final Fantasy XIV Producer Naoki Yoshida shared that the game has accumulated a total of five million paid subscribers during its 21 months on the market.

To be clear, the current subscriber count hasn’t been announced, nor has Square Enix ever shared this figure. The five million subscriber total doesn’t include trial accounts, and only those who have at one time or another paid the $12.99/$14.99 monthly fee making it a substantial feat.

Estimates place FFXIV at around 800,000 to 1.2 million subscribers after a one million subscriber bump from February’s announced total of four million, averaging at around 9,000 new players per day over four months. Significant post-launch updates and the arrival of Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward have been key components to recent growth

An embarrassingly large number of people have taken the “5 million registered accounts” news to mean 5 million active subs, but that does not pass the smell test. Which smell test? The March 2015 yearly report smell test (PDF):

The graph above shows that all Square Enix MMOs generated around 6 billion yen on a quarterly basis, or roughly $49 million. If we assume that 100% of those dollars came from FF14 subs at the $12.99 price-point, that would put the sub numbers at $49m / 3 / 12.99 = ~1.25 million subs.

We can be more charitable in our calculations, if we wish. Let’s take the yen/dollar exchange rate from back in 2014, so 6 billion yen is now… erm, way less than $49m. Nevermind.

Okay, let’s assume that the chart actually refers to 2014 sales (or projected 2015 sales) instead of what it’s labeled as. We know that FF14 had 4 million registered accounts in February 2015, followed by 5 million in August 2015. Looks like it also had 2.5 million in December 2014. That amount of box sales + 2nd month sub fees is nothing to sneeze at, especially 1.5 million over the holiday season. Assuming a 100% retention rate, if we add the 2.5 million to what we have already established, we get 3.75m subs, which is the closest any MMORPG has ever gotten to WoW.

Of course, that’s all a bit silly.

What we know from other sources, is that there are 408k characters (not players) at the highest level cap in the five months since the expansion was released; the number of level 50+ characters stands at 1.3m. Maybe FF14 takes people longer to level through, sure, fine. So lets now assume that the chart we used before speaks about all of Square Enix’s MMOs and not just FF14, and the fact that it includes box sales, so whatever FF14’s portion of those numbers actually is, is reduced again.

Still think FF14 has 5 million active subs? Half that? Even a third?

There is every indication that FF14 is a great MMO, and I expect that it is. What I do not expect is for the Square Enix 2016 report to show even 2 million active subscriptions throughout this year.

We’ll have a better idea around this coming March, I suppose.

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Posted on December 17, 2015, in Commentary and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Math and logic have no place in hyperbole! :)

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  2. There is always that issue with sub games vs accounts vs non-sub MMOs that only ever count (active) accounts. How do you compare FFXIV and GW2 this year for example? The latter has boasted 7mio or so accounts for HoT? What does that mean?

    If best-of-year player polls on sites like MassivelyOP are any indication, what’s for sure is that FFXIV is still much less widely adopted than GW2. I marvelled at their best expansion poll yesterday, where HoT is a clear winner over HW (422 vs 220 votes) which objectively speaking is a complete joke. Scan the comments and you’ll read “HoT looked pretty and umm raids” over and over, whereas HW is an expansion so packed on various content, it could be called an entirely new MMO……but there aren’t nearly as many players in FFXIV as GW2, hence the poll result. Much harder to jump into FFXIV than GW2.

    So yes, I highly doubt FFXIV has more than 2mio active subs if that. Not that it matters to me, best MMO I played all year.

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    • Yeah, my musings on the actual subscription numbers is solely an academic exercise. I fully expect it to be as good as everyone says it is, for when I actually start playing (I bought the box months ago).

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  3. First, the only official thing from the quote is the 5m paid subscribers number, everything after that is speculation from the Gamerevolution author, including the 800-1.2m part. Important part: that statement was made in July 2015.

    Second, the only hard numbers from the graph are for 2014 (it is, after all, a 2014 end of year report). So after a disaster of a start with v1.0, including all of the free time they gave everyone, 2.0 (ARR) was released to a somewhat tepid response (hard to get out of the 1.0 disaster shadow, plus all 1.0 players already had the game so no new box sales off them) mid 2014. We know that today, FFXIV is very highly regarded, has a TON of servers that are often full, and its expansion was a huge hit. All of the sub numbers math you did is pointless for 2015, because you are using 2014 numbers and Reddit ‘math’.

    When they release the 2015 numbers, that chart is going to look a lot different than what they predicted for 2015 in the above chart, and then we can go around and around with all of this once again.

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    • Just so it’s clear: 5 million active subs at the highest price-point is $74.95 million/month, or $224.85 million per quarter. In yen, that’s ~27.6 billion yen per quarter. Do you expect to see next year’s Square Enix investor report to show a graph going from 6 billion yen to almost five times as much? Because that’s what has to happen for those sub numbers to exist. Anything less, including Square Enix rolling box sales into those figures (which they already do) means less than 5 million active subs.

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      • Not all regions pay $12 or so per month, so again your math starting point isn’t correct, but lets see what the graph for 2015 looks like. I think we can all agree FFXIV has more subs today than it had in 2014, right? So if that graph is something useful for estimating subs, it should show a sizable increase in 2015, with an especially large bump in the quarter the expansion was released.

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  4. The easy logic here is that if FFXIV had 5 million current subscribers, Square would not hesitate to say exactly that in the clearest terms possible. No “registered account” foolishness, no “5 million total subscribers” runaround, just a flat “game currently has 5 million subscribers” possibly followed by a “suck on that other MMOs!”

    For what it’s worth, I don’t think it’s FFXIV’s “fault” that it doesn’t have as many subscribers as WoW or whatever. MMORPGs are just out of vogue these days. Games like MOBAs and online shooters give everyone what they like from MMOs without all the tedious grinding and trying to keep up with the joneses that comes along with it.

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  5. The problem with MMO subscription numbers is that it is a highly emotive topic.

    Growing volumes of subscribers mean that your MMO is good/improving. Declining subscribers mean that it is bad/getting worse. If you’ve invested in a game that is bad, what does that say about your judgement? Is your opinion even valid?

    This is why you will see posts by well known Bloggers with heavy dose of cognitive dissonance:

    1) Game X is better than Game Y. It’s not just me that thinks that – the proof is in the numbers!

    2) Game Z is better than Game Y. Yes, it may be a smaller game but subscriber numbers don’t tell the full story. Otherwise Candy Crush would be the best game of all time!

    As I’ve said before, what really interests me is your ‘Lost Bodies’ theory. Where are these FF14 subscribers coming from? My guess is WoW players waiting for Legion, not Dota/LoL players seeking something different. If that is the case, the MMO genre is still in decline which will have repercussions for everyone that likes this kind of game. There is a reason why Blizzard are launching TF2 rather than Borderlands-Online (Which what I presume Titan was due to be).

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