Back in July I talked about how Final Fantasy XIV was going F2Pish. The official date had come and gone since then, and I promptly forgot about the entire thing. Then I recently got an email from Square Enix:
Oh, a whole four days of playing free. This sort of shit seems pretty quaint in 2020. “But wait a minute,” I thought. “Can’t I play for free up to level 60 and into the second expansion for as long as I want?”
Indeed, the bottom of the ad:
So, I have full access to the Heavensward expansion “as an owner of A Realm Reborn.” But only if I pay for a subscription. Alternatively, I could create a new account and have that same access indefinitely for free. Hmm.
It’s not quite the same thing, of course. The free trial has a bunch of limitations that come with the gold-spam prevention territory: no /Yell, no Tells, can’t invite people to a party, can’t access the AH, etc. There is also a 300k gil-cap, which is hard to determine whether it would be stifling or not without having played the game since 2017.
But what does not make any sense whatsoever is why previously-subscribed members cannot take advantage of the expanded free trial with their lapsed accounts. I have to imagine that players who log back in after several years would be more likely to stick around and be tempted to re-subscribe if they could use their existing characters. Square cannot be worried about bots or spam, as lapsed players have already paid money. And even if these old accounts were hacked or whatever, just ban them like you would any other account.
In any case, I was looking at starting a new FF14 account via Steam just for ease of use. Unfortunately, the store page for FF14 only included a paid version that “comes with a month subscription.” So, it’s not a free trial at all for people conned into trying the game via Steam. Unless the Download Demo button actually does it?
I would typically perform some additional investigative journalism, but I was already downloading the Free Trial via the “normal” route and got lazy.
We’ll have to see how things shake out. I am recently back from a two-week staycation that was supposed to be filled with gaming, but instead was filled with flooring. As in, ripping up carpet and putting down LVP. I was hoping that between Fallout 76 and Genshin Impact (perhaps a future post) I would be able to resist the siren call of a new WoW expansion. FFXIV would be some extra insurance.
Then again, sometimes substitutes just make you want the original that much more.
The details are sketchy at the moment, but it does appear that GW2 will have the same sort of account restrictions that Final Fantasy 14 had when it made a similar move back in 2014. Specifically, you will NOT be able to migrate your existing GW2 account to Steam, and you will likely be locked into the Steam ecosystem if you do end up spending any money. For example, you will need to purchase the expansions within Steam and not from other vendors or ArenaNet directly.
Speaking of expansions, ArenaNet also teased a 3rd one coming out in 2021.
But that isn’t the interesting bit though, is it? Why is GW2 coming to Steam in the first place, 8 years after its launch? Are the financials in that dire of straits?
Based on the above figures, things don’t appear too far off from their historical levels. Which, of course, is always a risk when it comes to NCSoft and their predilection to axing “just okay” titles (e.g. Wildstar, City of Heroes). If something happens to Aion, ArenaNet should start sweating.
In any case, perhaps we should not be surprised by the move to Steam. Like already mentioned, Final Fantasy 14 has been on Steam for quite some time. And if you missed it, even EA seems to have finally capitulated and are bringing over not only their hitherto walled-off Origin library, but even their EA Play subscription. At some point the math must have worked out: additional revenue from an expanded audience > Valve’s 30% (or whatever) cut on in-game purchases.
Interesting how nobody is heading to Epic… yet?
Having said that, I’m not entirely sure how successful the GW2 transition to Steam is going to be due to two systemic issues. The first is that GW2 is still using DX9, with no particular indication that it’s even possible for them to update. This is going to lead to some very negative Steam reviews (for what those are worth) for performance reasons. It’s 2020 and GW2 is still using single-thread drivers that came out in 2002.
The second is more insidious: ArenaNet’s insane Gotcha! paywalls. The Living Story updates that occur a few times a year are free… if you happen to log into the game and unlock them before the next one comes out.
Everyone else, including 100% of all Steam players, are going to face a screen like this one:
I suppose it could technically be argued that these are optional story content, but really the overarching plot in GW2 makes (even-) less sense if you are sticking just to the expansion pieces. You will be seeing completely new characters while your own character talks to them as if they have known them for years. Plus, there are certain maps and vendors thereon that make gearing up incredibly easy in comparison to the alternatives.
Steam already has a lot of “F2P” exploitative cash grab titles available, and I don’t think GW2 does itself any favors so obviously slotting itself into that crowd. But a lot can happen between now and November, so perhaps we will see a surprise bit of competence from ArenaNet. Either including the Living Seasons for free (ha) for everyone or bundling them with the expansion purchases (which should have occured from the start). We’ll just have to wait and see.
Even after repeated attempts, FF14 has never managed to hook me. Part of the reason is because I am mostly done with the MMO genre in general. Another part is that FF14 is front-loaded with dozens and dozens of hours of irredeemably bad, garbage questing. The bar is pretty low for MMO questing, sure, but when everyone pontificates on how FF14 has the greatest story of all time, the “*only after 60+ hours of terribleness” asterisk is usually missing.
Nevertheless, I had heard of plans that the devs were going to overhaul the vanilla experience to make it less of a slog. Eyebrow raised, I made a mental note and went on with my life.
Well, the time is nigh.
Patch 5.3 is slated for August 11th and it includes:
- Main Scenario Questline Update: A Realm Reborn – The A Realm Reborn main scenario questline will be reworked to give new players a more streamlined experience as they progress through the story leading to Heavensward. Additionally, players will be able to use flying mounts to take to the skies in A Realm Reborn areas upon completion of The Ultimate Weapon quest.
- Expanded Free Trial – The free trial will now allow players to enjoy unlimited playtime up through level 60 and will also include access to Heavensward content, an additional playable race (Au Ra), and an additional three playable jobs (Dark Knight, Astrologian, and Machinist).
It is difficult to get precise information regarding how “streamlined” is streamlined. I have heard estimates ranging from 13%-30% of the quests have been removed, and other non-removed quests have gotten trimmed back in terms of required items. If after all this I’m still asked to run a dungeon to collect cheese for my own banquet, then I’m going to expect some dev seppuku in the future.
One of the bigger surprises though, was the second bullet point. Square Enix is expanding the Free Trial from level 35 to level 60, and including all content of the main game and the first expansion, including the new race and classes introduced. And keep in mind this trial is not time-based. For all intents and purposes, this makes the front half of the game F2P.
As it happens though, this will only be for “new” players. If your account has ever paid money to Square Enix, you are ineligible for any such trials. Which means if I come back to FF14, I will have to abandon the characters I already leveled. From *checks calendar* 2017. Which… okay, whatever. Hopefully the skids are greased enough that I can pass through the utter tripe of the starting experience and get to the supposed good stuff and see for myself if FF14 is the second coming.
My guess is No, but I have been wrong before.