Wark Digest #104 - Approach the Dark Throne
Welcome back to the Wark Digest, your weekly newsletter of new developments and historical insights from the Final Fantasy universe. I’m Chris, aka Hoogathy, and there’s plenty of business to discuss this week, from the upcoming FFXIV patch, to Square Enix’s fortunes, and what’s in store for FFXI as it turns 21. (Don’t miss the amazing giveaway at the end either!)
This week’s newsletter is 1953 words, a 9-minute read.
FFXIV Patch 6.4 Arrives May 23
Naoki Yoshida’s a busy guy, but before we all fully shift into Final Fantasy XVI launch mode, he took the time to swap his producer hat for his director hat for the latest Final Fantasy XIV live letter.
What they’re saying:
As previously announced, Patch 6.4 will include (you guessed it) new main scenario quests, alongside a fresh helping of raids, dungeons, side quests, etc
Patch 6.45 will still see more “Somehow Further Hildibrand Adventures” quests, and the long-awaited level cap increase for Blue Mages
The PvP mode Frontline is getting a new UI element to show the current score and time remaining, while the Daily Challenge for it will now give Series EXP
Some minor tweaks to job actions (like Paladins’ Atonement and Dragoons’ Jump/High Jump will make them more usable/beneficial
New weapons designs were shown off, drawing from the recent fan Weapon Design Contest (including an umbrella for Blue Mages), as well as gear sets from the FFXIV team
Yoshida acknowledged that there’s a lot of big games coming out this year (not just FFXVI, but also the same new blockbuster game he was playing as the stream began), so they’ve deliberately lowered the rates for the Anabaseios Mythos Exchange, allowing players not to stress about grinding Savage-level content
The new Variant and Criterion dungeon Mount Rokkon will either scale to whatever party composition you enter it with (in the Variant version) or offer a stiff challenge in a more traditional 4-player structure (in the Criterion version)
Meanwhile a version 2.0 update for the Immerse Gamepack FFXIV Edition has been announced, which will expand the official tool’s sound library and utilize AI algorithms to smooth out its existing features
What we thought:
It’s all fairly business-as-usual, though it remains interesting to see how elements from FFIV are being adapted into Endwalker‘s stories and soundtrack (see some of them at play in the patch trailer, but be wary of spoilers!)
We have to give credit to Yoshida’s team at Creative Business Unit 3 for continuing to fine-tune elements of the game, even as it holds the tenuous top spot among MMORPGs; little tweaks like those implemented for Paladins and Dragoons in this patch can go a very long way
Also, they have the wisdom to not expect players to prioritize a difficult grind when there are several high-profile games vying for our attention
The high-level grind is where World of Warcraft burned out and wore down some of its most devoted players, so CBU3 is wise to remain flexible here
The Weapon Design Contest gear looks terrific in its official art and in-game alike—any time devoted players can have a direct influence on the game like this just feels wholesome (and maybe I’m narrow-casting here, but the Blue Mage umbrella staff gives me big The Adventure Zone: Balance vibes, and I’m here for it)
What else? Yoshida also mentioned the upcoming launch celebration for his other big project, Final Fantasy XVI. Already announced for Sunday, June 11, he compared it to these Live Letter streams for FFXIV, and reiterated that a demo is coming—there’s still no date for it, but that window is closing quickly, as we’re only 34 days away!
Squeenix Financial Report: Calm Before A Storm
Square Enix has published their financial report for the 2022-2023 fiscal year last week. Let’s break down some of the business-speak and find the nuggets of insight within, for Final Fantasy and the company as a whole. (Unless otherwise noted, the figures below represent the period from April 1, 2022 to March 31, 2023.)
By the numbers:
Overall, the theme of the financial report was “minor declines”—many departments saw overall decreases from 2021-2022, while net sales were down 6%
The “HD gaming” division reported a loss since the year’s offerings (namely Crisis Core Reunion, Forspoken, and Octopath Traveler 2) didn’t rake in cash like the previous year’s (Outriders, NieR Replicant, and Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy)
The report also admits the online gaming segment saw a decrease without a new expansion for FFXIV to bolster sales
However there was some growth, namely in publication (which eked out a small 0.5% increase) and merchandising (up 11.9%)
The “Amusement segment,” covering arcade game machines “and related products for amusement facilities,” reported a 22.9% increase in net sales
Japan represented 61.5% of their business, followed by North America with 22.1%, and Europe with 10.9%
Meanwhile CyberAgent, the studio producing Final Fantasy VII: Ever Crisis for Square Enix, shared their own financial report and alluded that its Closed Beta Test is still planned for summer 2023
Square Enix’s predictions for the next fiscal year are cautiously optimistic, aiming for about a 5% increase on this year’s net sales
What we thought:
The last couple years were good for Square Enix’s bottom line, and the 2022-2023 period was comparatively slower… so while the decreases might sound bad, they’re part of a natural ebb and flow
And let’s face it, the 2023-2024 period should be quite big for them
The Pixel Remasters console sales’ fall within this period
Final Fantasy XVI will be leading the charge alongside (potentially) FFXIV 7.0 and Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, assuming the latter two launch in that timeframe
The choice of games to highlight in the report when discussing the HD gaming sector’s losses is interesting—they admitted Forspoken had lackluster sales, but it had been out for only about 2 months by the end of the report period, and Octopath 2 for only 1 month (despite a stronger start)
Outriders, NieR, and GOTG weren’t exactly smash hits either, so it’s a strange batch of titles to point fingers at, all-around
“Amusement” is an unlikely MVP, especially since the Dissidia and Theatrhythm machines have been shut down, but remember: SE also owns Taito Inc., including the Taito Station chain of arcades across Japan (including geek-trendy neighborhoods like Shibuya and Akihabara)
Sounds like Japan’s vibrant arcade scene is recovering, which is good for SE
Funny how the most we hear about Ever Crisis tends to come from outside the company—CyberAgent’s financial reports keep the upcoming game on our radar
Did you know? Square Enix’s corporate philosophy is “to spread happiness across the globe by providing unforgettable experiences.” Almost sounds like Selphie Tilmitt was in the planning meeting on that one, huh?
Final Fantasy XI Turns XXI
Tuesday, March 16 was the 21st anniversary of Final Fantasy XI’s launch, which Square Enix observed with the requisite social media statements—the most notable of which was new producer/director Yoji Fujito’s shared remarks on the occasion. But as we nibble on the contractually-obligated birthday cake, there are two things Square Enix could (and should) do to help protect the game’s lineage.
What they’re saying:
Fresh off his promotion back in March, Fujito shared his “heartfelt gratitude” for everyone who has been “bringing life to Vana'diel all these years” on both sides of the computer screen
He also reiterated the company’s current plan for the aging MMORPG, aiming for less frequency and more substance
Fujito: “Though the amount of new content will gradually decline over time, we're cooking up some new things that should help keep you motivated to play. We'll also continue to perform maintenance on the game, so Vana'diel's not going anywhere!”
The elephant in the room:
FFXI’s future is as promising as one could hope for from a 21-year-old game that has been coasting on stale momentum for half its life… but how much longer can it really maintain a glimmer of relevance?
Playing the story requires a monthly subscription, a lot of time, and struggles with slow/under-populated servers
The game has famously stuck to its same subscription model for its entire run, which is commendable, but it’s getting harder and harder to justify paying for it monthly, especially as content slows even further
On the other side of Square Enix’s aisle, FFXIV will be getting a substantial visual upgrade for 7.0, as ARR approaches its decade milestone
If it hopes to maintain any glimmer of relevance, within the next few years FFXI needs to either a) discount its rates, or b) make an offline version (or both!)
Making a package deal with FFXIV could provide a massive influx of new players (ie. allowing existing XIV subscribers to add a discounted XI subscription to their monthly charge, or outright including XI in the XIV membership)
Admittedly, this could be a substantial undertaking, with the difference in the teams and platforms behind each MMORPG
Yet realistically, FFXIV has a massive base, and expecting diehard fans to maintain two subscriptions is equivalent to Squeenix stepping on its own toes—effectively competing with themselves
An offline version of the game’s story mode (like the mobile project co-developed by Nexon, which was canceled after years of quiet development, Versus XIII-style) would provide a welcome alternative and help preserve its plot
Square Enix set this exact precedent themselves with Dragon Quest X Offline, the online (and Japanese-only) installment of their other RPG franchise—a standalone offline version launched in Japan last fall and has performed admirably
SE also saw the value in this almost a decade ago, as they announced the ill-fated FFXI mobile title in 2015; if they thought it worth enlisting Nexon back then, why not now when the game saw a revival in 2020?
The long-running story deserves proper preservation for the day when the servers finally go down, and an opportunity for much wider audiences to experience it firsthand—and so far our best alternative is watching YouTube compilations, or meeting some of the cast in Opera Omnia
What’s next? Whether the milestone has inspired you to either start your adventures in Vana’Diel for the first time or dust off your old account, there are a couple of incentives to get into the game right now. The “Return Home to Vana’diel” discount campaign is on until May 22 for those who previously subscribed, who can earn some new and returning prizes. Meanwhile, until May 31 all players can enjoy the festivities of the “Vana’versary Celebration Campaign,” with bonus rewards from various chains, and other heightened spoils.
Around the Union
We’re upping the ante from our usual shorter trivia lists this week, with “50 Final Fantasy X Lore Details You Need to Know!”
On the shorter side, you can also check out the (potential!) connection between the worlds of FFX and FFVII in our latest short!
Lastly, we have a major opportunity for our North American followers: the chance to win a physical collector’s edition of the Final Fantasy Pixel Remasters on Switch! This copy was generously donated by Gregory, one of our Onion Knight-level Patreon supporters, and we’re looking to find it a good home! Head over to Twitter to enter for your chance to win this coveted, elusive prize (giveaway ends May 21 @ 11:59 GMT; open only to North American residents, due to shipping costs).
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Until next time, kupo!