Square-Enix, the storied Japanese video game publisher behind Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, is undergoing a metamorphosis. After years of losses, CEO Yoichi Wada has been relieved of his post and the company is undergoing a far-reaching reorganization and re-evaluation of its business. Games are getting cancelled, and big ticket items like Tomb Raider are missing sales expectations. In all of Square’s investor briefings, though, one game is never mentioned: Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. This remake of 2010 MMO Final Fantasy XIV has been in production for nearly 2.5 years after the initial release caused the company to incur a $150 million loss. Now, the game is one step closer to actually earning some money.
Square-Enix announced on Friday that Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn has entered the second stage of beta testing on schedule. In December, Square revealed a road map for the game’s 2013 release. The first phase of beta testing, with PC players helping to balance the game, has been completed. This new stage will broaden the scope of testing significantly, trying to determine the best controls for the game while also testing the proposed PlayStation 3 version of the game.
To demonstrate just what a drain on the company’s resources Final Fantasy XIV has been, note that the PlayStation 3 version of the game was supposed to release at the end of 2010. When the initial PC release was such a resounding failure, though, Square recoiled, repositioning almost all of its Japanese console and PC game developers onto the game to try and fast-track its redesign. If the game stays on its current beta testing schedule, it will be released more than three years after it went into development, and more than three years after it was supposed to start earning revenue for Square-Enix. It will also release on the PlayStation 3 right as Sony begins its transition to the PlayStation 4, relegating that release to a niche audience.
When Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is finally released, it will be a rare game. Square has repeatedly said that it will not come out as a free-to-play game, but as a monthly subscription game. Of the major MMOs released in 2012 that came out with subscriptions, including Tera Online, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and The Secret World, all have switched to free-to-play to actually maintain an audience and earn money.
If Square-Enix is forced to close at some point in the coming decade, Final Fantasy XIV will be one of the ultimate causes.