After eight years and a hard reboot, Final Fantasy XIV has shattered its own concurrent player records in the past few weeks alone, welcomed too many new players for the servers to handle, and even temporarily sold out of digital keys. And there’s a good chance its sudden surge in popularity is all down to one person: Popular World of Warcraft streamer Asmongold — and the legion of fans he unwittingly commands.
For years he had scoffed at the game — his love of MMORPGs and adventure tainted by “weebs” and catgirls. Then, spurred on by a bunch of other WoW personalities leaving his favorite game during its longest content drought in 17 years and a misleading article claiming Final Fantasy XIV had taken the crown of its rival, he finally decided to stroll over to the other side. As did thousands of others. And both games are better for it.
Final Fantasy XIV‘s meteoric rise in popularity could have happened years ago, even back when it launched in 2013. For years, Asmongold has been one of — if not the — most popular World of Warcraft content creators around. A devoted player from the game’s launch back in 2004, he has limitless stories to tell about his time playing and growing up alongside Blizzard’s genre-defining MMO, from having his mom help him farm a rare mount to his entire guild finding out that they were all being played by the same girl. His relatable tales and the knowledge of the genre’s epic highs and disappointing lows have helped hold his stream high atop the charts, appealing to nostalgic MMO veterans and those with less time or skill who live vicariously through his on-screen adventures.
Leading up to the big day, streams and VoDs of Asmongold picking out his future race, class, weapon, and mount through the videos of other content creators helped build up hype. Throughout the now month-long saga, he’s had his best month to date. According to a 30-day metric view on Twitch Tracker, Asmongold has gained 55% more average viewers, almost doubled his hours watched, pulled in almost triple his average follower count, and hit his all-time highest concurrent paid subscriber count. By uniting the player base of the two biggest MMORPGs around, he managed to shatter his peak viewer count by a whopping 60% as well.
With the timing and a quick look at Google Trends, it’s even easy to suggest he is single-handedly behind search interest in Final Fantasy XIV, officially surpassing World of Warcraft for the first time ever. After years and years of wandering over Azeroth on stream, his journey over to Eorzea was a massive departure. That caught media attention, spawned headlines, reactions, and predictions around the internet, and ultimately sowed the seeds of Final Fantasy XIV‘s unpredictable rise.
His vast MMO clout, paired with his preconditioned disdain for the game, struck fear into the denizens of Final Fantasy XIV before he’d even created his account. While the masses were thrilled to see him finally try World of Warcraft’s closest rival in its 17-year history, others were afraid that he’d slam its known sluggish start in front of a massive audience or bring a chunk of Blizzard’s less desirable player base upon the comparatively innocent and friendly atmosphere of Square Enix’s own.
Even as a person who understands Asmongold’s crude brand of humor and erratic on-screen persona, I was scared about how he’d react. I was genuinely afraid that he’d play one of my favorite games of all time for a few hours and walk away as soon as he realized how long it takes to get to any genuinely challenging content, bad-mouthing every aspect of it and alienating the masses that echo his opinions. Multiple expansions and years of changes and additions have made anything but the most recent bosses of Final Fantasy XIV, for the established MMO player, at least, a cakewalk. Shorted leveling paths equate to unbalanced stats and equipment that dilute the challenge of dungeons and quests that used to be memorable struggles when they were first introduced.
But many, including myself, forgot a key part of the equation. Asmongold has seen it all. He has lived through World of Warcraft’s worst. Many times. Final Fantasy XIV’s admittedly rough opening experience was no match for him. And while Eorzea’s bullies tried to scare him off, he blissfully ignored them all and fell in love with the cast of characters and the gorgeous world around him like so many others already had. His constant mispronunciation of key places and people, whether accidental or carefully carried on for the sake of audience engagement, made for a stream that was hard to turn off even seven hours in. And now he’s championing the game’s growth by streaming the early content that didn’t get the Twitch love back when it first released.
By accidentally leveraging his own popularity, Asmongold has given over 100,000 people a taste of what Final Fantasy XIV was like when it launched eight years ago. It’s a side of the game a massive chunk of the current player base likely didn’t experience the way it was originally designed. Years of new classes, alterations, and stat changes have made most of the game’s raid content before the current expansion far less challenging than they once were. Although there’s a way to crudely balance things out with the “minimum item level” toggle, it was incredibly rare for the average player to find anyone willing to treat old fights like new challenges. The rewards are useless by today’s standards, and its fashionable gear can be obtained without syncing down to face the challenge. But everybody wanted to play with the king.
His group filled instantaneously, and over the course of the next week, the same few would come back to run through the hardest content the base game had to offer. That gave Asmongold a Final Fantasy XIV introduction virtually no new player outside of launch day has experienced the way it was intended. He could have spiced things up by running with a team of other newcomers that followed in his wake, but by pairing up with veterans, he made his own skill the lowest common denominator in the group’s success. He proved to his haters that he was up to the task while providing his viewers with the constant thrill of progressing through the game’s difficult and often ignored content.
He’s living the Warrior of Light’s best life, and over 100,000 people have been along for the ride.
Room for two
There’s no reason for anyone on either side of the coin to get upset about one of the genre’s most prolific and influential streamers trying out the competition. He does it all the time. As someone who played World of Warcraft at its best and worst, just like him, I know that he’s genuine when he says he’ll never quit the game. Because it’s exactly what I do, too. Anyone with those kinds of memories will always flock back to see what’s new with their old favorite. It’s a lifetime investment that can’t just be kicked to the curb by the arrival of another good game.
A big part of Final Fantasy XIV‘s slow and steady rise stems from positive word of mouth. It’s likely how it eventually caught Asmongold’s attention as something that might be worthy of his gaze. Though it has a slow start and takes dozens of hours to get through, Final Fantasy XIV‘s delicately spun, award-winning storyline is told through an easily accessible main campaign — not unlike the average single-player title. It’s a hook that, alongside the game’s generous and meme-able free trial, is easy for players to dangle in front of anyone looking for a new adventure.
On the other end is World of Warcraft‘s sporadic campaign told through numerous games, books, comics, and disjointed cinematics — most of which are locked behind a comparatively selfish free trial and expansions its new leveling system makes completely redundant. Both have their problems, and that’s exactly why having a champion of the latter directly compare the two can only be a good thing.
Despite countless attempts, promises, and predictions, it has taken 17 years for another game to come even remotely close to World of Warcraft‘s popularity. The fact that one is on the cusp of taking the other’s crown won’t mean the death of a classic but a friendly rivalry between the two that will spur each into building on their strengths and fixing their weaknesses.
Asmongold getting a taste of a genuinely exciting competitor to the game that birthed his streaming career isn’t going to end one or the other; it will make them both as great as they can be.
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