Despite the name of its new expansion, Endwalker, Final Fantasy XIV isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, according to director Naoki “Yoshi-P” Yoshida, who sees at least five more years of new content ahead.
Yoshida spoke to the Washington Post this week about the MMORPG’s future, a project he recently called his “life’s work.” Square Enix CEO Yosuke Matsuda “is encouraging us to strive for more players and for 30 million adventurers, and he still has future plans for us,” he said. “Luckily, we don’t see any stopping in our momentum. At one point we thought maybe we might plateau, but fortunately our player base just continues to expand and grow.”
Last week Square Enix unveiled Endwalker, the fourth expansion for Final Fantasy XIV since its relaunch in August 2013, as well as details on its next content update, Patch 5.5. The new expansion will bring an end to the current storyline about the warring deities Hydaelyn and Zodiark, and a new storyline will begin.
Story is a large component of the MMORPG’s ongoing success. Yoshida revealed that planning takes place about two years in advance—he and his team of writers had finished the outline for Endwalker by October 2019. This allows for a “stable cadence” in developing the gameplay elements like new areas and instanced events like dungeons. Thinking so far ahead was crucial to getting Final Fantasy XIV back on its feet after its tepid original launch in 2010, and has helped not only maintain the game since, but drive it to become a major competitor to World of Warcraft.
“Ideally we want at least two years worth of plans already made when you’re starting out, what kind of content we want to incorporate and where we want to take the game,” he said. “Structure your system so that it will accommodate for those updates and have your base foundation designed on those plans in mind, and having those updates considered as part of the plan.”
“There is a major risk of boredom and fatigue” for teams working on live-service or ongoing games, Yoshida said, so his team at Square Enix Business Division 3 commits about 30-40% to focus on innovating new features, such as the calmer Stardew Valley-esque mode arriving in Endwalker. This balanced and realistic approach has helped Final Fantasy XIV avoid many of the problems which have plagued its AAA live-service competitors. “Looking at some recent examples, it does seem like the studios kind of throw on monetization elements and scramble to do so when the game is out there,” Yoshida said, while his development model is designed to minimize eleventh hour calamities.
However, this also means there isn’t much development time to commit to bringing the game to new platforms with the team’s current staffing. Final Fantasy XIV is receiving a PlayStation 5 upgrade version, with a beta in April, but will not be arriving on Microsoft’s shores any time soon.
With the Final Fantasy XIV team fine-tuned and well-oiled, Yoshida has also been serving as producer for the next mainline installment in the franchise, Final Fantasy XVI, but he had no updates to offer on the upcoming PlayStation 5 exclusive:
“Each person will probably have their own sort of idea or image of what the next Final Fantasy should be. Saying something half baked is definitely very high risk. If something gets spoken about, someone will pick it up on social and it starts to spread around and people will form expectations. So with Final Fantasy XVI, whenever we do reveal more information on it, we hope to show what kind of game it’s going to bring, and what kind of excitement we can bring.” After the publicly tumultuous development of Final Fantasy XV, more caution and discretion is warranted.
In the meantime, Final Fantasy XIV‘s next major update, Patch 5.5, will arrive on April 13 alongside the PlayStation 5 beta, and Endwalker will follow in the Fall.