"All forms of entertainment are competition" - FF14 director talks fighting for players' time

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Final Fantasy 14 originally launched in 2010 to by and large negative reviews. Extensively rebuilt based on player feedback, Square Enix's floundering MMORPG relaunched in 2013 as Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn. Five years on and this new take on the world of Eorzea is not only worth playing, but still going strong largely thanks to the supervision of Naoki Yoshida, who oversaw the rework.

In a recent interview, Yoshida revealed the game's biggest competition isn't necessarily limited to fellow MMOs like World of Warcraft and Elder Scrolls Online. Instead, Final Fantasy 14 must consider movies, music, and other forms of entertainment competition as well.

"I think all forms of entertainment could be considered competition," Yoshida told me via translated email. "The modern gamer is very busy - they have to allocate their limited time to all of the entertainment they engage with outside of gaming, whether that be connecting on social networks or using their phones. One characteristic of an MMORPG is that players will really find and appreciate the fun and complexity of these types of games only after spending ample time within the world. To put it simply, MMORPGs compete for their players’ time. Due to this fact, movies, music, standalone games, and all forms of entertainment become competitors."

Yoshida said that he believes this is why MMORPGs struggle in modern times. The genre flourished when the internet was limited to your desktop computer, but we now live in a world where we can binge-watch multiple seasons of a television show from our phones, stream music from our online-connected refrigerators, and play a wide variety of other games on a plethora of devices.

To combat this all-encompassing deluge of content, Yoshida has two major focuses for FF14: story and community. Yoshida wants the story to always be moving forward yet accessible, so anyone can jump in and get engrossed in the narrative. He also wants to keep communication with FF14 fans open, so that players feel like they have a say in the game's development.

"All forms of entertainment are competition, which is exactly why we need to learn from them all," Yoshida said. 

In celebration of FF14: A Realm Reborn's 5-year anniversary, we also spoke with the FF14 localization team about the challenges they face. It turns out, even simple misspellings can turn into big headaches.