Final Fantasy XIV – A Realm Reborn: Worst Game Launch?

I’m disappointed in Square Enix.  I participated in Beta 4 to find out if it was a game that I wanted to try out and, to my surprise, I found it entertaining and fun.  There were issues with the Beta 4 and, with it being a beta, I didn’t think a whole lot about them.  I assumed that Square Enix would do what they had to in order to ensure a smooth launch day, or at least as smooth as possible for an MMORPG.  I pre-ordered a copy of the game when Beta 4 ended so that I could get online with ‘Early Access’ on Friday instead of waiting until Tuesday and that’s where the nightmare begins.

I was emailed a ‘serial number’ that I had to enter on their site in order to activate Early Access… I’m unsure why pre-ordering didn’t automatically grant me Early Access – but the site was down/having issues/etc.  I spent days just trying to register my serial number for the game I pre-ordered so that I could play it during the Early Access period.  Worse yet for my friend – he was given a code for the European PS3 when he’s alive and well in California never having even been to Europe.

When I did, finally, get it to accept my code I was happy and simply waited for the Early Access window.  I should have known, based upon the issues even registering my code, that Early Access was going to be a bust.  I was able to log in and play for a couple of hours before Instances ceased to function.  With most MMORPGs this would simply mean that you couldn’t go into dungeons but with Final Fantasy XIV it means that you cannot complete a myriad of quests either as many of them require instanced events that were failing.  This essentially stopped all progress in its tracks – even if you were on, you couldn’t do hardly any quests and no dungeons.

I thought to myself, “They’ll get this sorted out – I’ll just try again later,” and I left the game alone.  Square Enix performed I believe 3 maintenance windows for a total of 9 hours and, after each one, claimed they had resolved the issue which is obvious this was not the case or there would not have been three separate maintenance windows for the same issue.  Eventually Square Enix simply put population caps on the servers to keep from overloading the instance servers – in other words it was all online but you weren’t able to log in or play.  If you did get logged in, more often than not, you got disconnected which meant a few hours of trying to log back in with little to no success.

I’ll be honest – if Square Enix had been straightforward and communicated better as to what the issues were – I wouldn’t be frustrated.  I understand launching an MMORPG is no simple task and that there will be issues.  What I do not understand, however, is poor communication.  Square Enix failed to do proper load testing on their servers and, as a result, have insufficient servers to service their customers properly.  It is my understanding that they brought online their contingency servers during Beta 4 and, even then, the servers were overwhelmed.  Square Enix posted today:

Currently, an extremely high number of players are enjoying the game. Should the number of players continue to increase at the current pace, there is the possibility that our expectations and server capacity will be greatly surpassed. Therefore, in order to maintain a stable gameplay environment, we are implementing login and character creation restrictions.

This makes me wonder if they are simply incompetent and didn’t look at sales figures to estimate how many servers they needed or if they’re just greedy and didn’t want to spend the money to put more servers online.  I suppose, considering they never did proper load testing, that they simply overestimated how many characters each server can handle at a time.  The biggest issue with all of this is the lack of clarity and communication.  I may be the first to say that if Square Enix came out and said, “We grossly overestimated server capacity and, as a result, we are working to bring new servers online as quickly as possible.  This may take up to X days.” I would simply relax and find other things to do with my free time.  The sheer fact that Square Enix’s only statements on the issue are that “too many people are enjoying the game” is depressing.

I’ve boycotted Electronic Arts for many reasons but primarily to their inability to properly launch a game and I will be saddened if that is what it comes to with Square Enix.  I doubt anybody from Square Enix will come across this post but, if they do, my message is simple: “Communicate effectively with your client base concerning any and all issues that affect said client base.  Keeping your clients in the dark will do nothing but cause frustration, irritation, and hate.”


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