Final Fantasy XIV has been a huge hit for Square Enix ever since its industry-shocking 2013 relaunch saved the game from an early grave. Folks flock to the MMO at a better and better rate with each passing expansion. The number of players since then has been a steady, significant climb. But even though the next expansion, Endwalker, is still months away FFXIV‘s numbers are skyrocketing stronger than ever. It seems like a large part of this news-worthy uptick stems from increased community frustrations with long-time MMO champion World of Warcraft; in fact, for the first time in FFXIV history, the game has actually eclipsed WoW‘s active subscription numbers. All this fame and fortune has led to at least one unexpected consequence. Final Fantasy XIV is presently sold out. And yes, that includes digitally.
How Does a Game Sell Out Digitally?
Well, I reckon there are two ways, though the former seems substantially less likely than the latter. It is theoretically possible to run out of possible code permutations, thus necessitating a makeover of the numeric combinations inputted by new players to unlock a game license. Despite the monumental success that has led to Final Fantasy XIV being temporarily sold out, this is still difficult to believe. I’m no mathematician, and perhaps my estimate will showcase that, but I guess that there are billions of possible numeric combinations. Unless there are more FFXIV players than there are humans, this doesn’t quite check out.
The likelier scenario is that series producer Naoki Yoshida and his hard-working team of programmers are doing what they can to prevent servers from overloading and ruining the game experience for us all. This has happened once before — when A Realm Reborn first released in 2013, Square Enix did not expect the rebirth to compel so many players to sign up on day one. If a high enough number of players come bolting in so swiftly, problems can arise with ease.
It’s a Hard-Knock (Immensely Successful) Life
Somehow, Yoshida has managed to stay one step ahead of overloads ever since then. But it cannot have been easy; he often talks about the struggle he and his team face dealing with the ever-rising number of players. At the most recent Final Fantasy XIV Fan Fest, Yoshida announced the creation of an Oceania-based data center. To say this has long been overdue is something of an understatement. But understanding the work that goes into creating new servers is critical.
Entry queues are notably longer as high-profile streamers such as Asmongold lead something of an exodus from World of Warcraft into Eorzea. But even Asmongold doesn’t have enough followers to cause this singlehandedly. No one does. People from all corners of the gaming sphere are flocking to Square Enix’s second MMORPG due to excellent word-of-mouth (and possibly a terrific meme as well).
The Future of Final Fantasy
Needless to say, Final Fantasy XIV won’t be sold out for long. Square Enix’s best and brightest will do what they must to keep folks coming. This temporary blip, however, is a historic reminder that the game is doing really, really well.
Such success is not without rewards. Naoki Yoshida’s early 2010s turnaround plan not only redeemed the Final Fantasy XIV name but in many ways the overall Final Fantasy IP. If we flip back to those days, it’s easy to see that Yoshida’s results are even more impressive than they may appear. Despite good sales and fair reviews, many franchise fans consider Final Fantasy XIII something of a low-water mark. Its first direct sequel, XIII-2, sold roughly half as much as the first game, and the second sequel, Lightning Returns, barely hit 500k. Between that and the catastrophic launch of the first Final Fantasy XIV, Final Fantasy fans had it rough.
While this may sound like a lot, contrasting it with the number of players who have purchased Final Fantasy VII Remake — five million copies in its first few months, and several million more since then — tells us a lot about how times have changed in Square’s favor.
These days, Yoshida leads his own division within Square Enix entitled Creative Business Unit III. Not only does Creative Business Unit III continue to plan and execute the long-term breadwinner FFXIV, but it’s even in the process of creating the next mainline title, Final Fantasy XVI. Word on that game has been quiet since not long after its initial reveal last year, but if the politically charged and violently-toned debut trailer is anything to go by, it might just sell out, too.