10 Years Later, A Realm Reborn Is Still Gaming's Greatest Comeback
A new lease on life.
When Final Fantasy XIV launched in 2010 expectations were high, as the newest online title from one of the most beloved RPG series around, and a successor to the wildly successful MMO Final Fantasy XI. Unfortunately, Final Fantasy XIV ended up being a catastrophic failure for Square Enix, easily one of the worst the company had ever seen. That’s what makes it so remarkable that all these years later, it’s the most successful MMO in the entire world.
The original 1.0 version of FFXIV had a disastrous launch, and the game was clearly not ready for prime time. Major technical issues marred the experience, and entire systems were simply broken. All of this led to Square Enix issuing massive apologies and shutting the game down, while it worked on a completely new version that would relaunch FFXIV, with A Realm Reborn in 2013.
A team led by Naoki Yoshida was brought in to work on a new vision of the game. Yoshida had previously worked on Dragon Quest series, including serving as chief planner on the MMO Dragon Quest X. Yoshida would prove indispensable to the relaunch of FFXIV, and his work would lead him to become a superstar within the player community.
Yoshida wanted transparency between the development team and the players. Through programs like Letter From the Producer Live, the FFXIV development team gives fans in-depth communications about upcoming content and changes — and makes a clear effort to address feedback.
A decade later, A Realm Reborn is widely considered the “weakest” part of FFXIV, and a bit of a slog to get through. But it was a necessary stepping stone to build a foundation that could be layered upon. A Realm Reborn was nothing short of a complete and total overhaul.
The world of Eorzea was completely rebuilt with a different layout and more diverse zones. The graphics had been reworked to help the game run better, every job had been rebuilt from the ground up — the list goes on and on. Yoshida and his team managed to pull off this transformation in just three years. A Realm Reborn wasn’t perfect, but it made FFXIV an experience that felt comparable to the heavy hitters of the genre, like World of Warcraft.
Perhaps most importantly, A Realm Reborn features a continuous storyline with compelling kingdoms and political systems, and a core group of characters that players feel in love with. And it’s storytelling where FFXIV has influenced the MMO genre most. Each expansion makes FFXIV more dynamic and complex. Players have become besotted with characters like Alisae, Estinien, and G’raha Tia, to the point that the latter eating a taco in the Dawntrail trailer received raucous cheering from the crowd at 2023’s Fan Fest.
Expansions like Heavensward and Shadowbringers are what have elevated FFXIV into something truly special, but none of that would be possible without the foundation built by A Realm Reborn.
You can’t deny the results of FFXIV — transforming from the biggest failure Square Enix has ever seen into its biggest success. Without it, we likely wouldn’t have this year’s Final Fantasy XVI, also developed by Creative Business Unit III. Yoshida has become the new face of Square Enix, and with enthusiasm and player numbers higher than ever for FFXIV, the next decade looks bright indeed.