I had a worrying thought the other day while reading the usual group of tweets or Reddit posts from people that are “quitting” Final Fantasy XIV because of this five-month gap we have right now between the launch of Heavensward (the game’s first expansion) and the first main patch (3.1, coming next week). It’s important to note that this gap breaks the traditional three-month separation between patches that XIV had during its first year (of A Realm Reborn at least) and it’s a direct result of the dev team taking a vacation after releasing the expansion.
Now, I’m not here to pass judgment on the quality or lasting power of the current 3.0 content; neither is this blog’s aim to do a critique of the content itself (something I’ve done in other posts in prior weeks). What concerns me is that a potential drop in sub numbers during this pre-patch lull will give Square Enix the idea (correct or not) that taking such vacations is bad for its business, and thus pushing the dev team in ways that could end up affecting their health (physical or mental).
“But why do you care?”
Well, for one, this team has given me a game I love and enjoy to play. Second, work stress is serious business – as easy as my job can seem to be sometimes I have had episodes of work stress and it has been horrible – and if the team is overworked it may lead to members quitting or, Twelve forbid, dying due to extreme work load stress (it sounds like such an extreme scenario but it’s possible). Would you like XIV to be handled by the same team that worked in the game formerly known as Versus XIII? HA! We would end up getting patches every couple of years.
Maybe it’s because a combination of factors have helped me manage this lull, but I don’t think it’s that serious. On one hand, I’ve taken to play a few other stuff on non-raid nights (stuff like Destiny); I’ve also taken to leveling other jobs (like WAR and NIN) as well as taking all my gatherers to 60. But I guess the strongest “vaccine” is that I was a full-time World of Warcraft (WoW) player during the days of Wrath, Cataclysm and Mists.
I joined WoW during the seven month gap between Burning Crusade (BC) and Wrath, but since I was just leveling and getting a hang of the game, I didn’t really bother with that. What I did feel was, after becoming a raider, the full year gap between Wrath and Cataclysm*. But for some reason (maybe the fact I was pushing heroic raiding then) the ten month gap between Cataclysm and Mists was felt much more strongly. It was during Mists that I left WoW for XIV, but the news of a nine month gap between Mists and Warlords did reach me – though I was then entranced with XIV’s three month patch schedule.
*Yes, the Ruby Sanctum happened in between but it wasn’t precisely a big/relevant patch (my then raid group barely did the Ruby raid), being considered a minor number (3.3.3 if I recall correctly). This post focuses mostly on main patches, otherwise this five month lull would have to consider Alexander Savage’s patch.
It is of note that never during these extreme WoW lulls did I ever stop my sub, for there was always something to do (level an alt, level a profession, farm for some collectible, do old raids with friends, etc). So mid-patch lulls are not new for me. Hoping that after this vacation the XIV dev team comes back to its usual three month schedule is a nice idea, or that they play it smarter like they did for the final big patch of 2.0 (patch 2.5) which was released in January of 2015 but it was also segmented and trickled all the way through March. The conclusion released three months before 3.0, but it was indeed a partial patch since the original 2.5. Pacing is the name of the game, it seems.
I just hope this vacation the dev team took, and the following delay for 3.1, won’t have a terrible impact on XIV’s numbers. More than for the game itself, for the team and their sanity.