In 2013 I had the opportunity to fly to Japan and talk to Final Fantasy 14 Game Director Yoshi-P. There was one question I wanted to know – when would Final Fantasy 14 come to the Xbox? It’s a question that I, and every Final Fantasy 14 fan, wouldn’t know the answer to for another decade.
Final Fantasy 14 coming to Xbox marks the end that a long-lingering question. In 2013 Yoshi-P answered saying a Microsoft cross-play policy – that meant Xbox users would require their own server and therefore couldn’t play with the wider community – ended the hopes of Xbox players enjoying the game. “Community is very important for an MMO, and as Xbox Live is a closed network it means those playing on Xbox 360 or Xbox One can’t play with others on different platforms,” “I don’t think this is ideal for an MMO, and that’s the biggest reason we haven’t brought the game to Xbox platforms.”
Years later, Xbox fans like myself will soon be able to experience the game on their preferred console for ths first time. Xbox Wire clarifies it’ll bring Final Fantasy 14 to the console with an expanded free trial allowing you to play the first three expansions (A Realm Reborn, Heavensward, and Stormblood) up to level 70 with no restrictions on playtime. That’s at least 100+ hours of content to sink your teeth into as a new player. It’ll be amazing to see it come to one more platform.
Enjoyed being onstage with Yoshi-P and Kiryu-san to announce Final Fantasy XIV coming to Xbox. We’re thrilled that the Xbox community will join the Warriors of Light and we look forward to partnering closely with Square Enix on future games. pic.twitter.com/zq0ETkDFq1
— Phil Spencer (@XboxP3) July 28, 2023
Back in 2013, the fact a game of this scale worked across PS3, PS4, and PC was a core reason it had one of the best communities in the history of gaming. I used to play it with Greg, myself on PC while he was on PS3, and while we were on different platforms, we found an incredibly welcoming playerbase that helped us along the way, and many of them hoped Xbox players could someday get in on the fun.
The lack of Xbox support was a topic that continued to gather momentum and in 2015, when we asked Phil Spencer for an update, he chalked the lack of Final Fantasy goodness up to “business” and platform exclusivity: “As I’ve grown in this role, and I’ve tried to learn the third-party exclusivity thing – and you see us doing less of it now – [I’ve found] it’s not something I’m a huge fan of.
“Different kinds of deals happen, and I know that’s part of this business – and maybe it’ll be my failing in the end – but it’s not something I specifically embrace with any deal that’s out there.”
A year later, at E3 2016, it looked like Xbox had a change of heart about crossplay, promising that anyone willing to let their games be played across platforms could do so. This begged the question once again – would Final Fantasy 14 finally make it to Xbox? In an interview with Polygon, Yoshida gave the faintest glimmer of hope: “Microsoft actually approached the Final Fantasy 14 team about the cross-platform opportunity When our team reviewed the regulations that are associated with that, we realized that Microsoft may not have the experience or understanding of running an MMORPG as an online game genre just yet. The Final Fantasy 14 team has fed back to Microsoft that there are certain elements of its regulations that we would have to consider waived. We’re waiting on Microsoft’s response for that, but we are having discussions.”
The following year, Yoshida again teased a possible release on Xbox (and Nintendo Switch), saying, “Conversations have been had with Mr. Phil Spencer of Microsoft, and the upper management teams of Nintendo.”, but similar issues with cross-play kept cropping up. For Yoshida, community – no matter how big or small – was everything and needed to be looked after, and closed-platforms prevented the team from making the best experience possible.
In 2019, all the ‘what ifs’ and ‘maybes’ became a solid promise – that Final Fantasy 14 would come to Xbox… someday. “The astute people out there might have noticed there’s one Final Fantasy that’s missing in our list: number 14,” Phil Spencer told Eurogamer. “14 is one I’ve been dedicated to, working with [director] Yoshida-san to find a solution to bring that game to Xbox. And while it’s not in the news today, I wanted you to know, rest assured, that we will be bringing that game to Xbox.”
A few months later, Yoshi-P explained why things were taking so long: “If we had made an FPS game, then we would already have crossplay. One of the regulations is that players with different platforms cannot chat with each other in-game. Then how do you play an MMO? The other regulation is you cannot make a community with players on a different platform. You can’t form a guild. So I would like to have Microsoft change their regulations.”
After another update in 2020, in which Yoshi-P commended Xbox’s persistence (“Phil is very dedicated in his support for FFXIV, and I truly appreciate his efforts”), the game director said that, finally, Final Fantasy 14 was coming to Xbox. “There are no obstacles for developing the Xbox version”, he said in an interview with VG247. “We were able to undertake development and provide our service thanks to the immense efforts that Phil has invested.” That said, he admitted it wouldn’t happen immediately, and that the development team was working on the PS5 version of Endwalker and that the focus would switch to Xbox afterwards.
Now, after a 10 year wait, it’s happening. And judging by the reaction from communities across the globe, people are hyped!
For me, there’s another important takeaway here. While I was on the sidelines watching this story unfold for the last decade, Phil Spencer and Yoshi-P were regularly working behind the scenes to make it a reality. It’s a huge victory for Spencer to see this thing through, and likely a massive undertaking on the Microsoft side to adapt their policies to allow it. Maybe someday Xbox will give us a peek behind the curtain and let us know what it took to make that happen. But right now Square Enix is happy, Phil is happy, and more importantly fans are happy, and a beloved MMO just got a bunch of new players to join in.
In hindsight, I wonder if any of the hold-up was to do with recently revealed documents shared during the Activision hearing, where we discovered that Microsoft was in talks to purchase Square Enix, which were then put on hold. But this week’s FF14 reveal did have a promising footnote that I’m sure all Xbox fans will be excited by, when Square CEO Takashi Kiryu confirmed, “Wherever possible we’re planning to bring our games to Xbox for players around the world to enjoy.” Here’s hoping that means Final Fantasy 7: Remake and Final Fantasy 16 don’t take 10 years to come to Xbox.