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How do you know you’ve made a video game hit? When so many people want it that you can’t give it to them all — even when they’ve got money in hand. That’s what’s going on right now with Endwalker, the newest major installment in Square Enix’s immensely popular online RPG Final Fantasy XIV, which has faced such a surge of players all at once that the game’s servers simply can’t deal with it all.
The fourth and final chapter in a sweeping storyline that dates all the way back to 2013, Endwalker released last week to truly insane fan demand, with Square Enix teasing on launch day that the game had reached a milestone with 25 million registered concurrent players...before all the new ones came on board. Within a few days things had surged past the breaking point: So many people rushed to experience the new expansion’s big conclusion to an 8-year story arc that the game’s online servers had gotten too overloaded to allow many past the login screen.
What to do? Well, if you’re Square Enix and game producer Naoki Yoshida, the only thing that made sense was to hit the pause button on letting anyone else through the queue. The company announced this week that it was halting sales on both digital and physical retail copies of the game, stopping the process entirely while Square scrambles to bring more servers online.
In a blog post this week, Yoshida explained the situation and promised that the FFIVX team is working as fast as it can to beef up its server supply. In the meantime, retail copies of the game on store shelves are still being snapped up, meaning Square Enix is having to phase in its sales stoppage in a slow and controlled way. “These temporary suspensions will be phased in over the next few days as we work with our retail partners,” Yoshida wrote. “We will be coordinating with them as swiftly as possible, but please bear in mind that this will be a gradual process.”
The fourth and final installment in a story arc that began in 2013 with A Realm Reborn, Endwalker concludes the game’s sweeping tale of planetary salvation as the Warrior of Light (that’s the player character) journeys to the moon for one last epic standoff. It may be the end of the current Hydaelyn and Zodiark plot that the game has been building toward through four major expansions, but it’s hardly the end of the larger Final Fantasy XIV story: “[T]his fully realized expansion will set the stage for new adventures and a brand-new storyline which builds on the foundation established over the last eight years,” Square Enix teased in its announcement release.
There’s gotta be a silver lining to making a game that’s so popular you have to stop selling it…right? Well, if you’re a fan of Final Fantasy in general, there definitely is. Players and critics alike have credited Yoshida with overseeing the addictive story that’s grown FFXIV’s players base to such server-crashing highs, and Yoshida’s apparently got more where that came from: He’s the producer for the upcoming Final Fantasy XVI, the 16th mainline installment in the hallowed RPG series.
FFXVI doesn’t have a release date yet, but once it arrives, here’s hoping Square Enix has a plan for cranking out as many copies as it can — as fast as it can.