In about four months, we will reach into a year Square-Enix has said they will release two of their highly anticipated games: Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy XIV. Already rumors have spread since June of beta testing starting as early as mid September, and that a private beta has begun as early as July-August. Even though there isn’t much to go on to believe that this is true, I decided to do some research into the likelihood of such a possibility of a September beta or how unlikely it may be.
Final Fantasy XI
Before we can even look at other MMORPGs, let us first take a look at FFXIV’s predecessor: Final Fantasy XI. It is said that the beta took place approximately four months NA side. At this time, they were doing a PC release only since the PS2 release would not take place until March 23, 2004 in North America. The short beta could probably be attributed to the fact that the game had already been in Japan since May 16, 2002 on the PS2 and November 7, 2002 for the PC. That is almost a year difference for the PC alone, and some issues would have already been pointed out on Japanese servers beforehand. The system specs of the time are also obviously dated and did not require as much horsepower as they do now. 30 FPS at the time was the norm, and the fact that the minimum requirement was a Pentium III also gives one to pause to think of when such a thing existed! Recommended requirements would most likely garner a chuckle nowadays with a Pentium 4 with 256 MB Memory, NVIDIA® GeForce FX™ series or GeForce 6 series, and Direct X 8.1 sound card!
Though I have no knowledge of how long the beta took for the JP PC release, I managed to find that the closed testing started in August of 2001 and ended with a public test in December of that same year for the PS2. If that were the case, that is approximately the same length of time as the NA test if they did no further testing in 2002.
MMOs After Final Fantasy XI
So what about after Final Fantasy XI? What about popular MMOs like WoW? Well, WoW’s closed beta time started on March 18 2004 and ended on October that same year. Open beta for WoW started at around November 4, 2004 with the game launching on the 23rd of that month. So in total the beta lasted 9 months total; 5 months longer than the beta for FFXI in 2003. The five extra months were probably especially crucial given that the system requirements are higher than FFXIs and it was not tested in another market beforehand. Another sample MMO I had taken was Warhammer Online. Although it currently admits to lower subscriber numbers than the 7-year-old Veteran that is FFXI, their beta period was for almost 16 months! Warhammer’s closed beta started on May 30, 2007 and lasted up until September 7, 2008 with a brief open beta period before the game’s release date.
Then there is Lord of the Rings Online. Released before Warhammer but after WoW in the year of 2007, it had a quaint closed beta testing period of six – seven months with about one month worth of open beta testing available. Aion Online, a game I am currently beta testing, had an even shorter closed beta test period but also followed suit with Final Fantasy XI and had already been released in other countries before making its debut on North American shores.
So what about Final Fantasy XIV?
Going by what Square-Enix has announced, they plan on having a longer beta testing period for XIV than they did for XI and that the game will be released in 2010. I will stress the fact that they said just 2010 because there are several quarters in which they could actually make their release, and that there is a chance they could very well release it at the very end of 2010 while still doing plenty of beta testing in that same year. Even if they were not, the one main reason I have doubts of a Sept. beta test is because of the date that TGS falls upon: September 24 to September 27. Seeing as this is the Japanese equivalent to E3, I have a feeling that they would want to leave something for their home turf unless they decide to announce something completely different since they have announced to make an appearance at GAMEScom next week on Aug 19 – 23.
More than likely, I am hedging on October at the least and January of 2010 at the latest so that nothing would be taken away from their presence at TGS and would still allow for testing for at least several months even if they were to release their game in the middle of 2010. Unless, of course, they want to have a beta test as long as Warhammer’s was, and I am actually hoping for something closer to a year or more to ensure that FFXIV is more polished than FFXI was when it was released. This is particularly ideal since WoW still seems to be dominating the MMO scene and FFXI’s main appeal at the moment is that it is different than many of the WoW replicas released to date.
Despite my reservations, I am still keeping my fingers (and toes) crossed for a mid Sept. start on beta testing. S-E does, after all, have many different games they could still talk about at either convention and one can imagine that their fans are going mad with hunger for the limited information we have been given thus far. Let’s just hope that GamesCom will harbor new and hopeful news on the sought after date for the beta!