The wonderful world of Final Fantasy 14 has had its gates locked for almost an entire month. Due to widespread server congestion from the sheer number of players trying to get in, Square Enix halted sales of the base game 13 days after the latest expansion's early access launch on December 3. If you didn't already own the game, you were locked out.
Forty days since Endwalker touched down, it's still impossible to buy a new copy of Final Fantasy 14 or register an account for the free trial.
The severe wait times have somewhat dissipated as we've got some distance from Endwalker's release. Weekday queue times during peak North American hours can still be close to an hour, especially after the launch of the latest content patch. And weekends can be worse. Outside of that, it can take me just three to five minutes to get into the game. It's nothing compared to the hours-long queue times during Endwalker's launch week, and logging in is now almost entirely server error free.
But the wait time for anyone looking to try Final Fantasy 14 for the first time has stretched to weeks. The holiday break would have been an opportune time for many to create a character and start exploring the world of Eorzea, but FF14's removal from online retailers left them flipping through postcards on social media instead.
Usually when games are taken off storefronts it's because nobody wants to play them. Cyberpunk 2077 was so full of game-breaking bugs when it came out in 2020 (and even worse performance problems on consoles) that Sony removed it from the PlayStation Store, and last year, Rockstar had to briefly halt sales of its Grand Theft Auto Trilogy remasters for similar reasons.
This situation's different. If you can get in without too much hassle, Final Fantasy 14 works fine. Its worst issues were servers overloading and errors that kicked people out of the line to get into the game. The developers worked to fix the issues on their end by restricting new character creation and server transfers, but they couldn't simply patch out the millions of players trying to log in.
In an official post before Endwalker's launch, producer Naoki Yoshida warned players about the long queue times. "There is an ongoing global shortage and increased demand for semiconductors, and quite frankly, we are still struggling to source the required equipment," he said. "Additionally, the resurgence of COVID-19 cases in Japan has raised major concerns regarding our ability to travel overseas for on-site implementations."
Yoshida apologized for the rough launch in another post at the start of the year. "We're currently working to fundamentally address the situation, such as adding logical data centers and increasing the number of Worlds in all regions, and we ask for your patience in the meantime," he wrote.
The producer has since promised more news on the game going back on sale soon as well as more details on the servers, according to a fan translation of an interview on Radio Mog Station. Yoshida suggested that it might not be long before you can purchase the base version of the game or at least try the free trial again.
Despite all of this, Final Fantasy 14 fans seem to be taking the state of the game well. Many players expressed frustration with the queue times when we asked them about their experiences, but felt that the game and its far-reaching new storyline was worth it in the end.
It's a little tragic that nobody new can get in on the fun. As any MMO player knows, it's not the same if you can't talk your friends into joining you. The meme of pitching Final Fantasy 14's free trial to anyone even vaguely interested in the game isn't quite the same when you have to follow that up with a major caveat. Maybe soon the doors will open back up and people can finally see why nobody will stay quiet about the world's biggest MMO.