Analysis: PAL Players Can Fantasise About Better Rates For FFXIV

Final Fantasy XIV Online's standard edition is released in a couple of days. But Kotaku reader Kate, owner of a collector's edition with 1 week's worth of early access, hasn't even logged in yet. Instead, she's been busy writing about how forcing PAL regions to pay either Euros or Pounds for subscriptions effectively costs us more than if we were paying the same amount in USD.

Yes, that's right, in addition to Reader Reviews, we're accepting retrospectives and features now. It's all a part of the crazy new "acting editor" bag, where I get to try out whatever I want and then open an umbrella to let the wind whisk me away, laughing hysterically.

The below article was written by Kate Bielby - want to know more about how the Final Fantasy charging system works? Leave a question for her in the comments below.

With the release of Final Fantasy XIV (FFXIV) this week, I felt it was time to put on paper an issue that I have with the current methods of payment for the service. I refer in particular to my own region, Australia, which lies outside of the three major areas where Square Enix assumes its market lies. These three areas, the European (EU) region, the United States (US) region and the Japanese (JP) region all have differing methods of payment available for the FFXIV service.

In the US region, players are able to pay in US dollars (USD), utilising either the Crysta method or the ClickandBuy direct credit card debit method. In the European region, again players are offered the same services to pay; however, they are offered only the Euro and GBP currencies. It is here that my issue lies. Whilst these two currencies are widely used in the main region, it is the rest of the PAL region that is suffering.

In Australia, the Australian dollar (AUD) is traditionally stronger against the USD than the Euro or the GBP. However, even though we are not a member of Europe, we are still forced to use these payment methods.

As the chart above indicates, the Australian dollar has consistently stronger purchasing power with the USD rather than the Euro and the Great British Pound (GBP). In fact, the AUD to USD exchange rate has not been lower than the AUD to Euro rate since 2002. It is this difference that is making it difficult for PAL Australian players, who are not given a choice of payment methods. As Square Enix accepts all three of these currencies in their respective regions, why must they restrict Australians to a policy where we are charged effectively more than our European or American counterparts?

The discrepancy in payment levels grows when you consider the fees involved in currency conversion. Of the two payment methods for FFXIV, ClickandBuy credit card payments are the only currently available to Australians. This service incurs a fee, for currency exchange, of 5.9%. Whether this is charged in addition to the fees that Australian banks charge for charges in a foreign currency is unknown.

To put this all in perspective, the fees that an Australian would pay to play FFXIV for one month with one character attached to the account is 12.99 Euro. Roughly $18.25AUD converted from Euro, as of the exchange rates on 24 September 2010. This is without then considering any conversion fees, whether these are from your own bank or from ClickandBuy. For 12.99 Euros, the ClickandBuy conversion fee of 5.9% is approximately 0.77 Euro, bringing the total price up to around $19.32AUD.

This isn’t so bad now, but when you look at the figures from December 2008, the AUD was only buying 0.4919 Euro. Players would then end up paying approximately $26.41AUD. At the peak we currently enjoy, Australian FFXIV players aren’t paying any more than the Australian World of Warcraft players (approx. $40AUD for 2 months, available retail without fluctuation), although it is quite a bit more than the Australian FFXI players who are using USD.

I am not suggesting that Square Enix implements a local currency option for every region, but rather that they consider allowing regions that are not part of the EU, US, UK or Japan to select their payment currency. This used to be possible. At the launch of FFXI in Australia, the USD was an option. In fact, my own FFXI account is still charged in USD. However, for many years now new players are not given this option; they are required instead to choose from the European payment methods.

With the new restrictions on Square Enix member accounts which require the correct country and address to be entered, the previously used workaround to the currency issue is no longer a valid option. Since the change to a Euro only payment option, many Australians have taken to importing the US version of the game to avoid paying more in fees than they feel necessary.

As the currency drops against the Euro - and history shows that it is likely to drop lower against the Euro than the USD - costs rise above that of the other MMORPGs on the market. There is already growing dissent amongst the Australian gaming community regarding the payment methods available here and the high cost in comparison with the other MMORPGs.

Square Enix needs to reconsider its payment options for regions outside of the current major three areas. By allowing Australian players to choose their payment currency option, they can remain competitive in our market. We may be traditionally part of the PAL region, but we’re half a world away (one long airship ride) from Europe.

Written by Kate Bielby


Comments

    How much is it in USD and how much is it in GBP? Without knowing that this whole article is useless as is a chart mapping historical exchange rates.

    Is it 13 USD, 13 EUR and 13 GBP? I doubt it.

      It's 12.99 USD, 12.99 Euro, and 8.99 GBP I believe. That's for the base fee and 1 character.

    So the cost to play the MMO is a flat 12.99 USD/GBP/EURO per month?

    If so this is the current exchange rates would be as follows (in AUD):

    Euro -> $18.20
    Pounds -> $21.40
    US Dollars -> $13.52

    As mentioned in the article, banks put a % International Transaction fee on top of this. Curiously if we paid the equivilient $13 USD quivilent in Japanese Yen we would be paying around $13 AUD like the rest of the world.

    Besides the game having quite a few issues so far this is the only other thing holding me back. Until they allow those of us in AU/NZ to choose currency or at least purchase crysta, I wont be paying or playing. Nice article Kate!

    I don't see why they haven't just made pre-paid cards an option, I mean, it's not like the most popular MMORPG to date has them or anything.

    Jeez. That is just absurd. FFXIV is really having a bad time, and it's not even normal edition retail!

    The reason we're lumped into Europe is that the game is coming to PS3, which means the traditional console PAL / NTSC-US / NTSC-JP divide that should have gone away a decade ago rears its head again. Square really don't think about this sort of thing, and even if they did consider it, I honestly doubt they care.

    I bet we're paying the 20% UK/EU VAT tax as part of that pricing too.

    Australians with imported US copies (like myself) can use either Crysta or ClickandBuy, so I don't see why Australians with EU versions shouldn't be allowed to do the same.

      In the article, she says that AU players can pay with both methods, but only with Pounds or Euros. Is it possible to use USD with an imported copy? If so, I'll definitely go for that option.

        Actually Stephen, in the article I said Australians can't use Crysta. It's not approved here yet.
        Also, Square Enix recently updated their membership conditions. Older members were asked to confirm their membership details and enter the correct country, and warned that providing false information would render further product registrations invalid. You can see that message on the NA site here - https://member.square-enix.com/na/login/regionselect.php
        I don't know how they'll police this, and if Sean is doing it perhaps importing remains an option (many of my FFXI friends do this). You'd have to create a whole new SE members account if you already had an EU one though, and would miss out on the bonuses being offered to existing FFXI players(probably not a big deal).
        However, from everything I've seen so far it looks like more risk when we shouldn't even have this issue in the first place.

    Jeez this stinks! Having just purchased FFXIV yesterday and reading this today, methinks my copy will be going straight onto ebay and I'll be staying with World of Warcraft.

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