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