The biggest barrier for entry in Final Fantasy 14, a tremendous video game, is that you have to catch up with the entire story to play each new expansion pack, which can take dozens and dozens of hours if you're behind. Square Enix wants to change that.
Over the weekend, FFXIV director Naoki Yoshida published a large post on the forums about Jump and Boost Potions, a new feature they're exploring that will allow players to pay real money to level up and catch up with the story. These potions are currently available in the Chinese and Korean versions of Final Fantasy 14, and Yoshida says they're looking into ways to bring the feature to Japan, Europe, and North America.
The short version: for 5,000 yen (about $US43 ($59)), players will be able to take a job to level 50 and catch up on the current story via cutscenes in the inn. If you buy both potions, you won't have to grind through dozens and dozens of hours worth of story quests just to check out Stormblood and other future expansion packs. Says Yoshida:
Including the free trial version, we are seeing several thousand new players play FINAL FANTASY 14 every day. While FINAL FANTASY 14 might be one of those games wherein new players can catch up to the top-end of the players relatively easy, not everyone has a lot of free time to spend on the game. A lot of people enjoy gaming as much as they can with their limited free time while managing their busy lives.
While people will be able to catch up even easier after the release of Stormblood with the adjustments we will make to the amount of experience points obtained, it would still require a lot of time just to reach the starting point of Stormblood.
If an MMORPG is not able to recruit new players, all that is left is for the game to stabilise and eventually go on a decline. At that moment, the type of operation of the game would shift to one that works hard to slow down the pace of decline. To prevent the game from reaching that point, we would like to prepare as much as we can for the potential new players that may be interested in the game.
Yoshida says the system is still in early development and may not be out in North America for a while — possibly not until after Stormblood, the next expansion, comes out next year. Since Yoshida and crew are soliciting advice, here's mine: Include a free Jump and Boost potion with every new copy of the game. Everyone should be able to catch up if they choose, and $US43 ($59) is pretty pricey.
Update: Fixed an error during editing where FF15 was mentioned in the headline instead of FF14. Completely my fault; apologies.