I love Final Fantasy XIV. Before that, I loved Final Fantasy XI.
As a result of my passion for these games, I’ve procured quite a few items over the years relating to the two MMO’s that Square Enix has released in North America. Starting with a small number of easily obtainable Final Fantasy XI items like strategy guides and keychains, my obsession only grew- I wanted more. I reached out to a dear friend of mine living in Japan and my collection soon began to expand, including some gems like a music box and a vinyl- items which players living outside of Japan may not even know existed.
When Final Fantasy XIV was announced I couldn’t wait to jump into Eorzea. Then, slowly, the merchandise started rolling out. A few keychains and business card holders based on guildleves, a double sided poster… the offerings were small, but the game was just starting to pick up. However its rocky start was worrisome, until Naoki Yoshida came in and opened his office door with live letters and spoke to us as not just the head of a major title, but as a gamer himself. Yoshida’s amount of transparency, and a much better flow of information was something that I had only dreamed of while playing, and reporting on Final Fantasy XI.
A few years ago, before the Before Meteor OST was released, there was talk about the code for the minion being usable regardless of region. Yoshida confirmed this with us and then went on to say:
We want to get across to players, so they don’t worry, and it is my personal policy, to not have items that are region specific – that you can only get in America, or only get in Japan, or only get if you go to this one event in Switzerland or wherever- we don’t want to do that. We can’t say in the next ten years we will never do that, because we don’t know what will happen, but my personal policy is not to have things like that…
Something like that is something that can really put people off from a game. We’re playing on the same servers and playing the same game, but these certain people get advantages and we don’t? That can turn people off and we don’t want to do that.
I found myself appreciating Yoshida-san even more with that kind of answer. Sure, his answer may have been more directed at things with in-game items codes, but there was still a desire of having equality among regions. Sadly however, the availability of merchandise that doesn’t include those in-game item codes is still a bit of a struggle to obtain for those living outside of Japan.
This isn’t all about physical items either. There have also been outfits introduced to the Chinese version of Final Fantasy XIV that players have been wanting. During the most recent live letter, Yoshida asked that if players were interested, they should speak up on the forums. Of course, the fact that the question was even brought up is proof that there is interest for these items.
There are plenty of people on the forums saying that they would gladly purchase the items from the MogStation should they become available. To be honest, I had seen these items before, but I’m not entirely sure of their origins in the Chinese version of the game. If they were free for those players, I feel that we shouldn’t have to pay for them in the MogStation. Likewise, if they were obtained by purchasing them, that’s how they should be obtained if and when they’re made available outside of China.
During the same live letter, Square Enix also announced a new campaign with 7 Eleven in Japan where purchasing drinks would earn you points that you could redeem for things such as a butler or maid outfit, or primal masks. You could even get a white Fat Chocobo mount. No equivalent has been announced outside of Japan to earn these items. However as was shown on a slide during the live letter, “While this campaign is only available in Japan, we are currently in discussions to also make these items available in North America and Europe.” Bravo. Although with this campaign starting April 1st in Japan, that’s going to make it so there will be an unspecified amount of time where Japanese players will be the only players in Eorzea with these items.
With the physical merchandise, let me first start out by saying that things are better than they used to be. They’re not great, but they’re better. Europe and North America for example, got their hands on the two Carbuncle plushies before they released in Japan, showing us that Square Enix hasn’t forgotten about its other players. Those plushies, which premiered at Japan Expo in Paris, and then San Diego Comic Con went fast. In fact, at SDCC, the yellow and blue pets were sold out within the first hour.
Since then, we’ve had access to blankets, another art book, a chocobo plush and soundtracks.
A whole batch of new products has just been announced including shirts, a cell phone case, a paissa sleep mask and a series of small coin purses. These are of course, in addition to the already larger catalog of items that Japanese players have access too which include even more shirts, business card cases, key chains, and buttons.
For players outside of Japan, those collecting the “I Beat” primal shirts requires going around to all of the various events held throughout the year like PAX or E3. There were two shirts we never had battle challenges for here in North America: Gilgamesh and Ramuh, which were both given out at Gamescom one year. If you live in Japan, you can simply order the shirts from the Square Enix e-store. The Japanese store even had a Hildibrand shirt at one point, which is, sadly, no longer listed.
Merchandise has come and gone from the Square Enix e-store and those outside of Japan have never even seen it.
I remember how excited I was seeing that Hildibrand shirt, being a huge fan of that series of quests. I wanted one. So much so that I used some of our time while talking to Naoki Yoshida at Fan Fest to ask him about it.
GE: There is a lot of merchandise that has been available on the Japanese online store for some time – like the Hildibrand shirt – will we ever have a chance to buy them here in North America?
Y: This is hard to put into words. We have the desire to sell the merchandise that the fans enjoy, but up until now, the merchandise team had a weird rule that if we are making any official t-shirt, for example, it had to be made in Japan. Considering the exporting, customs, additional safety testing, local and regional testing, would make the item cost more and also take time to have the item go through that process. So we are considering just having the design be created in Japan and the same in all regions, but have the actual manufacturing be done in the local areas. We really want to explore this, but we are working on it and trying to iron out the details. It is part of my job to break the mold on some of these weird Square Enix rules.
I love the last part of the above quote.
Sadly it seems that more and more, new items are made available to Final Fantasy XIV players… in Japan. Meanwhile, other regions get the big items like the soundtracks, and the artbooks. For some reason we also get the plushies which is a nice bonus for those that collect them. But the shirts? Keychains? Buttons? Nowhere to be seen. There are even FFXIV items available in Japan outside of Square Enix in crane machines like Tonberry or Cactuar Lamps.
Even worse, items that are available in multiple regions, through Square Enix receive different treatments. In Japan, if you bought the Heavensward soundtrack, it came with a special sleeve (with other retailers in Japan offering sleeves with different artwork).
In North America, if you bought the soundtrack on the Square Enix store, you received no sleeve. Adding further insult to it, Square Enix allows you to buy this sleeve, that came included with the soundtrack on the Japanese store, using their special store points that you accumulate by purchasing items.
The sleeve itself requires 25 points. However, buying the soundtrack only earns you 20 points. You need to buy something around $60 in order to get those 25 points for the CD sleeve.
Oh also, you pay S&H on it- which requires the $7.99 minimum shipping price they offer. Ridiculous.
In 2016, for a game that has millions of registered users, it’s disappointing that there are players in parts of the world being excluded either from free-bonuses that other areas get, or from being able to obtain those items altogether. Whether it’s with merchandise, or in-game items like the Moogle Earrings that were only available with the Final Fantasy 25th Anniversary collection- something that was never released outside Japan although Yoshida-san said they were considering it at one point.
When we last talked to Naoki Yoshida, they had revealed the Carbuncles at E3 2015. We asked him if he had any updates for us regarding merchandise coming to other regions:
It’s going to be a long process. we’re taking baby steps. We’re trying, and we’ve been working with merchandising, and this is the first step that we’ve taken, being able to provide these to the world before Japan. This is the first step, but hopefully from here we can take more steps to get more of those items to the West. This battle that we’ve had with our merchandising department, this is our first reward to come out of it. We won the first battle! This is our reward to our players. But there are still more battles to come.
There are still more battles to come. Unfortunately from the perspective of a collector living outside of Japan, it feels like this battle will be never ending, and during the course of this battle, we’re going to lose out on a lot of items that are simply not available to purchase anymore for Japanese players. However, there is always a tiny glimmer of hope that one day Square Enix may get rid of their “Weird rules” and open the flood gates for passionate fans all around the world that want to be seen on a more equal level, being able to acquire the same items that have only been made available to those in Japan.
I look forward to the day.
My wallet does not.