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FFXIV: Naoki Yoshida received the Lifetime Achievement Award, here's why!

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Naoki Yoshida was honored during BGS 2023 for his contributions to the gaming industry. In this article, we delve into how his leadership transformed Final Fantasy XIV from a failure to a worldwide success, and how he broke a decade-long stigma with Final Fantasy XVI!

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What is the most difficult challenge for a game development team?

At a time when digital entertainment is on the rise, entering the on a renowned company in the gaming market is already a challenge on its own today. But, let's go back in time... ten, twenty years, to rethink what is necessary not only to maintain your name in the industry, but also to the point of being a reference of quality and dedication.

There are some names that stand out in this category, but one of them gained notoriety for doing what many consider the greatest challenge in directing and producing a game: taking it from a failed launch to a worldwide success which already lasts a decade - Naoki Yoshida.


Naoki Yoshida with the Lifetime Achievement Award at Brasil Game Show 2023 / Image: Brasil Game Show
Naoki Yoshida with the Lifetime Achievement Award at Brasil Game Show 2023 / Image: Brasil Game Show

Also known as Yoshi-P, the director and producer of Final Fantasy XIV, and producer of the most recent title in the franchise, Final Fantasy XVI, was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at Brasil Game Show. Today, we will delve deeper into how his vision and effort made FFXIV one of the best MMORPGs of the last decade, and earned him the traditional award for his collaboration in the gaming industry.

The troubled story of Final Fantasy XIV

Have you heard of the critically acclaimed MMORPG Final Fantasy XIV? With an expanded free trial which you can play through the entirety of A Realm Reborn, the award-winning expansion, Heavensward, and the also award-winning Stormblood expansion up to level 70 for free with no restrictions on playtime!

The phrase above is a well-known meme in the Final Fantasy XIV community, a game that currently has more than 40 million registered accounts and four expansions over ten years, with the fifth, Dawntrail scheduled to be released in 2024. The title is also one of Square Enix's most profitable products.

FFXIV's 1.0 version had serious performance and gameplay issues / Image: Square Enix
FFXIV's 1.0 version had serious performance and gameplay issues / Image: Square Enix

Anyone who sees its resounding success can hardly imagine that, upon its release, FFXIV was one of the most criticized and ill-received games in the franchise. The title, named today as Final Fantasy XIV 1.0 had an average score of 48 on Metacritic, and suffered from several performance issues, a bad user interface and, according to Naoki Yoshida himself, a lack of understanding about what the game needed to compete with other MMORPGs at the time.

For many, the initial version of FFXIV seemed like a technical demo, with a lot of focus on visual aspects and little to no substance to keep the players engaged. The lack of content and focus, questionable design choices, excessive effort to gain levels with a fatigue system, and lack of more intuitive features made the title feel like a dated game, stuck in the roots of its predecessor, Final Fantasy XI, but neglecting both the generational transition and the aspects that made FFXI a success.

The Fantasy Reborn

In November 2010, just under two months after Final Fantasy XIV's official release, Yoshida, then game director for the Dragon Quest franchise, received an email asking him to work as director, and for the first time in his career, producer, of the then disastrous FFXIV to save the title from becoming an instant flop. After assessing that the game's problems were at the product's very core, the challenge was set: he and his team would have to rebuild Final Fantasy XIV from scratch, in a development window of just over two years.

If it wasn't already complicated enough to carry out work in just over half the deadline established for a release of this scale and size, Yoshida's team decided to continue producing content for the original game - an efficient workflow was created, with a method where design, servers, graphics and content were developed simultaneously.


Another crucial change with his leadership was the decision to give key positions to those who already had experience working with MMOs. Thus, it not only saved development time, but also ensured that crucial and indispensable elements of games in the same genre weren't neglected in the re-release.

The most important point in the development of the title that would become A Realm Reborn, and which makes the Final Fantasy XIV experience so special to this day, was the connection with the audience. Yoshida and his team ostensibly read fan feedback on the Internet to discuss what options were viable or beneficial to implement in the new version, in addition to the then bold initiative of making announcements and live streams to discuss some details of the new title's development to not only maintain transparency with its audience, but to keep them engaged and eager for updates, which lasted until the servers of the game's base version were shut down on December 31, 2012.

Final Fantasy was released on August, 27, 2013, and was well-received by public and specialized critics alike, with a score of 86 on Metacritic. Its resounding success attracted millions of players to try the new version over the years, even reaching the point where Square Enix had to suspend the game's sale and the creation of new accounts in 2021, due to the servers being overcrowded after the launch of the latest expansion, Endwalker.

"Never forget the fans. Without them, there would be no 'us'."

Yoshida with Final Fantasy XIV fans at Fan Fest 2019 / Image: Final Fantasy XIV
Yoshida with Final Fantasy XIV fans at Fan Fest 2019 / Image: Final Fantasy XIV

This was one of the four points presented by Yoshi-P himself in a panel at the Games Developers Conference in 2014. At the time, the producer presented some of the lessons he learned while working on A Realm Reborn, and made it clear that fan support is one of the essential ingredients for the success of a title. For him, running an MMORPG is like running a country, and fans are allies who, in exchange for their feedback, receive honest answers about the viability of such features for their games.

His ability to establish links with his works and the fans of his works is one of the reasons that makes him stand out in the Final Fantasy community. Whether with his hours-long lives, or in person at festivals and events, Yoshi-P demonstrates a willingness to listen and understand his audience's feedback, and his understanding of what they want goes beyond the development of his games: for example, with the Meet & Greet limited to 60 people each day, Yoshida and Koji Fox, Final Fantasy XVI's localization director, decided to hold a second extra event on Brasil Game Show's last day to meet more fans who were there, instead of taking stage in the BGS Talks - therefore, fans who had already missed the first opportunity to meet him and take a photo with him, gained a second and unexpected chance.


Yoshi-P and Koji Fox after a surprise Meet & Greet on the last day of the Brasil Game Show / Image: Humberto Romeu
Yoshi-P and Koji Fox after a surprise Meet & Greet on the last day of the Brasil Game Show / Image: Humberto Romeu

This connection with his audience, which makes him close to a superstar for the FFXIV fans, also makes him an inspiration to many people. There are many reports of people whose lives were positively affected by Final Fantasy XIV, as exemplified even in works of dramaturgy, such as the Netflix series Dad of Light, which tells a story based on real events about a father and a son whose relationship with each other improves through the game - and every writer, developer, or screenwriter dreams of seeing their work create good experiences and significant changes in people's lives.

Final Fantasy XVI: The search for identity and harmonious development

When officially announced in September 2020, Final Fantasy XVI raised the expectations due to its development team, which included Naoki Yoshida as producer of the new title.

Released on June 22, FFXVI brings with it some of the essential foundations that Yoshi-P applied in the creation of A Realm Reborn: the priority on fun, the focus on trying to surprise and amaze, and respect the franchise's roots (even though this is a topic of recurring debate) are present in the title - and as I mention in my review, there is familiarity in several aspects from the first hourlink outside website.

Final Fantasy has suffered from an identity crisis and recurring development issues since Final Fantasy XII, released in March 2006. There hasn't been a subsequent main title that hasn't experienced delays and/or been the subject of controversy since then, and these setbacks are felt by players when the final product is delivered - the most recent case, Final Fantasy XV, went through years of post-launch production through DLCs to become an experience that didn't sound confusing and cut in half.

This history of more than a decade seems to have been nipped in the bud with Final Fantasy XVI. The game came out exactly on the scheduled date, there were no development issues, or at least that became public and/or that created unintentional flaws in the product, and the game delivered, despite receiving criticism, and although it didn't please every FF fan, seems to be precisely what Yoshida and his team envisioned for FFXVI.

Breaking a franchise 'curse' that lasted almost 17 years is another milestone in Yoshi-P's achievements, and another point that highlights the success of his career, and proof of the mutual trust between him and the teams responsible for developing the game.

A more than deserved award

According to Brasil Game Show, Naoki Yoshida was honored and received the Lifetime Achievement Award due to his contribution over the years to the gaming industry, especially for RPG. As we saw above, few people in his field manage to establish such a remarkable career that makes him so popular among fans of the games he worked on.


Many titles never recover from a failed release, and in the field of MMOs, this line is even more tenuous due to the high number of games available on the market. Maintaining an engaged fan base even when everything seems to sink into the mud was an unprecedented challenge, and the fact that Yoshi-P rose to the task and succeeded to the point where Final Fantasy XIV became the worldwide phenomenon it is today makes him a historic figure in the industry, and more than deserving of the award received here in Brazil.

With the release of Final Fantasy XIV's next expansion, Dawntrail, scheduled for 2024, and the announcement of two DLCs for Final Fantasy XVI, we'll still hear a lot more about him and his works for Square Enix!

Thanks for reading!


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