by Joseph Leray
"Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn" isn't coming to the Xbox 360 (or, presumably, the Xbox One). According to director Naoki Yoshida, that's because Microsoft's online policies are too restrictive, especially when it comes to cross-platform play.
As far back as 2010, Hiromichi Tanaka -- producer on the original "Final Fantasy XIV," before it was relaunched as "A Realm Reborn" -- was telling media outlets that Microsoft's policies for Xbox Live were a sticking point, despite the publisher having made an exception for "Final Fantasy XI," in which Xbox 360 and PC users are free to play on the same servers.
Microsoft aren't playing ball this time around, though. "The policy has not changed on Microsoft's side [since 2010]," Yoshida told RPG Site in a recent interview.
"The main reason from our side is that I don't want the community to be divided, to be split into two or more," he elaborated. "For example, one player might be on the PC version, another might be on the PS4 version, and I'm playing the Xbox version -- but we're not able to join the same servers."
"I just don't like the idea. I disagree with it," he said. No cross-platform play means no Xbox 360 version of Square's revamped MMO.
"Dust 514," CCP Games' first-person shooter MMO, ran into similar issues with Microsoft. The PlayStation 3 exclusive puts all of its players one giant server, shared with the PC MMO "EVE Online," so that each players' actions affect literally every other player.
I spoke with Brandon Laurino, the executive producer for "Dust 514," earlier this year, and he explained to me that talks with Microsoft broke down when it came to "Dust 514"'s cross-platform design: putting "Dust" and "EVE" on the same server is a critical part of how the game works.
"Open communication with the PC was an issue. They have Games for Windows Live, things like that … It just wasn't feasible on the [Xbox 360]," he said. "We have to be able to operate our game very directly. Because of the server infrastructure, you can't fragment the client."
As it stands, "Dust 514" and "EVE Online" are "all the same, all over the world, everyone connecting to the same thing." Like Square Enix, CCP chose to make "Dust 514" a PlayStation 3 exclusive when Microsoft blocked their cross-platform plans. Companies interested in developing cross-platform MMOs are shying away from policies and platforms they find too restrictive.
"To be frankly honest with you, there are now so many mobile devices, smart phones, everything -- why would you ever just stick to one platform from the hardware aspect?" Yoshida asks. "Just -- make it open to everyone. That's my opinion."
Why indeed? I asked Microsoft to clarify their online policies as they pertain to cross-platform play, but they haven't responded.
Joseph Leray is a freelance writer from Nashville. Follow him on Twitter