If you're thirsty for an MMO experience, don't bother with buying an Xbox 360. It appears that once again, a studio can't come to terms with Microsoft. Square Enix, developer of Final Fantasy XI for the 360, has joined the list of studios that can't break through negotiations for a forthcoming MMO.
In a recent interview with Eurogamer, Final Fantasy XIV Online director Hiromichi Tanaka pegged, of all things, the Xbox 360's online service as the reason why Final Fantasy XIV, it's latest MMO, isn't coming to the system.
"The main reason why we couldn't go with Xbox 360 was the Xbox Live system," he told the publication during E3. "[Live is] different to the normal Internet environment, so when we wanted to introduce this game in the same environment as Windows PC it had to be PS3, so that was our choice."
There's nothing forward-looking, no cheeriness from Tanaka-san. Final Fantasy XIV Online for the 360 might have been a project, but it is no longer. "Microsoft has a different point of view," Tanaka continued, "they want to have a closed environment for Xbox Live. We're still talking to… We couldn't come to an agreement on Xbox Live," he said.
What Tanaka isn't mentioning is money. But it's plain that Microsoft's MMO policies, both financial and technological, are too nasty for studios to work with.
== TEASER ==I've seen this before. I ran into a similar story in 2008 during an Indianapolis-based event called Gen Con. Champions Online was being demoed for the public there. Its booth, on the left-hand side of a cluttered room with long tables, booths, board games, and Magic: The Gathering peddlers, had several stations, most of which required the use of an Xbox 360 controller. The team was plainly excited about the possibilities of the game hitting the console--and perhaps even the PS3--but couldn't comment on when it would happen. It struck me as odd. Then, at Gen Con 2009, the story of Champions Online console had morphed into something similar to what Square went through with Microsoft.
Jack Emmert, COO of Cryptic Studios told me the game was finished for consoles, but the studio couldn't come to an agreement with Microsoft. It became a legal thing. "We just have to work it out with Microsoft," he told me, months and months before the version was revealed as dead--after it was finished, no less.
While that's the best of a few sad examples, there is still Lord of the Rings Online for Xbox 360, a purported version of the game that Turbine has never announced. As the rumor goes, Lord of the Rings Online Xbox 360 was finished in 2009, but Microsoft brass wouldn't let Turbine use a free-to-play model. It's been stuck ever since, even though the PC version of the game will go free-to-play in the near future.
As Eurogamer notes, it's ironic that Final Fantasy XI remains one of the Xbox 360's only MMOs (and one can certainly argue it's the only real MMO on the console). Regardless, I get the feeling that Final Fantasy XI was just a test for Microsoft to figure out how to play with other studios regarding their future MMOs--including even Square Enix, who doesn't want a part of it anymore. It's a bummer, but at least the parties' failure makes it plain that we shouldn't look to the system if we want to play an MMO. Not now, and perhaps not ever.