Oh, How It Sucks To Be A Mobius Final Fantasy Player
It's not every day I get a notification from Steam saying a game I downloaded will no longer be usable. Unfortunately, that's where I am with Mobius Final Fantasy, a game that absorbed over 100 hours of my life. Before you ask, I'm not ashamed of this fact; nor am I especially proud of it. . Now, I want to make something crystal clear from the get-go: I never spent any money on Mobius. I played a more than "average" amount of the game, but never felt compelled to shell out money to make my experience "better." In fact, Mobius went to great lengths to make almost all of its content "doable" even to those who didn't invest $100 into it every day. Fun fact, the Aerith card in Mobius was the best one in the game, and I got in a random blind pack!
But, I can only assume many of you are wondering what caused me to get so invested in an objective bad gacha game. For a mobile game, Mobius Final Fantasy had astounding production values. The CG cutscenes were a marvel, and the attention to detail on the character models and costumes was charming. The problem was the game required endless amounts of grinding, much like every game of its ilk, to experience its emotional highs. Story cutscenes were hidden beneath grind loops and aimless fetch quests because, for lack of a better word, Mobius was a mobile-ass mobile game. As to be expected, it also had game-breaking character classes and magical spells hidden behind a paywall. However, for the laypeople, Mobius is known for one of two things. The first was when the game's protagonists' default costume was changed when the internet pointed out the sides of his buttocks were visible. The second, and more dubious, is how Mobius completely ret-conned the ending of Final Fantasy X. I'm not joking about the latter of these two points, and if you do not believe me, I wrote a blog about it you should consider checking out.
That said, Mobius was an interesting experiment to watch. From the onset, it was a typical mobile card game whose only selling point was its excellent production values. However, as time went on, Square-Enix smoothed out the game's kinks and began billing it as an "anti-mobile game," wherein every player would be able to finish its story regardless of the amount of money they invested. Yes, there was a lot of grinding to be had if you didn't shell out cash, but the non-story questlines were an assortment of temporary special events that put you up against anything from PuPu the alien to a cowboy-hat-wearing Moogle. These side quests were as exciting and compelling as the main story, which, if we are being honest, was I'm not going to bother close reading. I say this to suggest Square-Enix invested a lot of money into Mobius, and I'm not surprised they looked at the game's stagnating user-base and said "no más."
What Was Mobius Final Fantasy And What Happened?
Mobius Final Fantasy was a "complex" video game, and I mean that both literally and figuratively. On its surface, it was a card-based F2P game, much like Grandblue Fantasy. However, Mobius tried to blend crafting mechanics, PvP multiplayer, and a high-budgeted Final Fantasy story into a single gacha game. Indeed, the game had every hallmark of a free-to-play mobile game. There were dozens of different currencies, and if you shelled out money, the story would progress at a faster clip. But as any Mobius player will tell you, the game got better about its F2P trappings throughout its lifespan. The crafting system got more user-friendly, and the later portions of the story got nerfed to make it more accessible to newcomers. Also, the crossover events were goddamn ridiculous, but in the best way possible. On several occasions, Square-Enix brought back the original voice actors for Lighting, Tidus, and Noctus to provide exciting temporary events that were downright fun to watch.
In terms of what "killed" the game, there are several suspects. First and foremost, the game always existed under the shadow of Final Fantasy Brave Exvius and Final Fantasy: Record Keeper. Both of those games supported online communities more than four times the size of Mobius. Second, the ambition that drove many to follow Mobius proved to be its undoing. While its fully voice-acted CG cutscenes were a delight to watch, they likely exceeded the production budgets of every other mobile game under Square-Enix's ward. It is safe to assume that Square-Enix saw how much effort they were putting into Mobius, cut their losses, and put that effort into cheaper but still profitable mobile endeavors. In Brave Exvius's case, it received a spin-off that emulated the spirit of Final Fantasy Tactics!
Likewise, the market Mobius occupied when it first launched, versus when it was shit-canned, was night and day. In 2015, there was a novelty to watching high-budgeted cutscenes with voice acting on your smartphone. Sure, the mechanics were not great, but there weren't a lot of games in the market with cinematic cutscenes that rivaled Mobius's. Unfortunately, that changed within four to five years. It is also worth noting that Square-Enix has been belting out mobile games like crazy since the release of Mobius. The unfortunate result of Square's revolving door of supported mobile games was that it divided Mobius's potential player-base even further. As it stands right now, there are two mobile "companions" for Final Fantasy XV and two Brave Exvius games! So, anyone wanting a mobile Final Fantasy experience has a lot of choices, and regrettably, for Mobius, most consumers went with those games instead of it.
What Does The Future Hold?
I always like to have a bit of fun regarding "fan theories" on my blogs, and shortly we will look at three and assess their chances of becoming a reality. If you ask for my thoughts about what happens next, my hunch is Mobius is dead forever, and any hopes of a comeback are for naught. Nonetheless, let's address some of the most popular fan theories related to Mobius's future! First, a handful of Mobius players are hoping this cancellation notice is a smokescreen for Mobius's long-awaited third season. For those unaware, throughout Mobius' five-year lifespan, it had two "seasons" of story-based content. During the promotion of season two, Square-Enix hinted at more substantial gameplay changes to Mobius that never fully transpired. Optimistic fans hope that these changes require Square-Enix to start a new Mobius game that cannot exist within the architecture of the current game. As I have suggested earlier, the idea Square-Enix is willing to sink in more money to "save" Mobius, when cheaper and more viable alternatives are present, .
The second hope a lot of players have suggested is Square-Enix releasing a version of Mobius with a single price tag and its story-based missions intact. Again, I think this is a dubious expectation for a variety of reasons, the first being . Mobile games come and go by the bucketload, and you rarely see defunct mobile games get a second life. For fuck's sake, Before Crisis: Final Fantasy VII had a dedicated fanbase even outside of Japan that has repeatedly requested a remaster for over two years! Regardless, Square-Enix has done nothing to make that game accessible on modern technology since shutting it down. If a game that informed the canon of one of Square's biggest hits doesn't get a remaster, then there's little hope things will transpire differently for Mobius.
The third and final fan theory is that Mobius gets a community-run "legacy server." Now, this hope is problematic for several reasons, the least of which is it would require Square-Enix's blessing. Additionally, a legacy server would require Square-Enix to hand over Mobius's source code to a community member, and that's not something I think they will ever do. They didn't hand over the source code to Before Crisis: Final Fantasy VII despite that game's fanbase sending petitions with millions of signatures to Square's HQ. If you were wondering, there's a fan attempt to create a shot-for-shot remake of Before Crisis using RPGMaker, but it has progressed at a snail's pace, and at any point, Square could DMCA the project. Like I said earlier, the prospects look grim for everyone who put in time and money into Mobius, which leads us to my final point order:
What Does This Say About Mobile Game Preservation?
We now arrive at the real reason I wrote this blog: . To those of you who continue to maintain that mobile games are "not true games," and the people who play them aren't "genuine" gamers, this blog's exit is to your right. Games have evolved significantly in the past two generations, and I can safely dismiss such a perspective as being ten years out of date. No matter, let's discuss the state of mobile game emulation. To clarify, I'm not discussing running an emulator on your Android or iPhone, because that's a topic I'm not touching with a sixty-foot pole. What I am talking about is the Herculean effort it takes to play mobile games after they have been discontinued, or their underlying mobile OS has been retired. Have you ever tried playing the old Nokia Symbian-based mobile games from your childhood? Trust me;
The term "lost media" gets thrown around a lot when it comes to video games, and rightfully so. Whether it be a game removed from Steam due to an expired music license or an attempt by a developer to retcon an ending (i.e., Mass Effect 3), video games become "lost" far more often than we think. In the sphere of mobile and browser games, it is an almost daily occurrence. I understand it is incredibly difficult to be sympathetic towards the deluge of cheap-knockoffs or exploitative F2P nonsense that litters every mobile marketplace. However, since the dawn of mobile games, the ability to emulate these games has not dramatically improved. Check any emulation suite, and you'll find most mobile cores to be in a state of constant disarray.
Part of the issue here is that the "mobile" platform spans over a dozen different operating systems, each with their own quirks and limitations. Worse, as time goes by, it becomes harder, not easier, to emulate or preserve mobile games. This issue means that even quality mobile games like Doom RPG are virtually impossible to play on modern technology. For Mobius, what this translates to is that its community has a limited amount of time to preserve the game's five-year-long story arc. Without Square-Enix's support, it is likely the game will be lost to time forever. And unfortunately, I'm going to side with the pessimists that this the end of the line. Don't get me wrong; I wouldn't say I like this scenario. The idea that I will never be able to re-live my memories with a game that absorbed over 100 hours of life is a colossal bummer. At best, I can only hope to see Mobius' protagonist milling about in Final Fantasy XIV, but that is a story for another day.