Mobile crapp (Savaged)
Once upon a time in my Final Fantasy XI days, I had a dream. Smartphones were a relatively new occurrence at the time, as was social media, but I had already seen the potential and it fired up my imagination. I daydreamed about an app that let you do all those little side diversions you find in the towns of MMOs.
Things like crafting, putting things up for sale in the auction house and managing my inventory from the comfort of a break room at work so when I came home I could set aside those little things and focus on adventuring. When Square Enix announced plans for a Final Fantasy XIV Companion app that encompassed some of these things, you’d understand that I got my hopes up a little.
The problem is my dream came from 2007 and this app is from 2018, a time where even a quality of life app must be subjected to senseless monetization and daily metacurrencies.
When I went to download the FFXIV Companion app from Google Play (also available on the App Store for iOS users), right away there was a problem. Google Play deemed my Galaxy J3 Emerge unworthy of downloading it. Thankfully a FFXIV subreddit user directed me to an APK file and I was able to install it manually. As of now it seems the app is slowly being okayed from Android Pie and down to other pastry, cookie and candy-themed Android versions.
As expected, the app is low on frills and all 2D interfaces. It runs perfectly fine in Marshmallow. After entering my account information and upon boot-up, I was treated to an image of my character just as I previously left her when I logged out of FFXIV, the same as you would find if you looked up your character on the FFXIV Lodestone website. You can’t do much with your character; you can’t change their job or armor. The purpose of this app is strictly for social functions and inventory management.
On the social end, features are functional but severely lacking. It’s great that your contacts are organized by Friends List, Free Company and Linkshell and you can chat individually or with groups of friends who have the app activated, but unfortunately it is nothing another app like Discord could do as good or better. What’s more is that unlike apps like Gmail or Twitter, the FFXIV Companion app is locked to the character you selected to associate with it. You can’t log into another toon with a simple touch of an icon, even if they are all under the same account. So the FFXIV Companion can’t do for a single account what other apps can do for multiple accounts.
And then you have the event planner, which functions just the same as the one you’d find in any bog standard smartphone or tablet these days. Let’s say you and your friends want to fight Kefka at 9pm EST on a Wednesday. Easy enough. But when the time comes chimes… notifications… events… where do they come from and where do they go? The companion app won’t make an effort to remind you when your event is about to start. None of that junk will fulfill your app.
Monetization! Monetization is what makes life worth living! And that is a recurring theme of the next three categories in the app: Items, Sell and Buy. The Items category starts off pretty cool, actually, including categories that actually don’t appear in FFXIV itself. You can sort through your personal inventory by consumables, crystals, turn-in items, weapons, armor, crafting materials and the like. It’s a nice feature that saves you from having to sift through up to 140 pieces of inventory.
Sadly, this is where the dream ends and dies. If you want to move inventory to your Chocobo Saddlebag or between your NPC retainers you have to buy into a premium tier of the app and it gets worse from there. What are basic functions in-game are monetized or deeply restricted in other ways in the app.
That idea of putting things up on the auction house while I’m on my lunch break? Poof like Good King Moggle Mog XII (may his name echo in glory for all eternity, kupo). Moogles are kupo for Kupo Nuts and now Kupo Nuts are a metacurrency tied to daily logins through FFXIV. Log in, get a nut each day and you can hold up to two at a time in the free portion of the app. These are spent toward buying and selling things on the auction house and if you buy into the premium side of the app, oh, you can have up to ten Kupo Nuts at a time!
I didn’t have anything to sell today, but my Dragoon is getting up near 50 now and I wanted to get a cool lance to celebrate, so I grabbed Ramuh’s Mighty Thunderbolt. It cost me 125K gil and, yeah, that Kupo Nut. Sure enough, when the transaction was done and I logged in, there the Mighty Thunderbolt was.
There is also a currency that sometimes is free but is also paid for known as a Mog Coin. These can work in the place of a Kupo Nut.
So these currencies exist to bait me to pay real money to spend and earn fake money in a game I already pay real money to subscribe to. Even adjusting a price in the auction house through the app will cost you a Kupo Nut or Mog Coin. And that’s before we get to the premium tier of the app, which wants you to pay to do more. Retainers already existed in the game as NPCs you hire to function as additional storage and sell your odds and ends in the auction house. Each retainer opens up 140 inventory spaces to you. You get two retainers with your base character and for a small extra fee per month you can have up to two more. I use this so my inventory is sorted into Tank, DPS, Healer and crafting gear by each retainer.
Subscribing to the premium version of the app adds a fifth retainer, or 140 more spaces of inventory. The Chocobo Saddlebag is a newer inventory category that added 70 spaces of inventory to the game at no extra charge. I use this for fishing tackle and firework storage. As you might imagine this also leaves my chocobo rather nervous.
Subscribing to the premium app adds 70 more Chocobo Saddlebag spaces. Additionally, in the premium version of the app I can move items between my inventory, saddlebag and retainers and move items between retainers as well… all of which I could already do in game at no added cost, but it costs Kupo Nuts and Mog Coins on the companion app because of reasons.
So what the FFXIV Companion does is take a great concept and completely squander it for the idea of monetizing it. All the best features are phoned in and other apps do them better. The most wanted features are monetized for no other reason than to monetize them. There’s not even a gaming element to it nor is there an insidious addictive aspect, it just holds additional inventory space hostage and nothing more.
And inventory is something that should be expanded as an MMO grows. With each new expansion, you have new dungeons and raids; there’s more loot to get and there are those among us keen on keeping as much as we can so we can look cool and reskin other gear with said loot to keep looking cool.
Because despite what the raiders tell you, looking glamorous is FFXIV‘s real endgame. If Lightning can model clothing and we can buy the emblems of Squall or Cloud, why should I not aspire to be as fashionabluh? By the end of my run, everyone should aspire to be a posh, burgundy-haired catgirl that favors white warpaint over mascara and eyeshadow! SE should sell a makeup brand inspired by me, the true Warrior of Light, not make apps monetizing my online funny money purchases.
Alas, my dream of an app that lets me do the little MMO things on a coffee break must remain a dream for now. Perhaps, in time, features will be added to the FFXIV Companion that realize this dream or they will continue to be cynically monetized. Even now, I imagine an app that would allow me to visit the Golden Saucer and let me play Triple Triad, race my chocobo and do all the little minigames within. I imagine an app that lets me manage my glamours and hairstyles BUT NOT FOR FREAKING KUPO NUTS! SEVEN HELLS, I ALREADY SUBSCRIBE TO PLAY!
Seriously, the subscription and Mog Station additional services/cosmetic storefront are enough monetization for one MMO. And that isn’t counting the CD sales, the FanFest tickets/paid livestreams, artbooks and other merchandising tied to in-game minions and mounts. This Kupo Nut and Mog Coin stuff is just plain greedy. Why would I pay extra to do on mobile what I already pay to do at home? This app should have made the game more convenient, not less. It should have been additive, not reductive.
If server stress were a concern, limiting my actions by time would be a reasonable solution. Like I said, these are features I’d want to attend to during a break at work, on a commute or maybe before movie previews at the theater. I did not ask for a mobile toll booth run by winged koalas. I want to hug moogles, not punch them.
Funny thing is, as of this writing, I can’t even find where to make the upgrade to the premium version of the companion app. The app is navigable in its main features, but it seems unfinished and some of its other features buried to the point I stopped caring to dig. That’s certainly for the best, as this app is a blight on FFXIV‘s otherwise stellar reputation.
Cast it into the void. It’s what Exdeath would want.