Surprise! Further updates for this series will be really irregular until volume 3 is released, but I’ll still be making progress where I can. The magazine columns are at #124 and counting…🤔
#97: “Knowledge and Understanding – Part 1”
Published in 2017/11/30 issue
It’s currently November 7, 2017, and I’m staying in London. It’s been nine days since I left Japan for Paris Games Week, and I’ll finally be returning tomorrow. There have been a lot of events and business trips between the end of summer and now.
From August 17 to 20, I was in China for the Shanghai Fan Festival. After coming back to Japan, I left the very next day, August 21, for our exhibit at gamescom in Cologne, Germany. I returned from there on August 27, and then we had our 14-hour live stream on September 2 to celebrate FFXIV ARR’s 4th anniversary. On September 9, I went to Fukuoka City to give a lecture, at the request of Hino-san from Level-5. September 23 and 24 were FFXIV’s orchestra concert, and then from October 18 to 22, I was in Korea for the Seoul Fan Festival. Then, on October 30, I left for this Paris/London trip.
It kind of feels like I don’t even know what my job is anymore, but at any rate, the fact that there are so many events means that FFXIV is in high demand, so I’m not complaining. It was at the end of 2010 that I took on the task of reshaping FFXIV, and I never would’ve imagined that the game and I would be like this seven years later.
Media outlets from many countries have come to me for interviews following the release of Stormblood in June. The most common question asked during my trips over these past months was, “Did you expect FFXIV to grow this much and be so successful?” and of course, my answer is “No.” Anyone familiar with the disaster of 1.0 will undoubtedly agree with me. Also, the most common follow-up question to that was, “What are your future goals?” This question is a bit difficult to answer. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to say.
I’ve learned many things from the countries I visited during this round of trips. For example, the employment rate of Koreans in their 20s and the circumstances surrounding it. As many of you already know, Korea has compulsory military service. When a young man turns 19 years old, he undergoes an examination, and if he is deemed fit to serve, he must serve for two years before his 30th birthday. However, it is possible to postpone this compulsory service when attending university or vocational school. You can also apply for an extension if you’re working towards a qualification of some sort. However, it can’t be postponed past your 30th birthday. In the end, you still have to do it eventually. The trend among young people in Korea seems to be to postpone military service for as long as possible, using university and exams as an excuse. (Of course, I’m sure there are exceptions.)
However, when you get to the age where you’re graduating from university, you have to be thinking about looking for a job. The problem here is that companies would naturally rather hire people who’ve already completed their military service. There’s no point hiring young people if they leave for two years of military service right after. Plus, Korea still has powerful chaebol conglomerates, and the job market is much more competitive than Japan’s. As a result of all this, a typical job-seeker in Korea is in their late 20s. I certainly wasn’t aware of that before.
As for how this relates to my job, it’s part of understanding the marketplace: how much money can Koreans in their 20s afford to spend on their hobbies? In Korea, internet cafés are in extremely high demand. However, that was only really the case until around 2012, so I wondered if they’d begun to dwindle yet. But, since the job market has become so intense, there hasn’t been an income increase for young people. So, there are still many who prefer to gather in internet cafés, where they can play comfortably for a low price. As a Japanese person, I wouldn’t know about these circumstances, and looking at the internet café data alone wasn’t enough for it to make any sense to me.
Korea’s game sales rankings are equivalent to their internet café sales rankings. Since home consoles aren’t mainstream in their culture, they have no concept of sell-through rankings. In order to enter the internet café rankings, your game obviously has to be installed on internet café PCs, and whether or not your game is always available to play is of utmost importance.
For example, if FFXIV is installed and updated, then people can play it immediately when they enter the café. However, if it’s not installed, then anyone who wants to play it will first have to borrow the disc from the shop, install the game, and wait for all of the patches to download. Their internet café usage fees are still rising as this is going on. Basically, if it’s not immediately playable, then they lose money.
This also has a striking effect on those who go to an internet café without a particular game in mind. Generally, they would look at the rankings first and pick something popular to play. Even if they were to ignore the rankings, they’d still try out the games that are already installed first. If FFXIV isn’t installed, then we lose those chances to get people to play it.
So then, how do you get your game installed on internet café PCs? You add incentives for playing from an internet café—for example, you give their players special buffs or create exclusive dungeons for them. This makes it appealing to the café’s owner, and they’ll also receive more requests from their customers. As a result, the shop profits, and they’ll keep your game updated to the latest version for as long as it continues to be profitable.
Now, I knew of this reasoning because I researched their market when we were releasing the Korean version of FFXIV. However, knowledge and understanding are separate matters. It wasn’t until this last business trip that I finally understood why this was the case, after talking to the young people there. There’s a clear difference in how zealous I am with this approach now that I understand it rather than simply know about it.
Up until now, I’ve been frantically studying all sorts of things in order to make FFXIV a success, gaining knowledge and using it as the foundation for my plans, which are then put into practice. However, during my business trips this past summer and fall, I finally realized that while knowledge and understanding may seem similar, they’re actually completely different. Because of that, I’ve been mulling over how to answer the question of, “What are your future goals?” It feels like my mindset has gradually been changing… but I’m out of space now, so I’ll continue this discussion next time.