The market is saturated, meaning that it’s extremely unlikely to find new consumers. The MMO space is competing with all other online games for eyeballs, and the time investment required here is a big disincentive. It’d be hard to say what the total playerbase is across all MMOs, as it’s a sort of Venn diagram across other game types, but we’re not going to see major swings up or down that do not come at the cost of other products.
FF14 is moving on up. There are dozens of reasons for this, but the largest trigger appears to simply be Asmongold’s stream moving to cover that game instead of WoW. There are enough people throwing shade at Blizzard, I don’t really need to pile on there. The short of it is that the playerbase’s expectations are not being met, and Blizzard has more than enough issues outside the game that are not exactly helping things out.
FF14 has a rather positive reputation in gamer circles, so it make sense that some folks would give it a look. It’s also important to note that FF14 has no interest in the elite gaming circles. The game is focused a lot on the social and story aspects as compared to difficult/progressive combat. I’m not saying it’s easy by any means, but the lack of this top tier competitiveness means that you don’t have the huge gaps in expectations that WoW has between world players, M+ players, and raiders.
It also takes a LOT of time to get through all the FF14 content. The MSQ (main story) is mandatory for each character, and forces you to group multiple times. You’re not going to plow through everything in a week, and the mandatory grouping likely means that you’re going to be exposed to other players, increasing the odds of making friends and increasing stickiness. The final interesting bit here is that the game is not built on the idea of go-go-go, you need to use all your skills from the start (crowd control!!), so that the experience at level 20 is very similar to the experience at max level.
All that combined means that you either enjoy FF14 early on and then have a designed sticky factor to get to end-game, or you bounce really early. It also means that if you do hit the end-game, you’re not hitting a wall of a new game mode, and generally if you made it that far, you’re going to stick around for a bit.
A point here is that FF14 is not a WoW-killer. It’s a themepark MMO that built a similar set of rides, but for different reasons.
So the ultimate question with the FF14 uptick is, “is this going to last?” It’s certainly too early to tell, and that early split on liking the structure or not only shows up after a month or two of play. It’s certainly sucking up the WoW playerbase that is not happy, and it will scratch a certain itch for them. If those players are the KSM-type, then it’s unlikely that FF14 will be a long-term abode. Is that the majority of WoW though? Reports are tough to find, but it seems around 10% per patch from the digging I’ve done. That leaves a LOT of players who may find FF14 a good fit.
It’ll be very interesting to see what the player pop numbers look like in October.