Phantasy Star Online 2: Eight Years Too Late
At E3 2019, during the Xbox E3 Briefing, Microsoft and Sega made the rather surprising announcement that Phantasy Star Online 2 would be releasing on the Xbox One and Windows PC in Spring of 2020. Some fans of the Phantasy Star Online series rejoiced at this sudden announcement. Others, like myself, feel that this announcement has come far too late.
PSO2 released in Japan way back in 2012, and has since gained over 600,000 total players, with around 25,000 currently playing regularly. The game is still fairly popular all these years later, with new content being released every month. PSO2 has also been supported with an unofficial English translation patch for pretty much the entirety of its existence, so non-Japanese fans have been able to join the fight as well.
I feel that it would be safe to say that most people who already have an established interest in the Phantasy Star Online series are already among the 600,000 players that have experienced the world of PSO2.
With this in mind, I feel that the English release of PSO2 has come far too late to matter, or to be successful. It is highly unlikely that English-speaking players of the Japanese version are going to be willing to throw away eight years of progress just so they can play a natively English version, especially since the fan translation group has confirmed that the translation project will continue despite this announcement.
Though it may be possible – and even likely that the Japanese version will experience an IP block once the English version launches, temporary (and in some regions, permanent) IP blocks have already happened to the game in the past and many players simply used VPNs to bypass this block, while others simply quit the game entirely.
Concerns have also been raised that the game may experience the introduction of Pay-To-Win mechanics, like those that were present in the Chinese and South-East Asia versions of the game. PSO2 is notable for being very fair with it’s Free-To-Play status, with most of its paid content being purely cosmetic or quality-of-life related, never requiring the player to spend a single cent in order to succeed at the game. Sega has not yet commented on any such changes to the monetization methods in the game, but there is certainly an established cause for concern.
Regardless of what state PSO2’s English release launches in, the fact remains that the core problem of this release is the timing.
Most people who care about the series have most likely already played the Japanese version, and getting new people to play an eight year old MMO that they’ve never heard of is going to be a very hard sell. We also have to question just how much more life PSO2 has in it. The first Phantasy Star Online ran for only 10 years, and there’s no telling just how many more years PSO2 will continue being supported. Adding in the fact that there are many competing MMOs on the market, both free and paid, PSO2 has a daunting task ahead of it to succeed. That is not to say that the game isn’t good – it is fantastic, actually. I personally played the game between 2012 and 2015 and enjoyed every minute of it, but it will likely be a huge uphill battle for the game to succeed despite that, and I just don’t feel that it is going to make it in the long run.