• Final Fantasy Record Keeper - Final Fantasy Tactics event controversy

    Controversy has erupted in the Final Fantasy Record Keeper community after statistical analysis by its players revealed that the chances of receiving rare items was reduced ahead of the hotly anticipated Final Fantasy Tactics event.

    For those of you who don't know, Final Fantasy Record Keeper is a mobile title developed by Japanese mobile studio DeNA on behalf of Square-Enix. As with most DeNA releases, Record Keeper is free to play with premium elements. Unlike other previous mobile offerings in the Final Fantasy franchise such as All The Bravest, Record Keeper has been a smash hit and recently passed the 10 million downloads mark.

    Ramza and Agrias at Orbonne.

    Record Keeper is based around "relics" - weapons or armour of varying types, just as in the main Final Fantasy games. Players can enter into a prize draw to have a chance at acquiring new relics which vary in quality and abilities. They can either do this by spending Mythril, which is acquired in game through completing certain battles and as part of a daily allowance, or through Gems which cost real world money.

    The cost of Gems in the UK store. For reference, a draw for one relic costs 300 Gems and for eleven relics costs 3000 Gems.

    Every week or so a new event based around a particular Final Fantasy title is released, often with a focus on a handful of characters. In turn, a prize draw based around that game and those characters becomes available, offering weapons from those games with useful Soul Break abilities. For example, during the first Final Fantasy VII event there was the chance to draw Cloud's Buster Sword which gave Cloud the Braver Soul Break. Over time, power creep has set in and relics have become steadily more powerful.

    This is where Final Fantasy Tactics comes in. As the Japanese version of the game's event schedule is 6 months ahead of its global counterpart, players are acutely aware of upcoming relics and events. The first Tactics event featured some incredibly powerful relics, not least of all Ramza's Platinum Sword which gives him the Super Soul Break Shout, which gives all party members Haste as well as significantly boosting their attack. It's as broken as it sounds.

    Shout in action.

    It is safe to say it was the most hyped event in Record Keeper history. The community had been abuzz with talk of it for months and there was a general feeling of happiness and excitement for the event's release earlier this week. As an avid Record Keeper player myself and a regular lurker on the subreddit that acts as the playerbase's focal point, I, too, was totally pumped for this event. I had never played FF Tactics before - thanks Square-Enix for never releasing the original in Europe until War of the Lions - but given the excitement I finally sat down and played it last month and fell in love.

    The fated day finally rolled around, players wished each other luck and braced their wallets. I feel it is important to say as a disclaimer that I have spent money on Record Keeper and I drew on the Final Fantasy Tactics banner. However, this article is not written in bitterness. I performed just two draws, and in them not only did I receive the fabled Platinum Sword but also Agrias's Super Soul Break weapon, Defender, and three copies of her Kaiser Shield (which can be combined). I felt elation at this, and indeed still do - this is a game I have played every day for a year and I had just found its holy grail.

    Agrias's Super Soul Break. I am reminded of Homer taking on the Krustyburglar as a child onlooker desperately cries "Stop, stop, he's already dead".

    However, my joy was not shared by the community at large. The subreddit was filled with disgruntled users who noticed they were receiving an unusually high amount of relics that were not featured on the banners. They began to look for answers as to why, and believe the answer is due to the game's drop rates being altered, despite no announcement that this was to take place.

    DeNA has never released the statistical information on how likely it is that certain relics appear, and so the community itself has spent countless hours gathering the necessary information. The analysis on the Tactics banner by the Reddit community indicated that there is a notably reduced chance of receiving the best relics in the FF Tactics draw both compared to how the event was in Japan, but also to every previous event on the global version of the game. The Reddit user spectheintro has written a great summary of this in their email to DeNA customer support here and it is well worth the read.

    Why would DeNA do this? The answer is quite simple.

    The above is an image from Reddit user Guadosalam taken after the launch of the Final Fantasy Tactics banner. It is for Singapore's App Store but it is almost certainly not unique. DeNA were undoubtedly more than well aware of the community's anticipation of the Final Fantasy Tactics event and many of its players openly stating their intent to spend large sums of money to get the relics they wanted. Regardless of any alterations to banner drop rates, DeNA would have made a large profit as a result of the Tactics event.

    DeNA has refuted the claims made by its players. Its customer support teams have apparently been inundated with angry players demanding it explain itself. Here is a response that Reddit user Blood_Weiss said they had received from the company:
    I appreciate that the community did their own observation in this matter, however, I must insist that not all of the information they provide can be 100% correct. In general, for the statistic data, a large enough number of data from all kinds of players are required to get the close-to-correct result.

    I am indeed a bit surprised that the statistics given by the community showed such a low result compared to the previous banners, yet according to this investigation, it is officially confirmed that the featured relics from the FINAL FANTASY Tactics banner are distributed at the designed rates. I hope you understand our team bases our investigation on the logs, and abide by this.
    Assuming this is a genuine response, the tone seems to be that the community has made an error in its calculations as it does not have access to the full information. Indeed, the data the community has is based on user submissions. Players who have pulled the relics they wanted are more likely to stop drawing and with this the data does have the potential for inaccuracy as a result. However, it is worth noting that the community's consistent efforts at analysing the draw rates have all given similar results for other banners, and yet it is the analysis for this banner, the most popular banner with the most evidence, that is apparently the one which is incorrect.

    Many gamers have a negative view on those who pay microtransactions in games, seeing them as foolish. The industry itself has a negative term for them, whales. No matter what your stance on this business practice and those who engage in it is, surely anyone can sympathise with gamers who have parted with money and felt disappointment due to, if found to be true, misleading business practices on the part of a developer in whom they trusted.

    The banner at the heart of the controversy.

    If DeNA truly did change the drop rates without warning, such actions could only be described as a cynical attempt to squeeze more cash from its player base by exploiting its excitement. It would be a disingenuous way to treat such loyal players and customers, and as one of them myself I am saddened if this is the case.

    Many players have stated their intention to no longer pay for gems in game, and even though I was successful and cheered by my results in the draw, I am inclined to join them in doing the same. The 500 gems you can see in my account in the above screenshots will be the last I buy. Final Fantasy Record Keeper has been a phenomenon, and if its maker views the long term community goodwill as a price worth paying for a short term financial gain then that is truly a shame.

    Reddit user pqvqs has suggested providing an explanation as to how the community has knowledge of what the drop rates are.
    • When the game was first released it was possible to know the rates, since it was possible to datamine the numbers from the game. All the relics feature on banners had ~1% rate (sometimes 0.99% or something like that).
    • On the japanese version of the game those relics had the label "Rate UP" until the banners changed (FFVII AC event) and some now show the "Rate 2x UP".
    • Given that we expect some relics to have 1% and others to have 2% rate.
    Update 2:
    Reddit user Teyah has updated the statistical analysis, as you can see here. The sample size now consists of 72,246 pulls.
    Comments 4 Comments
    1. Freya's Avatar
      Freya -
      Wow I didn't know any of that was happening. I'm still really bad at RK so I guess I hadn't noticed all this!
    1. Cynan Machae's Avatar
      Cynan Machae -
      Very well written!

      I also drew on the tactics banner before knowing this, and was among the lucky ones to get both Defender and Platinum, 2 Grand armor and a Kaiser shield (took me 4 11-pulls). I got three off-banner relics as well, which I found weird at the moment (but I got so lucky so I didnt complaint!)

      Knowing this now scares me for the future, and while my money-spending was limited to the 100-gem draws, I will stop doing this as well.
    1. Fynn's Avatar
      Fynn -
      {As a side note, Psy, Tactics is now available on Mobile devices and you just have to play it!)
    1. Psychotic's Avatar
      Psychotic -
      I played it on a PSX emulator, truth be told! My battery life gets sucked up enough by Record Keeper as it is!

      Thanks for the great responses everyone, and everyone in the Reddit community too. I did not expect that.
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