Final Fantasy: Record Keeper Loot-Drop Controversy Highlights Need for Transparency in Free-to-Play Games [Updated]

Fans of Final Fantasy: Record Keeper believe they're getting ripped off, and publisher DeNA risks its long-term relationship with its customers if it doesn't prove otherwise.

News by Nadia Oxford, .

Update, 04/12/2016: Item drop data supplied by readers in the comments highlights the specifics of the Final Fantasy: Record Keeper controversy. DeNA is being accused by players of altering drop rates on three items related to the Final Fantasy Tactics event. The items, the Kaiser Shield, the Grand Armor and the Nu-Khai Armband, reportedly had a higher drop rate when the Japanese version of the Tactics event ran last October.

North American fans of Final Fantasy: Record Keeper are upset over the items' supposed lowered drop rate, since there's been a good deal of hype leading up to the Tactics event. They believe DeNA is taking advantage of the excitement to get players to spend extra cash on rare item draws.

We apologize for the confusion and thank everyone who supplied information and data!

Update, 04/11/2016: The Final Fantasy: Record Keeper subreddit poll linked in this article indicates the drop rate for rare Final Fantasy Tactics-related items is likely at the level considered normal for Record Keeper's other rare items, barring small discrepencies. That said, we'd still like DeNA and other mobile game publishers to generally be more open about item drop rates.

The Western iteration of Square-Enix's unique mobile RPG, Final Fantasy: Record Keeper, turned a year old in March. The game, which brings new and old Final Fantasy characters together for epic battles against familiar foes, has remained consistently popular since its launch.

In fact, Final Fantasy: Record Keeper is so popular that hundreds of players gathered on the game's subreddit to try and calculate whether or not the game's publisher, DeNA, is tampering with drop rates for a highly-anticipated event.

An "event" in Record Keeper is a timed festival that highlights a specific Final Fantasy universe or title. The most recent event, which is at the root of mobile gaming's latest free-to-play controversy, revolves around Final Fantasy Tactics. During the event, players are supposed to be able to draw powerful Tactics-related weapons and armor, Gashapon-style.

Unsurprisingly, the more powerful weapons and armor are that much harder to score. That's nothing new for Record Keeper, which lets you pay for draws using Mythril (which you earn in-game) or Gems (which you purchase with real-world cash).

Spent $50 trying to draw a rare sword? Blame yourself or bad algorithms.

But members of the Record Keeper subreddit have been doing some number-crunching, and they're accusing DeNA of tampering with drop rates for the Final Fantasy Tactics event. Here's the breakdown so far.

Obviously, the Record Keeper subreddit is using imperfect science here. While the ongoing poll is interesting, it shouldn't be accepted as definite proof that DeNA is messing with its rate drops. For its part, DeNA stoutly denied any such tampering when it was confronted by Forbes.

At the same time, Record Keeper fans can hardly be blamed for their suspicions. When a large group of dedicated players stands up as a collective and says "There's a problem here," that group shouldn't be ignored -- especially since many Record Keeper enthusiasts have been doing their thing on a day-by-day basis for better than a year now, and are therefore familiar with the ins-and-outs of free-to-play mechanics.

If these players sense the wind has changed, they probably have a good reason for believing so. After all, mobile game publishers don't always play fair when it comes to premium loot drops. Granblue Fantasy, a mobile RPG that's hugely popular in Japan, was the target of similar controversy last month when a player spent thousands of dollars on the game's crystal-based Gashapon system to try and score a rare character, Anchira. He succeeded after cracking open 2,276 crystals at ¥300 ($2.67 USD) apiece, totaling roughly ¥655,000 ($6,065 USD).

Granblue Fantasy is published by Cygames, not DeNA, but the message Record Keeper fans are sending should be heard by all of mobile gaming's publishing giants: There needs to be a lot more transparency about loot drop algorithms. If people want to spend crazy amounts of money pursuing a 1% drop, that's totally their right as a citizen of the free world. But they deserve to know the odds. We all do.

At least you can always beat up Garuda for free.

DeNA supposedly agrees, telling Forbes "[W]e are discussing how we can provide greater drop rate transparency so that our fans can make their own decisions based on it to enjoy our title in the future (...) We value long-term relationship with our customers the most."

If DeNA is smart, its promise for transparency won't prove to be empty PR corporate speak. Mobile gaming isn't for everyone, but people who enjoy it enter an unspoken contract with publishers when they delve into a long-term investment like Final Fantasy: Record Keeper. If said publishers are honest, up-front, open-handed, players are far likelier to stick around and spend money.

If, on the other hand, a publisher decides to jerk its players around, it should keep in mind that we're never more than one download away from the next shiny-looking mobile RPG.

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Comments 15

  • Avatar for Monkey-Tamer #1 Monkey-Tamer 2 years ago
    I am Jack's complete lack of surprise.
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  • Avatar for scotts #2 scotts 2 years ago
    I'm confused - the reddit thread shows very close agreement between the observed and expected rates. But this article is written as if there is a divergence. Did an old version of the poll show divergence, and now with more data, it shows agreement?
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  • Avatar for nadiaoxford #3 nadiaoxford 2 years ago
    @scotts Indeed, looks like the initial complaints (and my story) were based on older data. I'll update that! I think the main point -- transparency is important in IAP -- still stands.
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  • Avatar for mganai #4 mganai 2 years ago
    There should be higher drop rates unlocked following certain dungeon clears associated with characters, etc. (i. e. unlocked Cloud -> 2x rate for his dedicated Burst Soul Break weapon)
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  • Avatar for dt #5 dt 2 years ago
    @nadiaoxford The reason that the items' drop rate seems in line with the expected drop rate is because it's being adjusted based on the overall expected rate for rare items in general, which was NOT altered. The backbone of the controversy is actually that three of the items (the Kaiser Shield, Grand Armor and Nu-Khai Armband, specifically) had their individual drop rates lowered from a 2% rate in the Japanese version of the game to 1% in the Global version. This led to players pulling a lot more items that weren't even included as an item on the advertised banner. It's seen as really shady because the Final Fantasy Tactics banner was one of the most hyped banners that people were saving tons of in-game currency (or, god forbid, real money) for, so it looks like DeNA used the opportunity to go for a cheap cash grab, because one of the highlights of the FFT banner was that even the consolation prizes (the items that had their rates lowered) were very good for your team.
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  • Avatar for Lord-Bob-Bree #6 Lord-Bob-Bree 2 years ago
    @dt Not quite. It's not so much that those items' rates were reduced from what they were in Japan, but that they were reduced from previous banners in the global version. Data collection on previous banners since early March put normal SB items at 1.5%, while this banner they seem to have been reduced to 1%.

    But yeah, the "expected" rates are just the reported rates adjusted to fit the supposedly-known rate for pulling 5* relics in general, not what rates people expected the banner to have.
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  • Avatar for Cara13 #7 Cara13 2 years ago
    @Lord-Bob-Bree The only 1.5% rates prior to this were in a special anniversary celebration, in which that rate was RAISED from the Japanese anniversary celebration. The best estimate at rates in various events are as follows. If you're unsure about how desireable things are, I've listed them in order from what's generally considered most desireable to least desireable within each event:

    Normal events prior to Cloudy Wolf event in both global and JP (1.5 months ago for global):
    9 featured items at 1% each (sometimes including one "Super" Soul break item)
    3% other 5-star items (12% total 5-star)

    Normal events starting with Cloudy Wolf event in both global and JP:
    2 featured "Burst" or "Super" Soul Break items at 1% each
    5 other featured items at 2% each
    .87% (global) or 1% (JP) other 5-star items (12.87% or 13% total 5-star)

    Anniversary celebration in JP:
    3 Super Soul Break items at 1% each
    6 other featured items at 1% each
    3% other 5-star items (12% total 5-star)

    Anniversary celebration in Global:
    4 Super Soul Break items at 1% each
    5 other featured items at 1.5% each
    1.37% other 5-star items (12.87% total 5-star)

    Final Fantasy Tactics in JP:
    2 Super Soul Break items at 1% each
    3 normal character Soul Break items at 2% each
    2 shared Soul Break items at 1% each
    2 other featured items at 1% each
    1% other 5-star items (13% total 5-star)

    Final Fantasy Tactics in Global:
    2 Super Soul Break items at 1% each
    3 normal character Soul Break items at 1% each (source of controversy)
    2 shared Soul Break items at 1% each
    2 other featured items at 1.5% each
    2.87% other 5-star items (12.87% total 5-star)

    Draw your own conclusions from there. But keep in mind that DeNA's stance has always been that the JP version and Global versions are different games, which is likely the basis of their claim that rates have not been "changed".Edited 2 times. Last edited April 2016 by Cara13
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  • Avatar for smeezus #8 smeezus 2 years ago
    @nadiaoxford This is simply not right - the total 5* rate did not drop, but some FFT-related items' drop rates were lowered from 1.5% to 1%. That's far from "likely at the level considered normal for Record Keeper's other rare items" - actually a 33% decrease.Edited April 2016 by smeezus
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  • Avatar for Heahengel #9 Heahengel 2 years ago
    Deleted April 2016 by Heahengel
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  • Avatar for Heahengel #10 Heahengel 2 years ago

    The updated data actually supports our argument more. Maybe I can explain it clearly (because it's easy for it to turn into nuanced soup).

    While the drop rate for the highest tier of items was as expected (the 5* items dropped at about 13%), people were spending money trying to get five specific items, those that gave powerful new abilities to the popular characters Ramza and Agrias. We expected those five items to drop at a combined 8%. Instead, the data show them dropping at 5%.Edited April 2016 by Heahengel
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  • Avatar for KaiserWarrior #11 KaiserWarrior 2 years ago
    Imagine how much video games (yes, how much -- this is in terms of games, hardware, DLC, subscriptions, etc.) $6,000 could get you.

    Now imagine setting all of it on fire in exchange for one character in a single mobile game.

    This is why I have problems with mobile/F2P and refuse to support them.
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  • Avatar for chrisjones11 #12 chrisjones11 2 years ago
    @nadiaoxford The linked reddit poll compares to an expected rate assuming DENA altered the rate, as if to say the hypothesis was that the rate was changed and the data gathered conformed to that hypothesis. The topic creator of the poll, Teyah, posted this today, which should clarify:

    A comparison of the JP and Global rates for individual items on the FFT banner:
    Relic/JP rate/Global rate/Notes
    Platinum Sword: 1%/1%
    Defender: 1%/1%
    Grand Armor: 2%/1% JP: Rate up x 2
    Kaiser Shield: 2%/1% JP: Rate up x 2
    Nu Khai Armlet: 2%/1% JP: Rate up x 2
    Ice Rod: 1%/1%
    White Staff: 1%/1%
    Spellbinder: 1%/1.5%
    Chameleon Robe: 1%/1.5%
    Off-banner: 1%/2.87%
    Total 5* rate: 13%/12.87%

    From the same topic but a different poster to provide more background context, "here's the current standard event banner format, which has been the standard since Feb 27"
    2 BSB/SSBs, 1% each
    3 Character SBs, 2% each
    1 Shared SB, 2%
    1 non-SB, 2%
    Off-banner ~.87%
    Total: ~12.87% 5* relics

    The takeaway being that 3 of the 5 big draw items had their rates halved with the made up space going to off-banner junk. Two of the five, the Platinum Sword and Defender, were unchanged at 1% rates. Some articles are reporting these were changed, and that is not the case nor the controversy.
    EDIT: Trying to get the table legibleEdited April 2016 by chrisjones11
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  • Avatar for nadiaoxford #13 nadiaoxford 2 years ago
    Wanted to thank everyone for their help / data on this story. Good times with free-to-play math!
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  • Avatar for Defunct-Drone #14 Defunct-Drone 2 years ago