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

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.

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.

Sometimes we include links to online retail stores. If you click on one and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. See our terms & conditions.

Nadia Oxford

Staff Writer

Nadia has been writing about games for so long, only the wind and the rain (or the digital facsimiles thereof) remember her true name. She's written for Nerve, About.com, Gamepro, IGN, 1UP, PlayStation Official Magazine, and other sites and magazines that sling words about video games. She co-hosts the Axe of the Blood God podcast, where she mostly screams about Dragon Quest.

Read this next

Final Fantasy 8 Remastered is Releasing a Lot Sooner Than Expected

In just two weeks, Squall will be on the Switch.

How the NES Changed RPGs Forever

Axe of the Blood God's Console RPG Quest continues!

The Best Version of Every Final Fantasy Game

Some Final Fantasy games have remakes of their remakes. What's the definitive version of each single-player mainline installment? Let us help you.

More News

Spiritfarer's Art Director on Encouraging Relaxation, Exploration, and Just Chilling on a Boat

How Spirited Away led to a cozy management sim about the afterlife.

Borderlands 3's First Limited-Time Event Will Be a Free Halloween Ghoul Hunt

All Borderlands 3 players will have a few weeks to scoop up some creepy loot and take down a boney boss.

Street Fighter 2's Creator on Why Blocking Was Once a Controversial Issue

A creator and a pro sit down to talk blocking in fighting games.