The expansion of the trial to include the ability to play the Heavensward expansion doesn't, at least in my mind, count as turning FFXIV into some sort of free-to-play or hybrid business model. Square Enix still bans the purchase of items from the cash shop, meaning the only way the company can monetize trial players is to turn them into subscribers. The full list of trial restrictions is below...
- Free Trial Players cannot make in-game micro transactions during the Free Trial.
- Free Trial Players can create only eight (8) playable characters, restricted to one (1) playable character per world.
- Free Trial account characters have their level capped at level thirty five (35).
- Free Trial account characters can obtain only a capped amount of in game currency (GIL).
- Free Trial Players cannot use the "shout", "yell" or "tell" in-game chat options during the Free Trial.
- Free Trial Players cannot access the in-game market board during the Free Trial.
- Free Trial Players cannot trade items with other players during the Free Trial.
- Free Trial Players cannot use the Mogletter service during the Free Trial.
- Free Trial Players cannot hire a retainer character during the Free Trial.
- Free Trial Players can join a Linkshell if invited, but cannot create a new Linkshell during the Free Trial.
- Free Trial Players cannot create or join a Free Company during the Free Trial.
- Free Trial Players can join a party if invited or by using the Duty Finder, but cannot assemble a party during the Free Trial.
- Free Trial Players cannot login to the Lodestone and or any other game forum during the Free Trial.
- Free Trial Players cannot progress past Floor 10 in the Deep Dungeon during the Free Trial.
The 8 character limit shouldn't serve as a problem trying out classes (aka jobs) as a character can have all combat jobs, gathering and crafting classes trained. The bigger restrictions for anyone wanting to play the entire story line for free are the inability to trade with other players or use the market board. Not having the ability to upgrade equipment, especially in the Heavensward content which relies on flying mounts, via the market is big for running the dungeons that are a part of the main scenario quest line. Gathering materials for crafting in levels 50-60 is kind of difficult without the ability to fly.
As the change to the trial is part of an effort to attract players to the game, I should add in a couple of things patch 5.3 brings to FFXIV to make the game more player-friendly. First is the revamp of the 100 quests that were introduced in the patches to A Realm Reborn. Not only were many removed altogether, but more were streamlined to feel less grindy. Also, players can now fly in the old 1-50 level zones (except in cities) in the old ARR content.
Of interest to newer players, treasure chests in dungeons will no longer drop basically useless items, thus filling up valuable inventory space better reserved for armor and weapons. Especially important for trial players, several of the lower level dungeons will now guarantee players a drop applicable to their combat jobs as long as the player does not possess any of the items. With no access to the market board, the better quality items found in dungeons can help players gear up.
Having completed the Heavensward story and run the Crystal Palace quest line and raids, I fully agree with the take that Final Fantasy XIV is the best MMORPG on the market today. But, I can see how the anime type art style (I'm not really sure FFXIV is an anime game) and forced grouping could turn some people off. If anyone wanted to try the game, the introduction of the new unlimited trial is a good time to start.