Naoki Yoshida Responds to the FFXIV Shadowbringers Gender Drama

Yoshida announcing Viera as a playable race.

Last weekend’s Final Fantasy XIV Fan Fest in Tokyo featured lots of announcements and news related to the game’s upcoming expansion, Shadowbringers. With those announcements, however, came a strong negative outcry from fans over two key additions: the game’s new jobs and races. The latter caused significantly more drama and has dominated the conversation around FFXIV for the past few days.

Shadowbringers will bring two new races to Eorzea in the forms of Hrothgar and Viera. The Hrothgar race is FFXIV’s take on Final Fantasy X’s Ronso. Viera is a race of tall, slender people with rabbit-like ears, originating in Final Fantasy XII. The problem, as some outspoken members of FFXIV’s community see it, is that Hrothgar player characters can only be male, and Viera player characters can only be female.

In an interview with Gamespot, conducted at the Tokyo Fan Fest, producer Naoki “Yoshi-P” Yoshida responded to the fan outcry. The key exchange is this section:

"We have to identify what they're coming from, so we can respond correctly," Yoshida said about concerned fans. "We want to review all the feedback that players gave. The bottom line is that the addition of a race takes quite a lot of cost; it's really quite an undertaking."

Yoshida added that in Final Fantasy XII, which is where Viera is from, the male Viera do not show themselves in public, so Final Fantasy XIV Online is staying loyal to the lore with only offering a female option. Yoshida explained that the male-only Hrothgar is Square Enix's effort to offer a new male-only race in response to Viera being female-only.

When the development team showed off female Viera at the Paris Fan Fest earlier this year, many players assumed exactly the same reasoning Yoshida explained to Gamespot. If Viera was going to be female-only, they would also need to add a male-only race… or the option to create male Viera.

I can personally accept the logic of staying true to the Viera representation from FFXII. For clarity, there are no existing Final Fantasy games containing male Viera. However, that does still leave the obvious question of “Okay, but we do see male and female Ronso in FFX.” I think the ideal solution would have been to make Hrothgars male and female, while leaving Viera exclusively female. This would respect the existing Viera lore (male Viera leave their communities and live in solitude to hunt, only returning at one time in their lives to mate), but also wouldn’t feel like BS on the Ronso side.

Yoshida’s statement doesn’t exactly give me reason to believe there will be a change, given the work that goes into adding races to the game. But it does at least show they’re taking the negative responses seriously. Hopefully this direct explanation also mitigates some of the wilder claims, like the people on r/ffxiv suggesting these two races are gender locked because the development team is homophobic.

We’ll have more information as the story develops.

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