If you’ve been enjoying Final Fantasy XIV free of charge for the past year, you’ll soon need to subscribe in order to keep playing. In a statement issued via the latest FFXIV Lodestone, Square Enix President and CEO, Yoichi Wada said the following:

In the ten months since the FINAL FANTASY XIV team’s restructuring, we have put forth the utmost effort into not only improving the game’s existing features, but also creating a concrete plan to outline the game’s new direction. Today, I am pleased to announce we can confidently present that plan to our customers. We fully realize this is but a single step towards our ultimate goal, and that to meet the high standards set in the plan, more time is required. In the meantime, however, we will not waver in our commitment to bringing players exciting and engaging content, even as the game moves through its evolution.

With this, it is my hope that we will continue to receive your support as we will need to bring the unbilled period to a close between late November and early December 2011, and introduce our subscription-based billing system. I appreciate that this decision will not be popular, but it is a necessary step in building upon the foundation our fans and development team have made together and to realize the full potential of FINAL FANTASY XIV.

However, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Square Enix intends to make further major changes to the game over the course of the next year, including a complete graphical engine and UI overhaul and significant alterations to the game’s maps. In addition, the new UI will be able to support add-ons, updates to the battle and armory sytems are expected and the PlayStation 3 version is on its way.

You can read full announcement and browse the roadmap to the future here.