Wisdom of Nym: That’s a very large fan festival you got there, Final Fantasy XIV

    
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Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.

Odd as it might be to say, I don’t really have a lot more to say just yet about tomorrow’s patch for Final Fantasy XIV. No doubt I will have more to say once it’s actually here and all, but right now… well, we’ve got those patch notes, we can read them, there’s not much to do but wait until maintenance begins. It’ll probably be a fun ride. But instead of analyzing the patch notes right now, I’d rather talk about something I haven’t mentioned in more than passing capacity up until now: The fan festival.

No one is surprised we’re getting a festival this year; it’s a year after an expansion release, that’s what happens. We all know that it’s going to announce the next expansion and we’ll spend the next several months speculating about it. But there are some elements of the goings-on that are notably different from prior years, so let’s gently slide into speculation mode about that while we all wait for the update to land tomorrow.

Of course, for my money, the most notable big change right away is the fact that this time around the fan festival isn’t going to be in Las Vegas, but at the San Diego Convention Center. That is… a pretty big upgrade, considering that the convention center is both bigger than the facilities at the Rio and is almost certainly more expensive. This feels at once like it’s an example of how far the game has come and how much is expected out of this year.

The former point is pretty obvious; if Square-Enix is willing to drop the cash needed to rent out that huge haul for an event covering one game, obviously it expects that the event will be worth it in terms of coverage, attendance, and overall profile.

Just as an aside, since I’ve seen people saying otherwise, everyone here understands that’s the point of spending money on a convention, right? The company in questions weighs the value of a direct advertising campaign against spending the money on a convention and decides that the convention provides a better return on investment. They don’t usually make much money on the convention itself, ticket prices help but the point is that it’s an advertising act that makes some more of its money back. We get that? We’re clear? Great.

Guilty or innocent?

The latter point, though, is something that seems worth diving into. Obviously, this year is not looking very bad for Square-Enix to begin with; the releases of Final Fantasy VII Remake and Marvel’s Avengers are both due out this year, and there are some other major titles we already know of in the pipeline like Outriders and Dying Light 2. We can also be relatively certain we’ll hear about more titles this year at E3, since if nothing else I feel as if we’re going to hear a bit more about Naoki Yoshida’s mystery project this time around.

Of course, June is too early for the next expansion announcement. If Yoshida’s project is announced at E3 and turns out to be a new MMO (which I personally expect), that would be more than enough reason to make this particular convention a blowout event to reassure people that Eorzea isn’t going anywhere. And even if it isn’t, this is a sign that Square expects expansions number four to be a big release next year. They want you hyped well in advance.

Admittedly, that also pushes the ceiling up higher. The studio has now committed to having a huge event in San Diego for a new expansion that’s following right on the heels of an amazingly well-received experience. This means that the logical, risk-averse thing to do is to make sure this next expansion is stuffed to the brim with fan longing… but then, it could just as easily go the opposite route and be another stunner, since Shadowbringers was already wildly out of left field.

Regardless, it’s a sign of faith and forward planning. We’re going to have to keep a very close watch on story developments to get an idea of where we’re going next.

Also interesting is the fact that the fan festival order has been flipped and the whole process has been compressed. It’s not the first time that the European convention has been last on the docket, of course, but it does mean that last year’s longer-than-usual period of fan festivals are not being replicated. We’ll be done with this in February, with less time spent wondering about where we’re going or waiting for that last new job reveal.

I have a faint sense that the staff was also a bit unhappy with how long everything took the last time around, and while it’s understandable, it does lead to a certain amount of fan anxiety and a lot of crying for new information in lieu of official updates. This setup works better as an aggregate, with November, December, and February all having festivals while January is patch 5.5 part one. (That’s not a spoiler. We all know it. We knew it last year.)

Imperfect balance.

Part of me wonders if the larger venue also signals bigger reveals for the game, but at the same time I also think that’s not altogether supported by evidence. While the event setup at the Rio worked very well, I could see the move to a larger facility being almost entirely tied to a need for having better overall event control and admitting more people rather than just needing a bigger stage for what’s on display.

Then again… while we haven’t yet been told such, it’s quite reasonable to assume that this year’s fan festival will once again be streamed online all the way through. That was a major change last year and a welcome one, meaning that everyone who wanted to see these things live could do so. While nothing can quite match the experience of sitting in that hall when the trailer starts up (something I’ve had the good fortune to experience twice), you don’t need more attendees to necessarily create that energy.

But then, there are other peripheral events going on that would be enhanced by more people. But then, there’s also still the issue of merch… you get the idea, it goes back and forth a lot. Ultimately, I feel very confident about taking it as a sign of good performance by the title and positioning the expansion as a big release in 2021, but not so much about making guesses about bigger announcements.

Of course, Xbox One would be such a big announcement… but I suspect that’ll arrive during E3, so perhaps that’s another part of the reason for the larger venue. Future-proofing, if you will.

Needless to say, I’m excited. Yes, we all knew this was happening this year and could largely block out the days ahead of time; those of you who remember one of my last columns of 2019 will recall that I already did specifically that. But having the confirmation is still exciting, the thought that it’s going to be in a bigger venue is bracing, and there’s enough to look forward to over the next several months that I feel like it’s going to just creep up on us until the event itself.

As always, feedback is welcome in the comments or via mail to eliot@massivelyop.com. Next week? Patch impressions, obviously.

The Nymian civilization hosted an immense amount of knowledge and learning, but so much of it has been lost to the people of Eorzea. That doesn’t stop Eliot Lefebvre from scrutinizing Final Fantasy XIV each week in Wisdom of Nym, hosting guides, discussion, and opinions without so much as a trace of rancor.