So… yeah, we’re not getting our fan festival for Final Fantasy XIV in San Diego. You probably saw that by now. (And if you’re wondering why I’m talking about this now rather than on Monday, well, chalk that up to the difference in timetables for writing and planning ahead and when we actually get news.) This is probably not a major surprise to anyone. Considering the state of the world in general, California in particular, and the general feelings about large gatherings right now… well, no one really wants to be the test balloon for how these things are going to go, and my guess is that Square-Enix was just waiting until the whole thing had authoritative grounds for cancellation.
The delay and the reveal
Here’s the thing that I think we do have to acknowledge: The fan festival is about announcing a new expansion. That has been the case for every single one. And we also know that the pandemic has had a definite impact on the pace of work for FFXIV because we’ve been told that in no uncertain terms.
Here’s the other thing to acknowledge: Development and pace for FFXIV make for a pretty well-tuned machine. And when part of a machine gets thrown off, a lot of things get thrown off in sequence.
You probably remember that I suggested not so long that cancelling BlizzCon was motivated both by pandemic safety and by the need for acknowledging that this wasn’t going to be a great year for the show anyhow. Obviously, I don’t think the same is the case for the fan festival. We don’t get those every year, we get them every other year, and only when there is something specific to show off. But could FFXIV development have been thrown off enough that there might have been clearly… not enough to show off?
Well… yes. But not altogether.
I’m pretty sure that work on the next expansion has gotten delayed by the pandemic because everything has been delayed. For that matter, I think it’s an open question of how big those delays have been and how the development will cope with those delays rippling through. Will the net patch still get a full patch cycle and bump forward development about a month from its usual timeline? Will 5.3-5.5 be shorter patch cycles than we’ve gotten in prior, hoping to still hit an early July release for the next expansion? Will the team have time for everything?
But the reality is also that these things are planned far in advance. Graphics have to be done up, presentations have to be made, prototype footage has to be recorded, and so on. While there has definitely been an impact, I have a feeling that it’s all too easy to both overstate and understate the amount of delay that has actually been inflicted on the team as expansion development rolls on.
So I don’t think this is a case where the delay is necessary due to a lack of things to show off. I do think that the delay has a benefit in that regard, but I doubt that this was anyone’s primary concern.
The schedule ahead
Speaking purely from a player-and-content-focused perspective, I’d say the thing to consider now is what this means for that expansion announcement. And that is a big question mark because… well, we don’t know if the announcements will happen as they were originally planned or not just yet. But my suspicion is that they will.
We’re almost certainly going to be hearing about the title for the expansion soon, albeit not officially; this is just around the time when the new title always gets registered for a trademark and thus we all find out the probably title. (It has now held true for three separate expansions, after all.) The real question is whether the reveal still happens in November or if it gets pushed to the Japanese festival date.
Both are really plausible. A special Letter from the Producer LIVE with the trailer and basics would be completely understandable, especially if it’s scheduled around the expected time. At the same time, it’s also plausible to delay by one month and jumble up the usual reveal cadence, so Japan gets the expansion announcement, Europe gets the midway announcement, and the US has the second job and the last reveal.
My personal suspicion is the former; it keeps the timeline basically the same, and while there are still things like merchandise, concerts, and panels to be held, the first fan festival almost always features only the lightest teases of actual content. This allows the big announcement to take place and to keep the same basic plans for the next two conventions, while also drumming up excitement at the same pace and giving players a reason to come out for an American convention more focused on community and panels.
From a media perspective, I wouldn’t be surprised if this overlapped with the usual media tour done ahead of the expansion, if we get one this time around.
Of course, there’s also the possibility that this festival was going to show off more, something I speculated about when discussing the larger venue… but that remains pure speculation. My focus, at the moment, is the expansion announcement and the schedule we know about.
Feelings, nothing more than feelings
So how does all of this make me feel? Sad, more than anything.
My own problems compared to those of so many other people are minimal, and I want to stress that fact; at the heart of things, I recognize that I am intensely fortunate and I’m grateful for that fact. But for me, at least, this has been a year of disappointments in many ways, with many of the things I actually look forward to either getting cancelled or turning out to be massive disappointments. And I do really look forward to the fan festival.
It’s a chance for excitement. It’s a chance for me to see some people I otherwise don’t get a chance to see over the course of the year. It’s fun and noisy and energetic and welcoming in a way that so, so few events feel (if you’ve read my coverage of PAX East over the year, you know I don’t relish that convention and don’t feel remotely welcome). And while I think this is the right decision to keep the developers safe, it… still hurts, and it still makes me sad.
So I also admit that some of my prediction and speculation about reveals and such is a function of my own need to hope for things and have something to look forward to. If that means I wind up being wrong, well… so be it, I can take being wrong. But when it feels like you’re stuck in a tunnel, you still do look forward to a light at the end of it, sometimes even telling yourself you see one when you really don’t.
Sorry, folks. Sometimes these things don’t end on a happy note.