So, uh… hey! Final Fantasy XVI! That’s a thing we learned about yesterday, huh? I’m sure we’re all shocked that Naoki Yoshida’s very specific dismissal of rumors about him and the title turned out to be not actually a denial after all. If only someone had noted at the time that it was a very specific denial of certain things that didn’t actually skewer the rumor. If only, huh?
OK, personal snark about “yeah, called it” aside, there’s actually not much to unpack here, but there’s a whole lot of stuff to consciously re-pack. I’ve already seen lots of reactions to the game across the social media sphere packed with a whole lot of assumptions, and a lot of those assumptions are based on forgetting what I just mentioned above about specific denials and a careful control of information. So let’s take a deep breath, share some theories, and repeat to ourselves that Naoki Yoshida clearly loves trolling expectations.
First of all, let’s recap everything we currently know about Final Fantasy XVI:
Oh, and Yoshida mentions that the next big release of information will be in 2021. So let’s all settle down and wait for next year, so we can… no? We’re not going to do that? All right, let’s watch the trailer again, maybe?
I promise, this isn’t just me being snarky; it’s more along the lines of being pedantic. The point here is that what we know about the next title is contained wholly within that trailer, and that trailer doesn’t actually give us a whole lot. It gives a loose outline of some world elements, a feel, someone who might be the protagonist, and a handful of names that are either series staples (Shiva and Phoenix) or referring to someone who is clearly a figure of note (Joshua).
A lot of assumptions have been made as a result of this. And it’s here that I would note, again, that Naoki Yoshida is an expert at saying what he wants to say and no more.
For example, the assumption being thrown around is that this is Yoshida making a single-player game, but there’s no actual statement to that effect. The official announcement does not say that. The trailer doesn’t say it. No, you can’t see the little “online” tag beneath the title, which was the case for Final Fantasy XI and Final Fantasy XIV, but you can also see how the logo art intentionally obscures part of the title. That could be a tell.
Or, just as plausibly, it could just not be there. Based on the actual information we have so far, there’s evidence pointing in both directions.
Similarly, is Tattoo Lad the main character? Well… maybe. He seems to be referred to only by role, and he’s never given a name. He might be the main character, or he could just as easily be the FFXVI equivalent of FFXIV’s storied Derplander. Heck, it’s entirely possible at this point that he’s the antagonist; I can’t imagine that Yoshida wouldn’t be down with the idea of tricking people into assuming someone is the main character from early trailers.
Is all of this certain? Of course not! My point here is that there is a hard upper limit on our speculation and the worthwhile data to be gleaned. We are guessing in the dark, but more than that we’re guessing in the dark with someone who loves to hint one thing while planning another.
Thus should we temper any and all guesses. What we are doing at this point is less a practice of analyzing and speculating based on revealed information, but more based on the people involved in the project and a gut-check sensation. Do I have speculation? Of course I do, but I also recognize that I am largely guessing about an elephant in the dark.
First of all, I feel at least reasonably comfortable that this is not going to be a pure MMO a la FFXI and FFXIV. That’s not confirmed yet (a point I just made, after all), but it feels like a bigger point would have been made if it were even from the announcement. None of this changes my expectation that planning and work is in process for what comes after FFXIV, but I suspect that FFXVI is going to have a multiplayer option rather than be another MMO per se.
Why a multiplayer option? Well, I think the vagueness about the protagonist is intentional. People are already calling allusions to Dark Souls and the like, and it really wouldn’t surprise me if FFXVI does let you define your own protagonist in a way the series hasn’t allowed you to do since Final Fantasy III. So while the game is not a full MMO, it will definitely feel like a half-step closer in that direction, possibly with shared open areas or even just a general feel.
Another equally likely possibility is that the nameless character in this trailer is the first of four protagonists. Usually games that focus a lot on the crystals focus on the Big Four (Wind, Water, Fire, and Earth), and while the trailer features hints of what might be Water and Earth, the focus is clearly on Phoenix and Ifrit who tie in with Fire. Giving each of the four protagonists a background against these four crystals would make perfect sense, too.
The speculation that it’s going to be set on another shard of FFXIV‘s cosmology, meanwhile, strikes me as entirely wrong-headed. Not just because that’s never been done before (although there’s that too); it’s mostly the simple fact that it wouldn’t really add anything to the game beyond a parallel that is already achieved by calling the summoned beasts “eikons.” (And let’s face it, it’s better than “esper” as a continued term.)
As for the whole console-exclusivity is-it-or-isn’t-it thing, that one seems pretty obvious to me. If the game is all online, expect it to be a day-and-day release on PlayStation 5 and PC. If not, it’s going to be a timed exclusive. The fact that the messaging on this was a touch mixed does sort of hint at the idea that it might be an online title, actually.
But… right now, we don’t know. We don’t really have much information beyond a title and a feel along with the leadership staff. That’s the problem with speculating this early. It’s not just that we’re working with a fragment of information, it’s that we’re working with a fragment that is specifically designed not to mislead, but to deny the foundational information we need. It’s like extrapolating a whole puzzle from a handful of low-detail pieces as if you’re supposed to do that.
What you’re supposed to do, instead, is acknowledge that there’s a puzzle. And know that if the game does wind up being online, hey, maybe somebody should talk about that from time to time. At the very least, it can’t be half as disappointing as Final Fantasy XV.
So let’s all enjoy the speculation and wait for when more gets doled out in 2021, which will almost certainly not be a release date but will at least illuminate more of what the game is supposed to be. Don’t worry, you’ll probably learn about a new FFXIV expansion pack that is coming out in 2021. There’s plenty to look forward to there.