I don’t know what 2021 is going to bring in general. This has always been the case, of course, but if anything 2020 should have taught us all that we should be careful about our predictions because they all rely upon the world working more or less the way it already does. That’s the sort of humor implied by predicting what’s going to happen for Final Fantasy XIV over the next year: It’s entirely predicated on what we know now and what can be expected, and there’s every possibility that it could turn out to be somewhat or completely wrong.
January 2021: Patch 5.41 and Ishgard completion
Usually, we get the next major bit of patch content about six weeks out from the patch date, which would put this one around January 19th. There’s no real reason to doubt this particular timing this time around; by this point the ranking system is well and truly an accustomed element, people are prepped for it, and there’s no reason to not expect this to launch on a pretty normal schedule. It doesn’t even have to overlap with the next stage of weapon/tool upgrading, which is nice.
There’s not much more to say about this particular one. It seems pretty expected.
February 2021: Patch 5.45, Expansion reveal
All right, we all know that’s what the big February event is going to be now, right? That’s an accepted fact, isn’t it? I mean, there are, like, a ton of hints on this one, including Yoshida’s message for 2021 all but saying that we’re finding out about the next expansion and possibly cursing that he doesn’t get to announce it on stage in San Diego. And you know, I’m sad about it too, but hey.
Yes, yes, patch, but this is more notable for the expansion event and that’s what I’m focused on. Finish upgrading your Skysung tools and get better Resistance weapons, you know that routine by now.
One thing I kind of expect is that this event is probably going to contain more information than we usually get from the reveal event. Like, I’m honestly expecting to find out the first job here instead of at a second event. The reason is that normally, things are drawn out in part because there are three different regional fan festivals that all need something big and notable. This time, everyone gets the same event at the same time; it has the space to be more direct and trim the fat a bit, so to speak.
March 2021: Patch 5.5
Expect this about mid-month, tracking with the “about two months behind” delay and the usual 3.5 month turnaround between major patches. By this point we’ll know our next destination for the expansion, so this one will be mostly wrapping up some concluding stuff before the second half loads the bases for the expansion.
I had previously speculated that maybe they wouldn’t split the patch into two parts, but at this point I’m thinking that this will work like the other x.5 patches and we’ll see it bifurcated, possibly with a new limited job mirroring how Blue Mage was deployed. Since we’re getting presumably our final Blue Mage update before 6.x with 5.45, it makes a certain amount of sense they might do the same thing again.
April 2021: More expansion information
As much as I think that the February event is going to be more information-heavy than usual, I’d still be a bit surprised if they didn’t split the reveals like this. For one thing, splitting things up provides a great chance to keep the hype train rolling and ensuring that fans have at least one major thing to look forward to and speculate about. After all, two months of talking about what Yoshida’s shirt might mean basically means two months of generating publicity without having to do any additional work. For another, it means keeping those live events going, and Yoshida’s stage presence makes that a winning prospect.
So when there would otherwise be a lull here, expect to learn the rest of the valuable information about the expansion in April, including the reveal of all the jobs and so forth. There’s no event yet announced for this, but I feel reasonably confident about it.
May 2021: Patch 5.5 wrap-up
Ah, time to load the bases for Forspoken (or whatever it’s called, but let’s face it, it’s Forspoken) and wrap up lingering little elements like the final weapon upgrades and so forth. This is all part and parcel with the expansion lead-up, so we all know what to expect by this point and won’t be surprised when it’s what happens.
Incidentally, if they somehow do try to stretch out the expansion reveal to three events, I’d expect the third part to go at some point in May. I’d be surprised if they went that route, though.
June-July 2021: The expansion doldrums
Alas and alack, there’s a period of time when we’re waiting for the expansion and there’s not much happening in-game. The developers do their best to keep building hype and giving us things to be interested in during this period of time, but it’s always a problem, and sadly this time I think it’s going to fall in the middle of the summer. As much as I’d like to believe that the delays of COVID-19 didn’t impact the expansion as much as everything else, the rational thing to do is assume they did and be pleasantly surprised to be wrong.
One thing I’m curious about this coming year is going to be how we handle the usual media tour. For those of you who don’t know (and I don’t know how you’d miss it, it’s here every time), usually in April a number of media people get flown out to San Francisco to take part in an early preview build of the expansion, getting a chance to try out the new jobs, new abilities, and so forth. We agree to an embargo and wind up publishing in May, generally speaking. It’s a lot of fun, even if it prompts some time of biting your lips about how the new stuff will play out.
I’m not sure if that’s going to be a thing this year, and I’m not sure what would be done to replace it if anything. I trust Square-Enix to make smart decisions about gatherings, and these are small gatherings, not huge ones. A lot is going to depend on… well, a lot of factors. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.
August 2021: Forspoken
The error bar on this one is pretty wide, easily a month and a half in either direction. For the moment, I’m basically going off of the idea that everything has gotten pushed two months off. It’s plausible that the expansion was less affected because of the nature of the work, which might push it earlier; it’s also plausible that it was as affected if not more, which would push it into September.
So how accurate will all this be? Well, we’ll find out as the year goes on. I’m hopeful to be proven wrong in an earlier direction for at least some of them. For now, though, feel free to leave your own speculation down in the comments or send them in by mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week, let’s go meta and talk about how the FFXIV community is both better and worse than you think.