We’ve still got a couple months until Final Fantasy XIV‘s next fan festival, but it’s already in an interesting place. In one sense, this year’s festival has the easiest victory lap conceivable, and in another it has a lot of work to do to help deliver some positive feelings. And there’s a lot of overlap between those two extremes.
In the former case, well… we’ve all seen the Endwalker reviews, so we all know how the game has been received, and basically whatever you think of the expansion as a whole, the fact remains that it was meant to cap off a decade-long story and it pulled it off. That’s amazing. Whatever you think about the patches subsequently, right at that point, you can more or less just clock out and relax. You won.
But at the same time… how do you convince people to stick around? Oh, sure, some of us are going to stick around no matter what, and I won’t pretend otherwise. But how do you give everyone a sense that the next decade is going to be just as impressive as the first one, especially when everyone knows that the game is going to start going downhill at some point? How do you follow up one all-time classic act?
Of course, the first problem some people had was with the ticket lottery.
Let me make something clear. If you wanted to go to the fan festival and you didn’t get a ticket? That blows. I’m sorry. I completely understand why in that situation you would be upset. Nothing that I am saying or will say in the future in any way attempts to downplay that state of affairs. You wanted to attend this thing, it was personally important to you, and you don’t get to go. That isn’t fun!
It just doesn’t mean something went wrong with the lottery. By definition, the lottery was set up because there were more people who wanted to go than there were tickets available. That means that some people were going to wind up without tickets no matter what. Doing this randomly was the fairest way under these specific circumstances because the venue has limited space and there are rules about how many people you can pack into one space.
Had the lottery given all of the seats to the first applicants, or not let people register, or whatever? Yes. That would be the lottery system not working. However, what I’ve actually seen are people insisting that the lottery system didn’t work because they didn’t win. I get that you wanted to go. I have empathy for you. But that is not the lottery system not working. You can argue that the company should be using a bigger venue so that it wouldn’t need to use a lottery in the first place, but the lottery did work as intended.
I did not try to buy tickets myself. If they invite me as media, I will attend; if not, I will happily just stream and report on it. That’s all right with me. If you feel that my opinions on the system are colored by not being personally disappointed by the outcomes, you’re wrong, but it’d be remiss not to be honest about my personal skin in the game or lack thereof.
So let’s talk about the actual fan festival itself. What’s going to happen there? More importantly, what is it going to accomplish? We can’t know what’s going to be on display beyond the next expansion, but we can try to make some reasonable guesses based on where we know FFXIV is at right now. And the answer to that is… kind of a weird place because as mentioned, Endwalker came out and worked. So it’s hard to be sure how hard the team is going to swing now.
What we can be sure of is that this year, Square-Enix did not try to grab space in San Diego; it’s back to the familiar site in Las Vegas for this year’s festival, which means that I expect we’re going for a slightly lower-key venture. Not low-key, obviously; if the developers were (rightly) worried about attendance outstripping seating at the venue, there’s no doubt about demand being there. But it does mean that they think we’re on the down slope, that Endwalker was the real marquee moment.
However, I also think that since we’re starting off a whole new era with the game, that the possibility is high – not certain, but high – that Naoki Yoshida has one heck of a curveball lined up for us. And since the odds are we’re not getting the expansion this year, there’s some space for an additional curveball even beyond graphical updates we already know about.
Do I know for certain we won’t get the expansion this year? No! The expansion hasn’t even been announced yet. But to get the expansion this year, we’d have to have a fan festival in Japan after the expansion had already released. Moreover, a late May date for 6.4 puts the next patch at late September or early October, and expansions are usually six months after the last major patch. That suggests April 2024, which sounds broadly right. We can’t be sure, but I wouldn’t expect an expansion launch date before this time next year.
What sort of curveballs could we get? The obvious one to me is that once again Square throws three jobs at us, either two regular jobs and one limited or just three regular jobs. That is, of course, a big lift on either side; limited jobs are not easier to design than normal jobs (far from it, it seems), and the jury is still out on whether or not the team wants to do another limited job. It feels weird to have only Blue Mage in there, but the team is still also working on how to make Blue Mage work consistently, so swings and roundabouts.
If we do get three regular jobs, expect a tank, healer, and DPS. My bet would be a tank and a magical DPS and a limited job if we get three, but it’s a soft bet.
Are other curveballs possible? I don’t think a new housing district is reasonable to expect at this point, but it’s possible maybe we’ll get more plans for further developments in Island Sanctuary. It’s also possible that the next level increase will feature some heretofore novel system that itself counts as a curveball, something akin to Merit Points. (There’s no law saying we can’t just reach level 100 in this expansion and 110 in the next, but it is a bit unusual for a game in this franchise.)
But it might also just be that the increased gap is, in and of itself, the flex. This development team has proven that it can do something that seemed altogether impossible. If it take a little longer to get each new content update to feed our slavering content maws, well, that’s all right. Either way, we’ll find out in late July, won’t we?
Feedback is welcome down below or via mail to email@example.com, just as always. Next week, I’m going to speculate about something that might seem a little bit odd: What’s going to happen after the 6.4 MSQ is over?