FAN FESTIVAL | Featured Image


If there are two takeaways that I want you to get from this column talking about FINAL FANTASY XIV FAN FESTIVAL 2023-2024, it is this: 1) FINAL FANTASY XIV Online has one of the best and most caring fan communities of any video game that I’ve ever encountered, and 2) almost all of what went wrong during the event were logistical issues that can hopefully be addressed in time for the upcoming London and Tokyo events.

This year’s FINAL FANTASY XIV FAN FESTIVAL in Las Vegas had the most attendees ever by far, and it filled a good part of the Las Vegas Convention Center North Hall across a giant room that was divided by the main stage one-third of the way in. Behind the stage was the Battle Challenge area and the Merchandise area, in front of the stage was general seating, the food vendors were next to the seats on the far wall, and all of the activities people could do were behind the seating in the back third-ish of the giant room across a wide-open floor area. Registration for the FAN FESTIVAL, along with several other rooms, was on the second floor. Overall, there was definitely plenty of room for everything to happen in, and I genuinely liked the use of the facilities themselves and how they were structured.

FAN FESTIVAL | Autograph session ticket.
If you were extremely lucky, you could get an autograph or photo session with the FINAL FANTASY XIV Online team. (Photo by author).

There were a lot of high-quality developer-led panels across the two days of the FINAL FANTASY XIV FAN FESTIVAL 2023-2024 in Las Vegas. My favorite by far was Beginning from the End: The Annotated Endwalker, primarily led by Natsuko Ishikawa (Endwalker’s Senior Story Designer). Ishikawa-san did a Master class-level breakdown of different pieces of dialogue and song lyrics from Endwalker, and she explained not just how those lines echo back to previous dialogue uttered by characters in prior content, but she also explained how it was often inspired by real-life literature and other mediums in ways that I had both picked up on during my original playthrough…and far more that I did not. I personally loved Endwalker, and this is the ONE panel that I will have to go back to watch a second time just to make sure that I absorbed it all.

FAN FESTIVAL | Naoki Yoshida announcing DAWNTRAIL.
During the Opening Keynote, Naoki Yoshida announced the newest FINAL FANTASY XIV Online expansion, DAWNTRAIL (above), and that the critically-acclaimed MMORPG would be coming to Xbox Series X and S (below). I waited in the public line before the Keynote, and everyone was speculating on what Yoshi-P was going to announce, what the expansion would be like, and what new jobs we would get. (Images courtesy of SQUARE ENIX).

A close second favorite panel was Speaking the Language of Creation, led by English Localization Lead Kate Cwynar and Michael-Christopher Koji Fox. They both talked about the localization process for the Endwalker expansion, how the various English-language character and place names were created by drawing inspiration from other languages such as Greek, and most surprisingly: they acknowledged the past issues that SQUARE ENIX has had with their inspired portrayal of other real-life cultures, and they promised to do better with DAWNTRAIL. I personally love getting to know how video games are localized, and I think this was definitely a panel that anyone who plays on a non-Japanese version should see.

Across the FAN FESTIVAL, there were a lot of different activities for people to do that were set up in different spots. These locales all came from the Endwalker expansion such as Radz-at-Han, Old Sharlayan, and Pandæmonium. You get in line, wait, and then do activities such as throw bean bags at a giant Proto-Carbuncle on the wall, use a fishing rod to catch magnetic fish, run a four-step relay race with finding and organizing vegetables for the market after removing pests, and even playing a one-on-one Pong-esque digital floor game. All of these different activities were fun in their own way, with the exception of the bean bag throwing activity that I was completely awful at.

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Here were just some of the activities that people could participate in. (Images taken by author.)

The real highlight activity though? The Gleaners and the quests they gave. There were six side quests available for players to complete, and each quest was given by a fully-dressed up Gleaner who would draw people in around him or her, weave a FANTASTIC story, and then issue players with the quest itself. For example, you had to wonder around the Radz-at-Han area to find a ‘fishy’ barrel or you had to take a photograph of you cradling the (second) Moon. All of the Gleaner’s acting was AMAZING, and I cannot get over how just how much I loved hearing them both weave the tale (complete with actual Loporrit-style hopping for the Hop ‘Til You Drop side quest) and the light improv interactions with FAN FESTIVAL attendees.

FAN FESTIVAL | Gleamers giving quests.
The Gleaners scattered around could give one of six quests for Warriors of Light to complete. (Images by author).

FAN FESTIVAL | Gleamer waiting to give a quest.

There was also the Battle Challenge, where you took on a new eight-person Trial that has not yet been implemented into FINAL FANTASY XIV Online. While I will avoid spoiling the Trial boss’ name or describing the battle mechanics here, I will say that my group managed to complete it on our first try and it felt like the Trial difficulty fell somewhere between Hard and Extreme. The battle mechanics themselves were easy to figure out during the Trial itself, but it definitely required players to have played the game before to recognize what was happening. The enemy mechanics felt like a natural evolution of what players have already previously experienced in the game, and so despite some deaths, we were able to overcome it. There were both keyboard and off-brand controller options for players to use on the PC version of the game. I was a little surprised at PlayStation 5 controllers weren’t available for use, especially considering that they now have official FINAL FANTASY XIV Online PC support.

FAN FESTIVAL | Battle Challenge
The Battle Challenge was located in the same area as the Merchandise. (Images by author).

FAN FESTIVAL | Battle Challenge

At each nation-state area, and at the completion of each activity or side quest, there was a QR Code for people to scan. These QR codes unlocked a virtual badge collectible in the FINAL FANTASY XIV FAN FESTIVAL app. When you obtained three side quest/activity (a.k.a non-locale) virtual badges, you would go to the redemption counter to get a double-sided poster, three stickers (featuring Erenville, Krile, and G’raha Tia), and you get to unlock the 10th Anniversary Celebration virtual badge inside the event app. The poster and the stickers are really cute, and I managed to get them all…which is something I will talk about in depth shortly, since it was definitely not done in the way that it was supposed to be done.

As an (almost) side note, I would be remiss to not discuss the Quiet Room that featured a crossover between FINAL FANTASY XIV Online and Pusheen. I visited this room during the first day, and I was surprised by how heavily used it was by people who needed a break from the craziness of the FAN FESTIVAL. The room’s tables were decorated in pink pastels, and there was FINAL FANTASY XIV Online-inspired Pusheen designs everywhere. SQUARE ENIX smartly did not set up a stream for the event inside of the room, and the people present were quite quiet and were using the Quiet Room as intended. I would absolutely urge SQUARE ENIX to keep including this room in future FAN FESTIVAL plans.

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The quiet room was really nice, and heavily Pusheen influenced. (Images by author).

So far, I’ve talked about all of the different things you could do and experience, but the absolute best part of this FAN FESTIVAL was all of the FINAL FANTASY XIV Online community members in attendance.

I loved all the cosplay of characters and Beastman tribes and literally everything else from FINAL FANTASY XIV Online that I saw on there. A lot of the cosplay clearly took a very long time to make, and I’m super glad that everyone was able to show it off both on the show floor and potentially on stage in the Glamoured to Walk- Cosplay Walk panel. I do wish that SQUARE ENIX held a proper cosplay contest (with qualifying pre-judging) as well, though, as I think it would have been amazing to see and have the audience or developers pick the best in different categories and in show. All of the cosplay also led to amazing moments such as seeing people dressed as Ryne and Urianger dancing on the Mare Lamentorum floor, Hildebrand and Nashu trying to complete quests together, or even a group of Ancients calling the End Days a conspiracy!

FAN FESTIVAL | Inspectors
Eorzea’s foremost inspectors were also present at the FAN FESTIVAL! (Photo by author).

Something else that truly surprised me at FINAL FANTASY XIV FAN FESTIVAL 2023-2024 was just how much FFXIV-inspired art people were trading or giving away. I ended up with a lot of different stickers, lithographs, and even a cute sprout head piece by the time the FAN FESTIVAL ended. At times, the FAN FESTIVAL felt like a fan art convention. The artsy side of the event felt like a real grassroots aspect that was not encouraged or discouraged by SQUARE ENIX but was instead decided upon by the community itself.

Above, the FINAL FANTASY XIV Online Streamer Llama Scott trades art with fans. Below, you can see the art haul I had when I left FINAL FANTASY XIV FAN FESTIVAL 2023-2024. (Images by author).

FAN FESTIVAL | Collected fan art.

At the end of each day of FINAL FANTASY XIV FAN FESTIVAL 2023-2024, there was a concert: the first night was a grand piano performance by Keiko Matsui, with special guests Masayoshi Soken and Amanda Achen, and the second night was a rock show by THE PRIMALS, with special guests Amanda Achen and Jason Charles Miller. It is no secret that I love attending SQUARE ENIX concerts, and I found myself enjoying these two very different performances. Both of the performances featured various artists performing FINAL FANTASY XIV Online song arrangements set against clips from the video games themselves. While Matsui-san’s performance series was extremely elegant and THE PRIMALS was very much a rock show, all of the pieces sounded amazing, and the hour-long concerts did not feel like an hour at all.

FAN FESTIVAL | Piano Concert
Keiko Matsui performed a piano concert the first night, and THE PRIMALS performed a rock show the second night. (Images courtesy of SQUARE ENIX).


During both concerts, a different arrangement of Flow was performed with Amanda Achen on stage. I know that there were clips from Endwalker and other parts of the FINAL FANTASY XIV Online series being played on the screens overhead, but I could not take my eyes off of Ms. Achen. She had this magnetic charm and natural ability that just demanded my attention to watch her perform. Amanda Achen is the real deal when it comes to music, and if you have an opportunity to see her perform, you should absolutely show up. You could tell that she loved being there, and that when she said during the first concert that “[i]t’s a dream come true to be here with you Warriors of Light,” that she truly meant it. That tear-jerking moment was only matched by Soken-san telling her in return after Flow that “I felt really proud for writing this song for you to perform.”

FAN FESTIVAL | Amanda Achen
Amanda Achen performed at both concerts during FINAL FANTASY XIV FAN FESTIVAL 2023-2024. (Images courtesy of SQUARE ENIX).


And that leads into what I want to say about the FINAL FANTASY XIV Online development team. I know in the media panel that Naoki Yoshida participated in, he said that he does not believe that FINAL FANTASY XIV Online’s developers are like rock stars. With all possible respect to him, I would disagree, and this FAN FESTIVAL showed why I do.

At an event as large and as well-attended as the FAN FESTIVAL was, it would have been completely understandable for the development team to appear only for their panels and for their autograph/photograph sessions. Instead, everyone from Yoshi-P and Masayoshi Soken to Toshio Murouchi visited the show floor while participating in the event games with attendees and stopping to take photographs and sign autographs for fans. I personally ran into Toshio Murouchi, and I was more than a little fan struck as I asked him to sign an Eorzea Café coaster for me! Even during the Crystalline Conflict Regional Championship 2023 North America and that evening’s THE PRIMALS Live in Concert show, Yoshi-P jumped into the audience to watch it with everyone, when he could have just easily seen it all comfortably from behind the scenes. Even during the Closing Ceremonies, the community made Ishikawa-san cry just from chanting her name, as everyone discovered that she is the beating heart behind what made Endwalker so special across the prior two days. Finally, at the very end, even after the confetti had gone off and everyone had departed the stage…Yoshida-san ran back on, unmic’d, just to shout “I love you!” to everyone.

FAN FESTIVAL | Yoshi-P joining in THE PRIMALS audience.
Before THE PRIMALS performed, Yoshi-P jumped into the audience to watch the show with the other Warriors of Light. (Photo by author).

All of this, put together, shows that the FINAL FANTASY XIV Online developers clearly want to interact with the community that plays the video game they all make and that they all truly care about what we hear, feel, and think (as Hydaelyn would say). It is all of this positive energy and love for community that makes these game developers the equivalent of ‘rock stars’ to so many Warriors of Light.

FAN FESTIVAL | Crystalline Conflict Signing
Even after the Crystalline Conflict Competition was over, all of the players were chatting with each other and signing a poster that one of them brought. In this photo, Frosty (one of the commentators) is signing. (Image by author).

Continue onto Page Two for the Issues that Hampered FINAL FANTASY XIV FAN FESTIVAL 2023-2024 ->

Quentin H.
I have been a journalist for oprainfall since 2015, and I have loved every moment of it.