Square-Enix has long had a very different approach to MMOs compared to the rest of the world. In some ways, this is understandable; I know that every company operates in its own way. But where American and European companies are playing the electric guitar and Korean companies are playing keytar/acoustic duets, Square seems to be bringing out the xylophone to do a heartfelt rendition of Long Distance Runaround. (For those of you not willing to click the link, that song is not normally played with a xylophone.)
As a result, on one level I'm not surprised that we know virtually nothing about Final Fantasy XI's next expansion beyond the upcoming jobs and the fact that it's not going to be released for the PlayStation 2 here in America. I am also completely baffled that in the time since the expansion's announcement we have heard nothing about it. We first found out that the expansion existed in any form back in June, and we've learned pretty much nothing new since... and that's not a good sign.
Over the course of the past four months, Final Fantasy XI certainly hasn't been quiet. But it's been a community contest here, a version update there, maybe an event or two to spice things up. It's a far cry from the way that every other game in the world handles the pre-expansion ramp-up, which is generally all about new screenshots or teasers or whatever from the upcoming expansion. By contrast, we've known a lot more about what will feature in the upcoming expansions for Lord of the Rings Online and RIFT in a comparable timeframe.
I'm not saying that at this point we should know everything there is to know about the new content, but we should have a much clearer picture than we currently do. We know there will be new guilds, but there's yet to be any hard information about what those new guilds will actually entail. There's no new updates on what the new jobs will play like. There's nothing to tell current or former players why in the world they should care, since former players are former for a reason and current players are sitting comfortably at level 99 on a throne made of Relic Weapons.
OK, it's probably made out of a mixture of Relic and Magian weapons, but bear with me.
We've had an information blackout, and I think it comes from two sources. The first is something that Square-Enix can do very little about at this point; the second, however, is something the company should have addressed years ago. Let's look at the less delinquent explanation first.
The expansion was announced too early
When you heard that a new expansion was coming for for FFXI, did you sit up a little straighter in your chair? It was big, bold news, the sort of thing that made all past and present fans of the game gather around and talk about the game again. And it came at a time when there wasn't a whole lot else to talk about, no imminent releases or urgent events that demanded the attention of everyone in the MMO sphere.
All that considered, it's pretty reasonable to make the announcement then, even if the expansion is far less done than it would normally be before a studio would make comparable announcements. After all, you know the expansion is being made, so the details of what exactly is there can take something of a backseat for a while.
Plus, it gives the game's anniversary celebration some real punch. It's not just that the game has been out for a decade; it's been out for a decade, and it's launching something new. If you've been following the game on the periphery, this is more than enough to get your attention back.
So it's quite possible -- even probable -- that Seekers of Adoulin needs more time to cook before we can really learn more about it. But that's not necessarily the only reason.
Square-Enix still thinks it's playing a different game
There's a thing that Square has done in the past that I don't think it can really get away with any longer. Something will be announced, no new information will be given on it, and then that new thing will launch and you're expected to decipher everything in play. Players are expected to sit around the news feeds and wait until the producers deign to spread some sage wisdom to everyone.
This never really should have worked. But there was a time when it worked because MMOs were this strange new field with no established culture, and then it worked for a while longer because anyone who continues to play FFXI clearly has some variant on Stockholm Syndrome.
It stopped working forever with Final Fantasy XIV. Whatever you feel about the game, it was a wake-up call that you simply can't treat online games as if they exist in a vacuum, a lesson so obvious that no one should have needed to learn it. And the game has gone on to be pushed, in both community terms and design terms, to be more conscious of the larger world that it resides within.
I do think that we heard about the expansion a bit early, but I also detect a note of Square's old imperious nature, that we get to learn about the expansion when the company is ready to tell us. And if this keeps up, by the time it finally gets around to telling us, all of that surprise value is going to have faded away completely.
Feedback can be left in the comments below or mailed along to email@example.com, as has been the case for every previous installment of the column. Next week, consoles and how they haven't help the franchise in the past.
From Eorzea to Vana'diel, there is a constant: the moogles. And for analysis and opinions about the online portions of the Final Fantasy series, there is also a constant: The Mog Log. Longtime series fan Eliot Lefebvre serves up a new installment of the log every Saturday, covering almost anything related to Square-Enix's vibrant online worlds.
The Mog Log: Where in the world is Seekers of Adoulin?
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