Those who have followed Final Fantasy XIV news from the beginning know that it has not always been such a hot topic outside of dedicated fan forums. Even within those communities, some people were upset that Square Enix was not releasing information fast enough and others were simply disappointed with what they saw. Japanese fans were no exception, as the upcoming MMO would rarely break out of the 20s on weekly Top-30 Anticipated Games lists.
However, it looks like Valentine's Day (season?) has brought some new love for the developing title. FFXIV has shot up considerably in both Famitsu and Dengeki, securing itself a very comfortable spot in the top 10. Besides a few skeptics, many are anxiously anticipating the promised 2010 release, and if the developers are to be believed, they have continued to back that promise in every interview conducted thus far. VanaFest2010 is also mere days ahead of us, and both the Japanese and English sites for the event are hinting at an FFXIV announcement for the "Super Secret Dodecatuple Bonus Stage."
However you feel about FFXIV, it has already been quite a ride.
Only a short time after it was first announced, FFXIV tended to lag at the bottom of the charts. This was when many players were still "hungover" from Final Fantasy XI. Issues like Pandemonium Warden, slowing updates, RMT (among others) left users with little confidence in a new MMO from Square Enix. At this point, there was not much besides a trailer, which seemed to indicate a FFXI 2.0, and magazines only showed a small handful of jobs and monsters. Gamescom brought a big surprise in the form of a playable alpha version, which was great for fans in attendance. For others, it didn't provide enough to really form a solid opinion. Pieces of the battle system and Guildleve, the basis of the game's quests, did start to give Eorzea a distinct shape.
From this point on, FFXIV would occasionally drop off the charts, but when a new article popped up, it tended to float around the 20s for a bit. Things started looking much better once the Tokyo Game Show opened.
After a new trailer showed in Tokyo, fans voted in a special TGS poll and placed FFXIV as their #3 Most Anticipated Game from the show. Eorzea was on the map once again, and new articles in Japanese media started to give fans more and more of what they wanted to see. Many of the initial problems that made players wary of a new MMO were going to be tackled specifically this time. The flexibility of the Guildleve system promised no more marathon game sessions required to advance and no more waiting endlessly for party members. The fluid nature of classes would mean no one would be shoe-horned into a single, repetitive task during leveling sessions. Developers even talked about designing FFXIV with an eye towards the future, to avoid hardware limitations that plagued FFXI. The mysterious "campaign code" also appeared in copies of Final Fantasy XIII, tantalizing players with a soon-to-come beta version.
Now, in the beginning of 2010, fans look to Square Enix with a newfound love. Here we are in the promised year, packed with the accumulated information and images from 2009 and waiting anxiously with a beta on the horizon. Ratings for FFXIV have begun to soar as a result of the building momentum and, as many speculate, the fact that Square Enix needs to get moving before 2010 runs out!
We may be at the top of the roller coaster now, with an exciting ride just moments ahead. Will it begin at VanaFest2010? We certainly have enough social media outlets ready to inform us if that's the case. Which brings up another good point -- the increasingly active FFXI Community Team. Square Enix has been making many promises for the future, but we can already see a lot of positive action in the present. Leading up to VanaFest, Matt Hilton and Devin Casadey of the North American Community Team have been connecting with fans through pictures, videos, jokes and even a new contest. We will be sure to see the California office heading up foreign community relations for FFXIV, so while things are heating up in Japan, Eorzea is starting to look equally bright for overseas players.
So get ready, adventurers! 2010 begins this Sunday at Seinenkan Hall in Tokyo! Of course, ZAM will be in attendance as well, so keep your eyes on the front page for the latest news and impressions from VanaFest!