Thanks to the folks at Square Enix, I had the opportunity to attend Final Fantasy XIV Fan Fest 2023 in Las Vegas! This year was the first in-person iteration of the Final Fantasy XIV Fan Festival since 2019. In addition, the event served as a celebration for the MMO’s upcoming tenth anniversary of its relaunch as A Realm Reborn. The energy was infectious.
There was so much to do and so much to see! The opening keynote introduced the latest Dawntrail expansion (and a taco-loving G’raha Tia), developer panels providing great insights into the game, a cosplay show, a press conference with Producer and Director Naoki Yoshida, quests to complete at various incredible Final Fantasy XIV-themed displays, and more.
Final Fantasy XIV Fan Fest 2023: Day 1
Day 1 kicked off with an opening keynote from Naoki Yoshida that set the high energy level for the celebration. Fans were ecstatic to hear about Dawntrail, graphical improvements, and more exciting updates to come in 7.0. After the keynote and an opening ceremony with the development team concluded, activities opened at the various themed displays for attendees to participate in.
These themed displays absolutely blew me away. I spent most of the first festival day completing the activities at these locations. On my journey, I stopped by the Gates of Pandaemonium, Mare Lamentorum, Old Sharlayan, and the Island Sanctuary. They really went all out with these, as the displays looked amazing and like faithful recreations of their in-game counterparts. Each display had an activity to go with it.
Raiding Pandaemonium, for example, consisted of a bop-the-wall minigame where opposing teams competed over who managed to bop the most flashing lights within a time limit. The subsequent boss battle against proto-Carbuncle had attendees throw beanbags to knock down holes in a proto-Carbuncle wall. The beanbags were even colored to correspond with DPS, Tank, and Healer roles! It was a fun experience, and completing activities like this would grant attendees a badge via the festival’s official app. Collecting three or more badges would let attendees take home a commemorative Final Fantasy XIV Festival poster from staff!
Up next was my personal favorite of the themed displays: Mare Lamentorum! Attending a moon bunny rave in Las Vegas is not something I ever expected to get the chance to do. The dance floor setup was incredibly charming and even included a Loporrit DJ blasting electronic remixes of Final Fantasy XIV tunes from time to time. Attendees started doing dance emotes on the dance floor too, which was very cute.
At Old Sharlayan, I got to go fishing and fully embody my Warrior of Light, who happens to be a fishing main. The activity consisted of using magnetic fishing rods to catch fish scattered across the display within a time limit. Though my Warrior of Light may be a fisher, I learned that I am not.
Finally, I visited the Island Sanctuary for some relaxation. I competed against another attendee in a farming-themed minigame that I could best describe as air hockey, where the player is the paddle. The goal was to defend our crops against the other player, and we would have to step on the ground to knock the puck back.
Right around this time was when the cosplay walk began! Folks went all out with their cosplays: I was blown away by the craftsmanship, aesthetics, and memes on display that showed fans’ passion for the game. Cosplayers took the main stage in groups and individually for about an hour. Some cosplays that stood out to me include many Emet-Selchs, a group dressed as the Scions of the Seventh Dawn, a tonberry, an Endwalker grape, and many more.
After the cosplay walk ended, preparations began for the closing event of the first festival day: a piano concert performed by Keiko! The performance was incredible, with vocalist Amanda Achen joining for some songs and Sound Director Masayoshi Soken joining in the fun as well. Many tears were shed, with “Flow” being a particular highlight of the concert for me.
Thus, Day 1 of the festival concluded with a moving performance. I was beyond thrilled to see some Final Fantasy XIV locales brought to life and relax to such incredible music. Yet, there was still much to experience on Day 2, including an in-game battle challenge I had reserved for the afternoon, developer panels, and a rock concert from The Primals!
Final Fantasy XIV Fan Fest 2023: Day 2
Day 2 of Final Fantasy XIV Fan Fest 2023 continued the excitement with a live Letter from the Producer, more time for themed displays, the North America regional championship Crystalline Conflict, an in-game battle challenge, and a “Speaking the Language of Creation” panel! Finally, capping the festival off was an incredible rock concert starring The Primals.
The Letter from the Producer gave fans an in-depth look at what to expect in patch 6.5. Titled “Growing Light,” the patch is expected to release the first half of the MSQ in early October and the second half in mid-January 2024. Other highlights include the Lunar Subterrane dungeon and the Aloalo Island Variant/Criterion Dungeon, The Abyssal Fracture Trial featuring Zeromus, and the Fall Guys collaboration announced during the opening keynote. I’m ecstatic about all the Final Fantasy IV references, and I find the Fall Guys content to be a hilarious addition to the Gold Saucer. It should make for some fun times with friends!
I managed to check out most of the themed displays on Day 1, but I still had the Radz-at-Han and Pusheen exhibits to visit on Day 2. Radz-at-Han was a relaxing space for those who wanted to rest throughout the day. In addition, the area housed cool art and videos submitted by players for the festival’s art and video contests. The gallery included some striking entries, with one of my personal favorites being an in-game screenshot of some Lalafells dressed in rainbow colors in a beautiful garden.
Another relaxing space was the Pusheen quiet room, which featured a bunch of cute Pusheen and Final Fantasy XIV crossover art! There was artwork of Pusheen cactuars, tonberries, moogles, bards, dragoons, and even a Pusheen riding an airship. The art was incredibly charming and contributed to me hanging out in this quiet room for a while. At this point, I decided to submit my digital badges from the various activities I had completed to claim my prize: a commemorative Final Fantasy XIV Fan Fest poster!
Next up was the Crystalline Conflict Regional Championship 2023 North America. The competition was intense, with the semifinals and finals competitors taking to the stage. Naoki Yoshida even got caught up in the excitement as he joined fans in front of the stage to watch the event! Ultimately, team Wolfas won the championship and grand prize of $22,500.
My reservation time for the in-game battle challenge had now arrived. I was excited to finally find out what the battle challenge entailed: a boss battle against Asura! I teamed up with a group of seven other attendees for the challenge. The game provided us with a maxed-out level 90 character equipped with high-level gear. This made for an interesting experience for me, as my actual FFXIV character is nowhere near the level cap, so I had no idea what half of the skills did. I chose to take the challenge on as a Bard, quickly skimmed several of the unfamiliar skills, and realized that I would probably have to stick to spamming the skills I did recognize. Fortunately, my party pulled through, and we beat the boss!
The “Speaking the Language of Creation” panel was another cool highlight of Final Fantasy XIV Fan Fest Day 2! Localization developers Kate Cwynar and Michael-Christopher Koji Fox, plus Matt Hilton from the community team, answered fan questions about the localization process for Final Fantasy XIV. They spoke about how language impacts the world-building of Eorzea, from the pirate-speak of Limsa Lominsa to the challenge of developing a speaking pattern for a character like Hydaelyn. The panel even worked with fans to design lore for a new species of fish that will debut in Dawntrail. The crowd decided that the new fish would only swim leftward, be nicknamed “Derpswimmer,” and it’s at the top of the food chain.
The final event closed the festival with a bang: a rock concert by The Primals! The band, featuring Masayoshi Soken, Tetsuya Tachibana, Michael-Christopher Koji Fox, Eikichi Iwai, and GUNN, performs rock arrangements of various Final Fantasy XIV songs. The concert was incredible, kicking off with “Locus.” Later, Jason Charles Miller joined for a moving performance of “Close in the Distance.” Amanda Achen even rejoined the concert after appearing during the Keiko piano concert from the previous night. Finally, The Primals premiered a new track from their upcoming album in another highlight of the show.
After the concert, the Final Fantasy XIV developers took to the stage and gave closing remarks. Another Final Fantasy XIV Fan Fest had ended, and the developers expressed their excitement about celebrating with the fans in person again after so many years. Writer Natsuko Ishikawa, known for her incredible work with Endwalker, was brought to tears thanking the community for having given her so much praise. Naoki Yoshida affirmed how glad he was to have gotten into game development and how the Final Fantasy XIV community is truly something special.
With that, Final Fantasy XIV Fan Fest 2023 came to an end. I had an incredible time celebrating with such a passionate community. I want to thank Square Enix and the developers for bringing fans together like this and continuing to encourage the community. This experience has definitely made me want to focus even more on catching up with the main scenario back at home!