[Translation] FFXIV Yoshida Uncensored 2 – #72

This column marks the halfway point through the book! In other words, there’s still another half to go… looks like the final doc will be around 150 pages.

#72: “Fighting Against All Odds – Part 2”

Published in 2016/11/24 issue

Our second Fan Festival began on October 14, 2016, and it was a larger-scale event than our first one in 2014. FINAL FANTASY XIV FAN FESTIVAL 2016-2017 started off in Las Vegas on October 14-15, and we loop back to Tokyo on December 24-25 before finishing off in Frankfurt on February 18-19. This column will continue the story behind the scenes of this world tour event, and I plan to make it a 3-part story in total. (Fortunately, I’ve already decided on the topics…) In the last column, I talked about the motivations behind Fan Fest, the decisions made, and how preparations begin a year in advance. This time, I’d like to talk about what those preparations entail.

First off, we announced that we would be holding a 2016 Fan Fest on December 23, 2015. Since we started preparing a year in advance, the announcements began a year in advance as well. Online, players remarked on how early the announcement was, but there were two reasons why we did that.

The first reason was because our Fan Fest schedule fell around the end of the year. Especially in Japan, since it was going to be a 10,000-person affair, we didn’t have much choice when it came to venues and dates, and it ended up right in the middle of Christmas season: December 24-25. We had to announce it early so that people wouldn’t make other vacation plans.

The second reason was our North American destination of Las Vegas, which also didn’t have many openings. The hotel we secured was in a higher tier than our 2014 one, and it came with the condition that we fill 500 rooms with our attendees. In other words, if the Paris Las Vegas didn’t have at least 500 rooms filled for the duration of Fan Fest, Square Enix would have to pay for the difference. It was a pretty tough order: guarantee 500 rooms filled in exchange for borrowing the venue.

The North America Fan Fest could hold around 5,000 people (there wasn’t anywhere that could accommodate more than that…), so if all of those slots were filled, then we would certainly be able to fill 500 rooms with our players. However, since people are coming to Las Vegas from all across the huge continent of North America, they have to book flights, arrange for time off from work, discuss it with their families, and so on. This was the other reason why we felt that we should announce it early; so that people could make their preparations. In the end, the hotel reservations immediately filled up after the Fan Fest tickets went on sale, and I breathed a sigh of relief.

So, around the time of our Fan Fest announcement at the end of 2015, the marketing, PR, and community teams from each region joined forces to start planning. This time, we would be having 2-day events at 3 locations. What kind of stage events should we have? What about floor activities[1]? Music-related events? There was a plethora of things that had to be decided. We also couldn’t just pick whatever ideas we liked, because we had the total budget staring us down.

Each region was allotted a budget of around _00,000,000 yen (I definitely can’t write the number). Venue costs, setup costs, organizational costs, streaming costs, music-related costs, travel costs, management staff salaries… The expenses piled up at an alarming rate. The red numbers (indicating negatives) in our estimates grew to ridiculous proportions.

I’m aware that some people want Fan Fest to be free. However, there’s a limit to what we can do at a free event—they tend to be nothing more than a fan gathering. Also, FFXIV is a long-term project, so we plan Fan Fest as an event that we want to continue doing, rather than a one-off thing. In order to have another one, it can’t be something that turns a complete loss. In exchange for charging money for tickets, we can provide content for our guests that’s worth more than the cost and convince the company to let us do it again because the numbers balance out.

Our initial investment on Fan Fest expenses is hundreds of millions of yen; it’s not something doable without existing capital. On top of that, we also endeavour to make the event worth the price and prepare gifts and surprising announcements, using merchandise sales to offset the costs as much as possible. In a previous column, I talked about how online games have to pour all of their effort into making profit in order to maintain stable operations, and Fan Fest is the same. If we want to keep having the event, we need to keep costs as low as possible while still increasing customer satisfaction.

Last time, many players asked us to make the event bigger because they couldn’t win the ticket war, so this time we doubled the size. That means a bigger venue, more staff, and many more credit card-compatible registers for the merchandise line. And if we don’t optimize the sales process, that line becomes very long.

The tickets are also about 2,000 yen more than last time. In order to raise satisfaction levels accordingly, we had to prepare better stage events and gifts. Everyone has a different perspective of how much the ticket cost and travel expenses are worth to them. Of course, no one thinks it’s cheap, so it all comes down to whether they’ll think, “I want to come again.” For FFXIV’s Fan Fest, all of our teams—development, management, PR, and marketing—unite as one to make that happen.

In order to provide an enjoyable experience for those who bought tickets for Tokyo Fan Fest, we’re currently conducting a post-mortem on the Las Vegas Fan Fest and working at full speed for Tokyo. Please look forward to it.

Now then, I’m out of space, so I’ll end this here. Next time, I’ll talk about coordinating with the development team and what goes on behind the scenes of the concerts. I’m starting to doubt whether 3 columns are enough…

[1] Events that take place on the floor of the venue. For example, a giant moogle, an attraction where you throw spears at a dragon, and at the last European Fan Fest: how long can you stay on a raging behemoth? Of course, there are also several that involve playing the game!

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