Major game conventions’ attendance numbers are going down — no, not in fan attendance, in industry presence. Final Fantasy 14, the hit MMORPG, announced today that its developers voluntarily withdrew from attending the consumer-facing Boston gaming convention.
“As the community may be aware, COVID-19 (also known as “novel coronavirus”) is spreading within the East Asia region,” the FF14 blog shared. “Taking into consideration the current situation within the region, sadly SQUARE ENIX has decided to cancel the PAX East attendance of staff who would be travelling from the Japan offices. This difficult decision was based on our desire to prevent any potential spread of the virus and to prioritize the health and safety of our team and our fans.”
As explained, this seems more like a preventative measure from spreading the disease than it does one against catching it. Japan confirmed over 80 cases, with 2 deaths as a result. With fans coming in from around the world for PAX, mutual safety is a valid concern.
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Thankfully for fans, unlike Sony’s total and utter withdrawal from PAX, the Final Fantasy 14 booth isn’t going anywhere. Bold players can take on the latest patch’s newest boss, the Ruby Weapon, for a shot at a secret T-shirt. (It’s not easy, apparently.) There are also photo booth opportunities, plus FF14 lanyards and scarves to grab and a “New Player Experience Area” for vets to try to lure friends into.
Here are the full details of the changes, per the blog:
- Panel Session: The Artwork of FINAL FANTASY XIV: A Look Behind the Screen
We will be cancelling the on-stage panel session due to the absence of the staff members who were scheduled to attend. However, we will be hosting a livestream live from Japan (in English & Japanese) that our fans can view on Saturday, February 29 at 8:00 PM ET on the FINAL FANTASY XIV Twitch channel.
- Developer Signing Sessions & Photo Opp
We will be cancelling the signing sessions and photo opportunities, scheduled to take place on Saturday, February 29 and Sunday, March 1.
- Fan Gathering
We have also cancelled our planned PAX East fan gathering event, slated for Friday, February 28. We are looking forward to hosting future fan gatherings in North America and we’ll share more details on dates and locations in the future.
Fans hope that the novel coronavirus panic dies down by this November. Square Enix recently announced the details of upcoming FF14 “Fan Fest” events, which are essentially game-focused conventions for the game. This year’s American event takes place in November in San Diego, a change from last year’s Vegas destination.
Plus, nothing’s technically stopping fans from meeting up themselves. Chances are, a bunch of them will still show up at the designated place and time. (Lest PAX enforcers feel a large gathering of nerds is somehow an issue.)
Again, FF14 isn’t the only group with novel coronavirus withdrawing form events. Sony already announced a full withdrawal from PAX, including its entire booth. Sony and Oculus via Facebook have also withdrawn from GDC.