At Final Fantasy XIV Fanfest 2023, Music was the star of the show

One of the most striking aspects of Final Fantasy XIV is how each and every player can immerse themselves in their own unique way. You can merely progress through the story, only subbing for each new patch; perhaps you spend your time tackling the games hardest raids, or you can play the marketboard, decorating your house with the most exclusive of housing items. You can spend hours upon hours idling in Limsa Lominsa or the Quicksand after perfecting your Glamour through hours of meticulous planning. 

With the XIV community, there's truly something there for everyone; and in a way, it makes events like FanFest so much more special for how they offer an opportunity for the different sub-groups of the fandom to get together in person to share their love of the game, even if that love itself takes very different forms depending on who you ask. Yet there is one aspect of XIV that seems to unify the community, even when they might diverge on what aspects of the game they've grown to love; the music.

While much of FanFest was streamed, there were two notable exceptions; the Piano Concert with Keiko and Amanda Achen on Friday, and the rock concert - featuring The Primals - on Saturday. While the rest of the show had players scattering about to do their own thing, meeting up with friends or queueing up for the Battle Challenge and Merch Line (Savage), come time for the concerts on both nights and there was quite literally not enough seats in the house for everyone to have a spot to listen to the music; large scores of fans were forced to either sit down on the convention center floor or stand to the side if they wished to attend the concerts.

Last FanFest, which was digital only, had these concerts streamed as there was no physical event for fans to attend; and both Masayoshi Soken's humorous singing and trusty Tamatone became memes for the community, alongside Square Enix directly adopting a fan meme for A Long Fall; borrowing the color-coordinated shirts representing the various roles in a Light Party as players grooved through The Twinning, a very popular dungeon from Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers.

While both Soken's Tamatone and the color-coded shirts made a return for this year's concerts, both Amanda Achens and Jason Charles Millers' singing stole the show; favorites from Endwalker such as Your Answer, Flow and Close in the Distance left much of the audience in tears, and old favorites such as To The End and Brute Justice's theme did much of the same.

There's an argument to be made that the relationship between Final Fantasy XIV and its fanbase borders on dangerous ground, edging closer and closer to a parasocial relationship; but when it comes to these concerts it's clear to see that much of the enthusiasm that Creative Business Unit III holds for their fans is genuine, and it's equally clear to see that this passion is rewarded in kind.

For all of the issues that FanFest faced this year - some unknowable, such as the incredibly uncomfortable heatwave that graced Las Vegas last weekend, others the result of flawed planning - you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone that attended the show and had a chance to listen to music from the game and walked away dissatisfied. Personally, I'm going to be telling stories about the time Soken hopped on the piano with Keiko for a duet of the Labyrinthos theme for years to come; and it's those same stories, when shared with others, that strengthen the bonds a community shares. FanFest 2023 might be behind us, but the memories we made that weekend will be told for years to come.