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How would you like your news? Scrambled or sunny-side up?

11 Feb 2010

By my count, we had four major official site updates in 2009 (August 6, October 7, November 11 and December 23).  Not surprisingly, the largest gap between updates was earliest, where 8 weeks went by without an update.  But – this was not 8 weeks without news, as Gamescom was nestled in the middle of that time frame, and revealed a significant amount of new information.  So that leaves us where we are today – a full 7 weeks since the last site update – and a full 7 weeks since any new information.  We’re still three weeks away from Vanafest, a festival devoted Final Fantasy XI, but where we were promised some information about Final Fantasy XIV – but what that information might be remains behind closed doors.  So while we all scour the tubes of the internet for more information, information that simply doesn’t exist, I find myself asking the question – how do I want Square Enix to provide news?

There are a few aspects to this inquiry.  First, how do we want to receive news before launch?   To date, pre-launch news has come primarily in the form of official site updates and interviews by the Japanese press.  But there are alternatives.  We saw from Gamescom that live events can be successful, and await Vanafest to see what it has in store.  We’ve seen newsletters, although they generally do nothing more than point to the official website.  We also reported on Square Enix using twitter and facebook accounts to promote Final Fantasy XIII.

Perhaps the more important questions we should ask is how often do we want to receive news?  This is not a sporting event where you might want a play-by-play of every line of code as it gets changed.  We don’t need (or maybe even want… yet) to know the name of every NPC, every quest, every item.  But it seems that going more than 6 weeks or so without any news is too long.  The speculation runs amok, the community starts to wander, the hype begins to slowly wane in the absence of information.  Given the existing community surrounding FFXI, Square Enix has a vibrant community in advance of FFXIV being released.  I think going more than 4 weeks  without some official news is too long.

What about after launch?  It’s worth looking at where news comes from with FFXI.  As most readers probably know, Square Enix used PlayOnline as a homepage and portal for FFXI news – whether it was server updates, special events or patches.  FFXI also publishes some of this information within the game itself, but what is provided in-game vs online is  ill-defined.  What this leads to is news being mirrored by community sites or (at times) picked up by larger media sites.  This is actually a pretty effective way to get game news out, but I hope that Square Enix makes it easier on us community sites this time around by giving us better/faster/easier access to the images and text that is being released.  I’d also like to see them improve upon ways in-game to obtain news.  The POL system was very cumbersome, and not at all tied into the gameplay.  Whether it be an in-game newspaper, menu item or NPC, the ability to easily keep up with in-game events and news, while in-game, would be a welcome addition.

Before I sign off, I came across the below chart showing news sources over the years.  This obviously deals with news in general – not news about an MMO – but still seemed oddly appropriate in light of the discussion.  The sources of our news are changing.

Thanks for listening.  Here’s hoping that the dearth of news comes to an end soon.  Not sure I even answered my own question, but perhaps it has sparked some thoughts out there in the community.  Feel free to join the discussions on the forums, and let me know what kind of news you are hoping for – and how you are hoping to receive it.