Today Sega revealed a billboard ad campaign to advertise its MMORPG Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis that Final Fantasy XIV players will certainly find familiar.
The campaign, showcased via Twitter and portrayed above, apparently involves billboard ads in Los Angeles and Dallas advertising the game's 2.0 update. Considered by itself, it wouldn't be very noteworthy, but Sega is actually poking fun at an event that happened around Square Enix's Final Fantasy XIV almost exactly one year ago.
In June 2022, a Free Company (FFXIV's version of guilds) focused on a night club named - Rain - and based on the Balmung server, which is known for its large and lively roleplay scene, rented a number of Billboards in a few locations in Texas and California to advertise its "Summer Bash" party. You can see a couple of surviving pictures below courtesy of Twitter users yuleloggu and MassiveMastro.
who's gonna go for world first pic.twitter.com/79y1tdDuSq— 🏳️⚧️ yule @ STAR RAIL 🏳️⚧️ (@yuleloggu) July 5, 2022
BUT WAIT, IT GETS WORSE. THEY GOT ONE ON A DIGITAL BILLBOARD WHICH IS LIKE TWICE AS MUCH.— Mathieu🔞 (@MassiveMathieu) July 5, 2022
Y’ALL PAID LIKE $12K JUST TO GET BANNED, SUED, AND HAVING NEWS MEDIA PICK UP ON THE CRINGE STORY.
Hope y’all saved money for the lawyers that will take on this doomed case and for SE too https://t.co/EOufDqA9XG pic.twitter.com/pwoC0ckhVH
As you can see, Sega's own billboards are definitely an intentional "homage" to Rain's bold billboards, from the composition to the fonts, the discord channel, and even the locations.
This apparently innocent (albeit definitely expensive) stunt actually caused quite a stir in the Final Fantasy community, as it included user-made mods and datamined outfit models that hadn't been officially implemented in the game yet. That's something that openly breaks Final Fantasy XIV's terms of service and producer Naoki Yoshida talked against the practice on multiple occasions. That being said, the publisher seems not to have done much to actively hunt down users engaging in modding as long as they're not too public about it.
Many in the game's community feared that the billboard could have rekindled Square Enix's attention on modding and brought forth a possible crackdown on those utilizing the outfits on their own without publicizing it.
Luckily, that did not happen, and albeit the billboards were apparently taken down, we don't have any evidence that anyone was really punished for the deed, at least as far as I'm aware.
That being said, the meme power of the incident certainly remained, and it's possibly even bigger than many expected, considering that another developer is now poking fun at it nearly one year after. What can I say: well played, Sega. Well played.
Phantasy Star Online 2 New Genesis is currently available in the west for PC, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, and Xbox One. Sega just launched its large version 2.0 update on June 7 (which is the date showcased on the billboard), for which you can check out a trailer below.
Final Fantasy XIV is currently available for PC, PS5, and PS4. After its fourth expansion "Endwalker," the game currently counts 27 million registered accounts worldwide
A few months ago, producer and director Naoki Yoshida shared his ambitions for the future of the game during a recent event at PAX East. The successful MMORPG has recently received the major 6.4 update "The Dark Throne," while new details about its next expansion are expected for the North American fanfest in July.