Square Enix summons Final Fantasy fans to Santa Monica

Joining the likes of Blizzard (World of Warcraft) and Sony Online Entertainment (EverQuest), Square Enix held its first annual Final Fantasy XI Fan Festival in Santa Monica over the blustery, unseasonably chill March 10th weekend.

To fans of online role-playing games, the community is as important - if not moreso - than the gameplay itself. Pushing that sense of community into the real world is a great way to reinforce the relationship between fans ... as well as rack up some tidy merch sales. The Final Fantasy XI Fan Festival 2006 event was particularly important to Square Enix, a Japanese company that has long wrestled with accusations of unfairly favoring its home players.

The sold-out event drew over 1,000 FFXI fans from all over the US, and even from as far as England. Situated in a large tent on the edge of the Santa Monica Pier, fans convened in casual and costume attire to participate in a variety of FFXI -themed events, discuss and play the game, and hear the latest news and announcements.