We’re 2 weeks or so from Endwalker releasing, and with any new release to an existing game, there are bits that are made redundant from that launch. In really great expansions, there’s a build on the prior material so that it remains relevant – in particular with single player games. XCOM 2, Witcher 3 and similar games are super examples of this model.
MMOs can be a bit different, especially those that focus on the destination rather than the journey. Themepark MMOs often suffer from this, where the content itself is only relevant for a window of time, primarily due to the power scale problem (the carrot is bigger numbers). When the content is predicated on start and end state (e.g. you have to be between this level and this level), then there comes a point where you either make it irrelevant OR you find a way to ‘hobble’ the player to keep it relevant.
There’s the approach of ‘mandatory’ content in order to access the new stuff. Maybe you need to complete a specific quest chain or achievement. Or maybe as a crafter you need to make the stuff from content A in order to be good enough for content B. There’s a legacy cost when something like that is implemented, where you have gates that extend the experience before the larger player mass. FF14 has like 200 hours of MSQ before you get to the ‘end game’ (which is somewhat of a misnomer). WoW used to force you to go through older content simply to have your levels increase. You hit a number and then left that area. WoW’s current leveling experience is irrelevant now. You can level anywhere, and the sole goal is to hit a magic level – so people all follow the most efficient route (WoD).
Today, if you had skipped the last 3 expansions in WoW, it wouldn’t matter. Heck, it wouldn’t matter if you never played at all, your experience would be near the same as an existing player re-rolling. It’s like 2 days of playing to get to max level, which negates 8 of 9 pieces of content (Vanilla to BfA). When’s the last time someone did Wailing Caverns? The flipside to this is that content becomes irrelevant means that it’s quite hard to actually complete it. If you wanted to see any raid in BfA, good luck getting a team organized for it. When the next expansion comes out, who in their right mind is going to even set foot in Torghast as group?
FF14 is different, in that the wide majority of content is mandatory. You are going to step foot in 80% of dungeons for sure, a few raids, a bunch of trials, and every zone. Whether you do dungeon A today or wait 6 months, you will still need to do it. It’s practically impossible to miss out on something. Now, there are exceptions. Things like Eureka are not relevant at max level, and Bozja will soon follow. Crafting and gathering is still relevant, all the way through. And even once you reach max level, all the group content forces scaling on the player to keep it relevant. I still run Satasha, the first dungeon from 8 years ago.
There are other MMOs that find a middle ground. You need to go through the dance in LoTR and SWTOR of main quests, but you never really need to do group content to progress… and it doesn’t scale at the end. I really enjoyed the flashpoints at the start of SWTOR, and outgrowing them felt less fun.
I get the idea of FOMO when something new is coming, because we’ve often been trained that the stuff we are doing now won’t be relevant later. Maybe there’s a mount or some cool looking gear to pick up that just won’t be there. I guess the question then comes, “does it really matter?”, and then you kind of realize it doesn’t. So for those playing FF14, there really isn’t much FOMO to be hard. Even if you don’t complete the MSQ to 5.5 prior to launch, it doesn’t matter because all the content will still be there, still accessible to everyone. That’s a super refreshing thought.