This was not a positive move by Square-Enix. With the patch scheduled for release on Tuesday, players had an enormous part of their enjoyment kneecapped immediately and almost arbitrarily. One of the major features of this patch that has been announced and discussed repeatedly is housing, and nearly every free company I spoke with said that this announcement more or less killed any dream of having housing accessible to the players on my server. And they're not the only ones.
To say that this has been disheartening is an understatement. Final Fantasy XIV has had an immensely strong relaunch, and this debacle -- and the complete lack of communication from the community team on the issue -- is absolutely astounding. These are not launch woes that almost every game suffers from; this is a result of failing to consider so many basic elements of playstyles and the playerbase.
It's hard to say who's hit the hardest by these prices, but Legacy servers certainly bear the most maddening pricing. On the lowest-population servers, the worst possible plot is four million gil; on the highest priced realms, that exact same lot is 40 million gil. The stated reason is that there is more money on these Legacy servers and that as a result the prices have to be set higher.
The problem with this assumption seems to be an expectation that the wealth is distributed evenly in any fashion. While I can speak personally only for my server, I know it's a rarity for players there to have more than 300k or so at a given time. That includes both Legacy and non-Legacy players, many of whom started on the Legacy servers in part due to a more robust and established community. Far more are at 100k or less.
On Legacy servers, there are people who have stockpiled quite a bit of money, even though they're sporting only 10% of what they had pre-relaunch. But these people are not inclined to spend that money, nor did they simply become that well-funded because of an oversight. These are people who have methods of generation and make a point of hanging on to their money. On non-Legacy servers, I can only imagine the price is exacerbated; 4 million is within the "doable" range for small companies on my own server, and that is with the added Legacy currency.
We're told the prices will fall as land goes unpurchased, but the rate of decay is miserably slow, falling to half price only after three months of no sale... and no further. If you can't afford 20 million, you can wait for three months and hope that no one buys the smallest plot so it will fall to 10 million. If someone buys it, you're simply out of luck until a new region is added, at which point the prices revert back to 20 million all over again.
Talking with the people
My own impression wasn't enough to base my impression of this pricing on, so I started asking around and getting in touch with some Free Company leaders on Balmung. Obviously, most of these leaders were roleplayers; doubly obviously, housing is a major draw for roleplayers.
My talks with Demerik and Navisse, leaders of the Gilded Mirage Consortium, revealed that the guild had saved about 1 million from around 15 active members. The company has about half of its members kitted out with relic weapons and is not actively pursuing Coil. Lyuri of Eclipsis has about 3.4 million saved from about 10 active players, most of which was donated by her own efforts. Lyuri is in the midst of Coil progression whilst the rest of her guild works up gear levels. Another guild leader who wished to remain anonymous has raised about a million from around 10 players; the guild as a whole is working on Coil with a few spare members from other companies.
When the anonymous leader heard about the pricing, she says that it more or less convinced her to give up trying entirely. Lyuri claims that she was confused and then disappointed, realizing that the odds of her company affording even the smallest plot of land were minuscule. Navisse claims she swore when reading the price; she had expected the guild would have to keep working on saving, but 20 million seems unapproachable. Demerik seconded the sentiment, stating that even attempting to save for these plots would require a grueling (and miserably unfun) effort from the entire group for even the smallest possible space.
I also spoke with Rikitiki and D'asee of The Adventurers League of Eorzea, better known as TALE, even better known as one of the largest roleplaying companies on the server. TALE is a large company with many Legacy members and officers who have several maximized crafting professions. When I asked about savings, I was told that the guild as a whole had saved up about 18.5 million following the announcement, with the remotest possibility of reaching 20 million before the patch dropped. TALE has about 50 active members running three separate Coil groups, with the most advanced working through Turn 4.
When every single one of these leaders was asked, I was told the companies had been working on saving money since formation. In TALE's case, this had been a major goal of the company from beta onward. Rikitiki said that he was personally stunned, that he found it a soul-crushing choice that put housing out of the reach of almost everyone.
I also asked these leaders for pricing that felt more reasonable. D'asee suggested a price of 50 million for the best plot and 2.5 million for the smallest. Rikitiki suggested a 10/50/100 million split for small to large. Demerik suggested 5/15/25, with the (admittedly unlikely) suggestion that it could scale based on company membership. Navisse claims that she was expecting a price in the 5-8 million range for the smallest lot, factoring in that buying the house is only the first step of decorating and improving it. Lyuri said that the high levels were within the realm of reason, but the point of entry was far too high, while the anonymous leader suggested 2-5 for the smallest lots to make it an attainable goal.
It's important to note that in every single case, these guild leaders did not expect the be handed a company house, nor are these guilds filled with people who lack the ways or determination to make money. Even the smaller companies quoted prices that would require a great deal of additional saving before these houses could be purchased. As it stands, TALE will be lucky to buy the smallest plot of land, which has been described as a room around the size of an inn room. For 50 players.
You can say that all of these groups are small, but that is disregarding the fact that housing for both Free Companies and individuals is one of the major marketing points for Final Fantasy XIV. There's even been talk of tying your personal space to a private room within Free Company housing. None of these is groups expecting to be handed access; it's that the work requested to simply start building a house is exorbitant.
The anonymous leader mentioned that this is a subscription game meant to encourage prolonged membership, with this sort of obvious money sink draining interest and penalizing players who aren't relentless focused on profit. She also shared further anecdotal evidence, noting that a 90-member free company had raised 20 million on a server where the best plot costs 60 million. Lyuri noted that she loved the patch notes as a whole, but the housing notes cast a serious pall over the game.
Rikitiki noted that while he can make money, it's unfair for Square to gate this cosmetic feature from other players; not everyone has everything at 50. D'asee stressed that the existence of money in the system does not mean that it is equally distributed.
My interview with Rikitiki closed off with a quote that I feel could summarize the issue all too well: "I really feel that the number has been set too high -- so high that it will discourage a lot of people who were very much looking forward to having a home of their own in Eorzea."
Handouts, fairness, and contributions
Of course, there have been people who have decided that no, these prices aren't so bad. "You people who are complaining just want a handout!"
First of all: Yes, I do want this handed to me because this is an advertised feature of the game. It's a feature that has been touted as a way for crafters to make money (unlikely with the tiny fraction of players who will actually have access to these houses now), a way to build a community (impossible when the only way to access it is to be relentlessly mercenary), and a major fun alternative to endgame (insofar as you'll have to devote all of your time to earning money instead of any other endgame activities). I'm the first person to defend the idea that this is not a game in which money is thrown at you, but I do expect to be able to actually play the game.
But again, look up. None of the companies I interviewed said that this should be free! This entire argument is based on the assumption that there is no other way to handle housing prices, that either you set the price at insane levels or you get the housing plot completely for free.
This announcement was made on Saturday. I want to stress that point: Saturday. For a patch being released on Tuesday. Instead of giving people reason to be excited, it gives people to be panicked and start trying to save every gil, desperately scrounging for a maddeningly high figure that was set solely due to what appears to be a developer's wish to remove money from the economy.
For a purely cosmetic feature that offers no benefits outside of those offered at an inn room.
No one strictly needs a house. The roleplaying FCs I spoke with, and many other roleplayers, want one so that they can help build and enjoy this community. Yes, there will be more features added down the line, but this discourages players from even looking at these features because they've been locked out of housing. Unless gil starts raining from the sky like water, these prices feel unattainable to most of the playerbase; and if we are about to make a whole lot of extra gil, why not just trim down incoming money and make the prices more reasonable instead of giving us more money to try to bleed it out?
This is a damning, damaging, and dimwitted move for Square-Enix. This is insulting to the players and disheartening for me as a writer who has praised and enjoyed this game from its original launch. It's inspired rage from both American and Japanese players in equal measure, not because it requires work but because it requires a maddening amount of work for virtually no reward. It's not even a challenge of "try to beat this boss," just "milk every cent you can from the rest of the playerbase."
I've had a lot of praise over the years for Naoki Yoshida. I believe him to be a smart man, a talented designer, and someone who understands the value of fun. And I believe it's time for him to take another look at this pricing because this isn't smart or well-designed. And it's certainly not fun.
Otherwise... well, you could always just play WildStar, where they give you a house and all the work is in upgrading to be larger, not in struggling to even acquire the land to build one.
Feedback is welcome in the comments down below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, as always. Saturday's column will proceed as scheduled, even though it's going to be a lot more somber if this situation doesn't improve.
From Eorzea to Vana'diel, there is a constant: the moogles. And for analysis and opinions about the online portions of the Final Fantasy series, there is also a constant: The Mog Log. Longtime series fan Eliot Lefebvre serves up a new installment of the log every Saturday, covering almost anything related to Square-Enix's vibrant online worlds.