In order to play Final Fantasy XIV, you have to pay a subscription fee of at least $12.99 a month. I pay this subscription fee every two months, but honestly, I don’t really play the game anymore. This isn’t a unique situation, either. I have friends who do this. My wife does this. I don’t dislike the game, by any means, but I have come to resent it because, in many ways, it feels like it is holding me hostage. If I let my subscription lapse, I might lose a degree of progress.
The primary issue here is the virtual real estate within Final Fantasy XIV. It’s possible you’ve read articles on it, because the houses in the game are in very high demand and extremely limited in number. Originally, there was an issue with people buying up multiple houses with multiple accounts. Sometimes this was for profit, and other times this was for fun. Some people managed to even buy up a majority of a “ward,” which is sort of like the Final Fantasy XIV equivalent of a neighborhood.
This was obviously frustrating for gamers who saw a part of the game being barred off from them, and Square Enix did make some attempts to fix this. The company slowly created new wards, although it was rarely enough to meet demand and the most popular servers saw players logging on immediately after patches in a mad rush to claim their favorite plots. Inevitably, within minutes, a wealth of players were left disappointed because they weren’t able to buy a house at all, much less the one they wanted. Limitations were then placed on purchasing plots. There were restrictions around how many houses a player or group of players could own. And, worst of all, houses were subject to an automatic demolition if players didn’t log on within 45 days. That’s a month a half. That means you can only take about a month off, and that’s bogus for multiple reasons.
There’s an expectation that your progress is saved in an MMORPG. That’s a crucial part of the agreement, because the games often contain a huge grind and the entire purpose is building up your character and acquiring loot. Rare plots that can hold gigantic mansions are a valuable acquisition and it is a blast to customize and decorate it with furniture. Houses can also be used to build a workshop, where vehicles are created. These vehicles can be sent out on expeditions or grant access to instanced areas in the game and also cost quite a bit of money to craft. If you don’t stay subscribed, your house is gone, your plot is forfeited, the workshop disappears, and you only receive 80% of the money you invested when you originally purchased it.
This can especially suck if circumstances prevent you from paying for your subscription. Life is hard and chaotic at times, and it’s not always feasible to commit to a subscription. Automatic housing demolition has been suspended in the past as a result of natural disasters, but that’s a relatively rare occurrence and doesn’t account for the myriad of other problems that can hinder a person’s ability to pay. Beyond this, the automatic demolition feels anti-consumer. Ideally, our choice to subscribe or not wouldn’t be hindered by consequences.
As the game moves towards its next expansion, there is a bit of a content lull. In fact, this often happens between major patches, as players fly through the new experiences and then are left with little to do. Some of us primarily play for the story and events. Sometimes, we need breaks from the grind. If Square Enix can’t make a game that is consistently alluring, then we should have the freedom to take breaks and only play the good parts. That doesn’t mean we don’t like the game or don’t value our characters and our progress.
Certainly, this is difficult terrain for Square Enix to navigate. On one hand, I think housing should have some value and the idea of “neighborhoods” is actually pretty damn cool. In a large and busy game, it forces players to become familiar with one another. On the other hand, content shouldn’t be exclusively available to the rich and lucky. There’s a cost for Square Enix to add housing, and I am sympathetic to that. But that’s a situation that they’ll have to figure out without taking hostages. Hell, maybe they can take some of the money I’ve been needlessly paying and invest it in some extra servers.