In a strange case of art imitating life, Final Fantasy XIV Online players are locked out of the game’s fictional real estate market. Besieged by angry gamers, opportunistic guilds, and the disastrous results of its own good intentions, Square Enix is now fighting to fix a problem that is tearing the gaming community apart.
Housing in Final Fantasy XIV
Housing has been a problematic arm of Final Fantasy XIVthe in-game economy for a while. Between private buyers and Free Societies, and the random system the game uses to sell plots, players hoping to secure virtual property regularly found themselves beaten by gambling moguls. a plot and wait for it to be available for purchase. When a random, invisible timer ran out, the plot was put up for sale. If you stayed long enough, they could probably end this storyline. The downside to this approach was that it took hours to idly click on the plot they wanted in case it opened.
Final Fantasy XIV Online allows players to purchase plots and housing in two ways. Private homes are owned by a single individual for his or her personal use. Free Company houses are purchased by one person and shared by a guild. Players and guilds can own one property at a time.
Enter the lotteries
The game’s housing market has finally become so competitive that developer Square Enix has implemented a lottery in the recent Patch 6.1 update. It’s quite simple: Free Company representatives and private buyers submit their names to the draw. The lottery winner buys the plot. Square Enix hoped this would provide a fairer and more democratic solution to what had been an inconvenience at best.
But instead of solving the problem, the lottery seems to have made matters worse. The housing issue has been spiraling out of control since patch 6.1. Almost immediately, the lotteries began to collapse. Hopefuls waiting for the lotteries to end find that no winner has been selected. Winning lotteries displayed error messages such as “There were no participants in this lottery” and “The winning number is…0”. May you have better luck next time. The thing is, it looks like the lottery did select a server-side winner but has not actually granted the winner permission to access their prize.
Stock market crash
What was perceived as a serious problem at the time quickly evolved into something much uglier. The players are furious. It took days for Square Enix to determine where the bugs causing the problem were, and they are currently still working on a fix. The situation became so serious that the game director, Naoki Yoshida, wrote a blog to explain the situation in detail and make amends. You know things have gone wrong when Yoshi-P himself is due to make an appearance. And through it all, armies of robots are trying to play the lottery system. Look at the screenshot australiais resident Final Fantasy XIV expert Renee O’Flynn and community member DJBear remarked to me the other night:
What you can see here is a (now deleted) screenshot of the Zurvan server on the Oceania data center. What it shows is only one free company, tagging itself
Anyway, these accounts are now based on a stock of houses. Since the lottery is currently in a state of flux, it is likely that these houses cannot be sold, simply held in reserve like a portfolio, to appreciate in value. It is believed that these players will later use these inflated wallets to artificially drive up house prices in different neighborhoods and then flip their homes for a potentially huge profit. House flipping, per se, isn’t expressly against the game’s terms of service. It’s just kind of a shitty thing to do, but it makes people a lot of money, so they can’t wait to keep on swirl the sauce around while it lasts. Communities dedicated to Final Fantasy XIV housing and house flipping are now seated at the center of the gambling black market.
How sadly familiar. Video games are supposed to be an escape from the real world, but it seems real estate shit is eventually happening to all of us.
Square Enix continues to work on the housing issue, but for now it looks like the market is still completely down.