In A Horrible Mirror Of The Real World, Final Fantasy XIV Is Facing A Housing Crisis

In A Horrible Mirror Of The Real World, Final Fantasy XIV Is Facing A Housing Crisis

In a weird case of art imitating life, Final Fantasy XIV Online players are being locked out of the game’s fictional housing market. Besieged by angry players, opportunistic guilds, and the disastrous results of its own good intentions, Square Enix now battles to solve an issue that is tearing the game’s community apart.

Housing in Final Fantasy XIV

Housing has been a problematic arm of Final Fantasy XIV‘s in-game economy for some time. Between private buyers and Free Companies, and the randomised system the game used to sell plots, players hoping to secure a virtual property regularly found themselves beaten by in-game moguls. For a while, it was enough to simply camp a plot and wait for it to become available for purchase. When a randomised and unseen timer ran out, the plot would go up for sale. If you stuck around long enough, they could probably bag that plot eventually. The downside to this approach was it took hours of idly clicking on the plot they wanted in case it opened up.

Final Fantasy XIV Online lets players purchase plots and housing in one of two ways. Private houses are owned by a single individual for their own personal use. Free Company houses are purchased by one person and shared by a guild. Players and guilds alike can own one property at a time.

Enter the lotteries

The game’s housing market eventually became so competitive that developer Square Enix implemented a lottery in the recent Patch 6.1 update. Pretty simple: Free Company representatives and private buyers alike submit their names into the draw. The winner of the lottery gets to buy the plot. Square Enix hoped that this would provide a fairer, more democratic solution to what had been an inconvenience at best.

But instead of solving the problem, the lottery appears to have made things much, much worse. The housing problem has spiralled out of control since Patch 6.1. Almost immediately, lotteries began to bug out. Hopefuls waiting for lotteries to conclude discover that no winner had been selected. Concluded lotteries were displaying error messages like “There were no participants in this lottery,’ and ‘The winning number is…0. May you have better luck next time.’ The thing is, it seems the lottery did select a winner server-side but did not actually grant the winner permission to access their prize.

Market crash

What was seen as a serious problem at that time has rapidly evolved into something far uglier. Players are furious. It took Square Enix days just to figure out where the bugs at the root of the issue lay, and it is currently still working on a solution. The situation has grown so serious that the game’s director, Naoki Yoshida, penned a blog to explain the situation in detail and make amends. You know things have gotten bad when Yoshi-P himself has to make an appearance. And through it all, bot armies are trying to game the lottery system. Look at the screenshot Kotaku Australia‘s resident Final Fantasy XIV expert Renee O’Flynn and community member DJBear pointed out to me from the other night:

final fantasy xiv housing
Image: User HBKTSOREDDIT on Reddit

What you can see here is a (now-deleted) screenshot from the Zurvan server on the Oceania data centre. What it shows is that a single Free Company, tagging themselves <CEN>, has a ton of properties in its name. According to the game’s own hard rules about property ownership, this shouldn’t technically be possible. How the <CEN> Free Company has achieved this is a source of some debate in the community. One theory suggests this is nothing more than the result of multiple sub-groups within a larger Free Company that all use the same tag. Others theorise that players are brute-forcing lotteries with bot armies. The lotteries then break under the barrage, and award properties to accounts that already own one.

Whatever the case, these accounts now sit on a stockpile of houses. Because the lottery is currently in a state of flux, it’s likely these houses can’t be sold, merely held in reserve like a portfolio, to appreciate in value. These players, it’s believed, will later use these swollen portfolios to artificially drive up housing prices across different wards and then flip their houses for a potentially massive profit. House flipping, in and of itself, is not 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’re eager to keep the gravy train going while it lasts. Communities dedicated to Final Fantasy XIV housing and house flipping now sit at the centre of the game’s black market.

How depressingly familiar. Video games are supposed to be an escape from the real world, but it seems real estate fuckery comes for us all eventually.

Square Enix continues to work on the housing problem, but for now, it seems the market remains thoroughly busted.

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