Square Enix

A new feature in this massive online game that promises a personal home for every player might turn out to be a housing nightmare.

There are worse things to worry about in Final Fantasy than where your character sleeps. Leveling up, obtaining materia, battling Good King Moggle Mox XII: These things take time and energy. Still, establishing your player's quest pad is a nontrivial part of the gameplay in Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, the latest installment in the epic RPG series. Some players even see it as one of the best parts of the game.

All that could be changing. With a new patch that developers plan to introduce any day now, in-game housing could come to look more like the IRL quest so many of us are struggling to complete. Almost a year into the launch of the FFXIV ARR universe, a housing crunch that game-makers have mostly worked to avoid might be inevitable. 

Back in December, Square Enix advanced patch 2.1, which in addition to adding new dungeons and other features begot the game's Player Housing system. Whatever the roughly 2 million players of this massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORP) were doing before, as of this patch, they could cohabitate.

Lovely, low-density, single-family housing in Lavender Beds. (Square Enix)

Right now, in-game housing revolves around three residential districts: The Mist, The Goblet, and Lavender Beds. Each one corresponds to one of the game's three main regions. The Mist, for example, is a growing neighborhood in Limsa Lominsa—you know, the thalassocratic city-state on the coast of the island of La Noscea, just off the Rhotano Sea. 

Players who are members of Free Companies of a certain size can build a hall in the residential district of their choosing. Some of the steps sound beyond boring: First you need to obtain a Land Acquisition entitlement, then you need to buy the land, then you need to buy a Housing Permit in order to proceed with construction, and on and on—stab me with a mythril dagger, already. (All the while, you are presumably trying to develop your character class and be supportive of the other members of your Free Company. Can a White Mage ever have it all?)

Limsa Lominsa, as seen from the exurbs (Square Enix)

For some players, the housing system is where FFXIV ARR takes off. Although owning a hall is critical to all sorts of Free Company endeavors—from raising chocobos (in a stable, of course) to building an airship (that's what the crafting workshop is for, obviously)—the draw is the interior customization, which is enough to rival The Sims.

Lusting after Morbol chandelier? There's a recipe for making one. Torn between glade classical windows and riviera oblong windows? You are not alone. While it isn't critical to defeating Bahamut, building a hall leads nesting. The housing system in FFXIV ARR has spawned whole forums devoted to showing off private-chamber designs.

So far, the developers have been careful to safeguard the game's housing system against speculators. Buying land through real-money trading is prohibited, meaning you can't use dollars to buy gil that you plan to use to buy land or an estate hall. (Not that you can't buy gil: The Internet is chock-a-block with exchange sites where you can trade in fictional currencies.) Free Companies who buy land but don't develop it will see its value fall by a set devaluation timer—a bit like a city that taxes an owner for a vacancy. 

The developers introduced gardening to the game with patch 2.2. Personal rooms came to the game with patch 2.3, allowing for individual chambers for each member of a Free Company. With the highly anticipated patch 2.38, players have access to personal housing. 

A mixed-use development in Ul-Dah. (Square Enix)

In discussion forums, players worry that the new zoning system may cause Free Companies to fight over the rights to buy land. Or else that personal housing will be put out of reach for any player who doesn't devote his or her whole life to acquiring gil. Some players are complaining about how hard it is to acquire land as it is. "We saved like everyone else and estimated within a week of a new ward we would be able to afford the small plot of our dreams," posted one BroodingFicus. "It's now a land race, not an achievable goal one can get through hard work."

Players estimating what true single-avatar housing will cost them are guessing anywhere from 800,000 gil to several million for a small house. I'm with Yuki_Tokita, who pegs a private home closer to 100 million gil. "Obviously the prices should be extremely high because it has to be something that can only be enjoyed by the elite few who know how to work the market and have a [Free Company] that can farm for rare loot on a daily basis."

In other words: An entire universe is about to switch from a zoning model dominated by multifamily housing to one characterized by single-family housing affordably only for the extremely wealthy. I'm not a gamer, and bowed out of Final Fantasy many roman numeral ago. But if it's turning into a saga over exclusionary zoning? Hand me my gunblade.

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