Dark or Light

The FFXIV Economy Issue

Michael Bitton Posted:
Columns Michael Bitton 0

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is one of the few MMOs I’ve played in the last few years that have successfully given me “the bug”. You all know what I’m talking about; it’s that almost indescribable desire to obsessively play an MMO. After all, it’s the feeling we’re all chasing when looking for a new MMO to play. But Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn isn’t without flaws and one of its most potentially serious flaws is one that isn’t necessarily obvious to most of us: the game’s economy.

This is something that has been concerning me going all the way back to the game’s earlier beta phases. I’d heard offhand that the Gil earned from questing should be considered precious. Conserve your Gil by not teleporting frequently; don’t spend it on nonsense, that sort of thing. Why? Because the vast majority of the Gil generated in ARR comes from completing quest content. You aren’t going to be making Gil by vendoring items; heck, mobs don’t even drop vendor junk to sell.

If you want to earn Gil in FFXIV, you’re going to have to interact with the economy in a meaningful player-to-player way.  In theory, this is awesome.  Most modern MMOs eschew the interdependency we found in classic MMOs for a much more solo, selfish approach. Square Enix’s emphasis on interdependency is refreshing, but there are some issues with the implementation.

Before we dig in, we need to cover some terms first: Gil sinks and Gil fountains. Sinks and fountains are game design terms for systems or features that create and destroy things in the game. We’ve all heard of “time sinks” before, I’m sure.  They’re part and parcel of the subscription MMO experience and they keep players busy by, well, straight up destroying your time. Gil sinks are features of the game that destroy the game’s currency and Gil fountains are features that inject currency back into the game’s economy. And no, there aren’t any time fountains, though I’m pretty sure we all wish there were. They would make up for some of our bad MMO decisions (among other things), but I digress.

In Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, the predominant Gil fountain comes in the form of vendorable Allagan pieces rewarded by quests. However, there are many, many more Gil sinks in the game, including teleport fees,  market board taxes,  repair costs, and  Chocobo porters. These all remove Gil from the game’s economy.

What’s the problem then?

Well, right now, this isn’t a huge issue. There are a myriad of economic issues worth discussing about FFXIV’s economy, but they are fairly classic ones, such as the tension between crafters and raiders, but the issue we’re talking about today would supersede anything else. You see, right now everyone is in a mad dash to level up. There is a ton of Gil being created by players as they strive to hit level cap and this will likely continue for a little while yet. But as server populations mature, the current ratio of Gil sinks to fountains will result in the deflation of the value of Gil over time. In a real economy, there are ways to deal with this, but when sinks remain static (e.g. repair costs and teleport fees remain the same) this will only exacerbate the issue, destroying Gil much faster than it can be replaced through Gil fountains.

This issue has been a major source of discussion in the FFXIV community over the last week or so and there are unfortunately people who just don’t understand it. I’ve seen comments suggesting that people are not doing things correctly, or not willing to do what it takes to earn Gil in the economy, but these all miss the point. It doesn’t matter if you’ve earned 2.5 million Gil through the market since FFXIV: ARR launched; that wealth wasn’t created, it was transferred.

If you took a snapshot in time of the FFXIV economy on your server, there would be a total amount of Gil spread across its players. Every time you make Gil (aside from quest completion and a few other minor ways), you are simply transferring part of that total wealth from another player to yourself. In fact, Gil isn’t being created by this process, it’s being destroyed. Since most of these transactions are likely taking place on the market board, that board is charging a fee that is destroying Gil. This is in addition to the many other Gil sinks found all throughout the game. Now, these sorts of sinks are common in just about any MMO and it’s not usually an issue. Designers put in money sinks in order to curb inflation. But with almost all of the game’s Gil creation coming from quest rewards, the total wealth on any particular server will only shrink over time in proportion to the state of quest completion in the game.

In order to keep things healthy in the current environment, players would need to constantly create alts and level them up to create new Gil and this runs in direct opposition to one of the game’s main selling points: the ability to do it all on one character.

The obvious solution then is to add more Gil fountains to the game. The resistance in the community from those who understand the issue is in the question of how many more fountains should be added and what exactly that would entail. I don’t have a perfect answer here, but I do agree that if Square Enix does recognize this issue, they should definitely approach this with a degree of restraint. There should be enough Gil coming into the game that players aren’t forced to create new characters, but not so much as to invalidate the need for new Gil or eliminate the potential for that refreshing interdependency we mentioned earlier. And yes, I realize there are serious issues with said interdependency right now aside from this, but that’s a discussion for a whole other article.

There’s also another theory I’ve been mulling over. Maybe this was all part of Square Enix’s plan? Am I giving Yoshida-san and his team too much credit? That’s for you to decide, but it’s something that I began thinking about recently when I went over Yoshida-san’s response to my concern over the abuse of FATEs. In that case, it seems that they knew the current FATE situation would happen and they are OK with it for the time being. The logic there is that as the player population matures, players won’t spam FATEs as much and there won’t be an issue. Yoshida-san went further, explaining that they would be adding a new form of PvE content in 2.1 and that they feel players will vary their activities as this new form of content comes in. Was he referring to dailies? It’s certainly possible. Dailies would also allow for increased Gil creation, possibly killing two birds with one stone.

This all has me really considering the notion that perhaps Square Enix really did overtune the launch economy on purpose. We’ve seen what happens to MMO economies when some design oversight leads to rapid inflation early on in the game’s life. It’s incredibly hard to put that genie back in the bottle. Adding more sinks after the fact can be incredibly disruptive to players, making it a lot less doable than adding new fountains to an overtuned economy. Square Enix may be intentionally relying on quest completion for Gil creation in the beginning when it’s not much of an issue just yet since so many players are leveling up. If 2.1 can be expected in a couple of months and the rumors of dailies are true, then perhaps one possible solution will come just in time and perhaps, if you buy into my line of thinking, on schedule.

How would you like to see Square Enix address this issue? Share your ideas with us in the comments below!

Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager. Follow him on Twitter @eMikeB


Michael Bitton

Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager. Follow him on Twitter @eMikeB