The Daily Grind: Should MMORPG housing have login and maintenance rules?
A Massively OP reader named MrPoolaty recently wrote in to us to talk about the resumption of Final Fantasy XIV's housing demolition timers. See, FFXIV has a bit of an intentional housing shortage, such that getting a house is fairly rare and expensive. And once you do get a house, "you need to log into the game once every 45 days or you lose it," our reader wrote. "It essentially boils down to having to pay $15.00 every other month to keep your in-game property."
Those of you who know me know that I have been paying $13 every 90 days (at least!) to keep my Ultima Online house for years. I suppose to newer players in our genre, the idea of paying a sub to hang on to property seems absurd because to them, paying a sub to begin with is pretty out there. And yet players accustomed to open-world housing -- for example, like Star Wars Galaxies' -- are more aware how a game world devolves when all the property is owned by people who haven't logged in or paid a dime in game money or real money in years. (That isn't to say they are any more understanding when it is they who have to pay, mind you; SOE once kindly disabled maintenance to accommodate Katrina victims, just as Square did for Kumamoto earthquake victims, only to find itself with a virtual riot on its hands when it turned maintenance back on.)
On the other hand, MrPoolaty rightly pointed out that FFXIV's housing is kept deliberately, artificially limited and ultra-expensive, making temporary absences much more painful. In the last few years of SWG, as long as your house was paid up in-game, you didn't lose it -- just the location it was planted on. In FFXIV, you lose everything, including the millions you spent in the first place. A cynic might wonder whether artificial housing scarcity and demolition rules coupled with a sub fee is more about generating game revenue than about maintaining property balance for the game.
What do you think about MMORPG housing fees, maintenance, and login rules? Should games be strict and cynical about them, use them to reap revenue, turn losing a house into a scary threat? Or should houses be treated as a mechanic to create more positive stickiness? Should MMORPG housing have login and maintenance rules?