A few weeks ago, Final Fantasy XIV dropped the highly anticipated Cruise Chaser mount for $30 on its Mog Station digital store. The mount, along with the recent influx of vocal World of Warcraft players, has reignited a debate over having to pay real money for items rather than earning them in the game.
As any FFXIV player knows, or frankly, anyone who has had to be around a FFXIV player knows, the game is about fashion. In the storyline, Eorzea is constantly threatened by armor-clad fascists and dragons the size of the moon, but what really matters to most players is how well their bunny girl or cat boy looks in the mirror. It’s a game about collecting armor and clothes, getting dressed up, and showing your character off to anyone willing to see them, whether they play the game or not.
Mounts are just another accessory that let you show off your accomplishments, be it via a chunky chocobo or Cloud’s motorcycle from Final Fantasy VII. Like a lot of MMOs, mounts serve a functional purpose of getting you around FFXIV’s massive world faster, but they’re also an opportunity to display your tastes. It’s why players will identify anything that looks like something they could ride and beg Square Enix to put it into the game.
Ever since the launch of the third section of the Alexander raid in 2016, players have wanted its steampunk mech boss to be obtainable as a mount. The Cruise Chaser — whose name is a reference to a 1986 Square Enix RPG — is notorious for its difficulty in the “Savage” version of the raid, prompting players to create animations that will make any veteran MMO player feel like something activated deep inside them. It also became a meme in the community. Players on forums and subreddits still reference the Limit Cut raid mechanic or sing “forward and back” from the excellent song that plays during the fight.
The demand for the Cruise Chaser mount grew more serious when it appeared in the PVP mode Rival Wings in 2017. In it, players on opposing sides were able to control it just like a mount and battle each other. Naturally, players believed this was evidence of it becoming a mount soon and they started to discuss how they’d be able to get it.
“I would love it sooo much to be able to obtain a Cruise Chaser mount!” one fan wrote in a 2017 thread on the official forums that has surprisingly been kept alive all of this time. “But it WOULDN’T be in the [Mog Station].”
FFXIV players have argued about what should and shouldn’t be in the game’s optional store ever since its inception. Although the Mog Station largely hosts purely cosmetic items like outfits, mounts, and potions to change your character’s race, many people still believe these should be rewards inside of the game. MMOs, like FFXIV, demand a lot of your time. These players want that to be recognized over simply opening their wallet.
When the Cruise Chaser mount was datamined from the game’s files earlier this year, the fervor behind discussions about how you’d earn the mount reached a peak. One of the prevailing theories was that it would be tied to a high rank in the game’s Feast PVP mode. The top 100 slots are only attainable by a small percentage of players, which many saw as a fitting nod to the mount’s history. But when Square Enix finally confirmed it would be exclusive to the Mog Station, the reactions were a mixture of relief, anger, and confusion over everyone’s differing expectations. You can see this pretty clearly in the replies of the official account’s tweet and on the subreddit. Some people were seething that Square Enix would make you pay for it, while others were simply glad to see it not be a PVP-centric reward.
Nobody can really decide on where it should have ended up, but quite a few fans think the Mog Station is an uninspired solution, at least to start. To them, it wouldn’t have been a surprise to see the mount released via an in-game event and then put on the Mog Station later.
“Personally, I would have preferred to see the mount be something earned in game through actual content, but Mog Station is not a bad alternative,” Long-time fan Tom Irwin tells Fanbyte. “It feels more satisfying to achieve cool items like mounts in game, and even if the content itself isn’t difficult, it gives you new content to play-something people crave in general, but especially in the lull before a new expansion.”
In response to the reactions of the mount’s release, game developer and fan of the game Mawile (she preferred to keep her real name confidential for privacy reasons) wrote a popular Twitter thread addressing people’s concerns about its place on the Mog Station and where the money from it goes. In the thread, Mawile explains the many ways the mount could have been released and why they aren’t fair to casual players. She specifically compares the Mog Station to WoW’s item shop, which has been the subject of criticism for years.
“My thread was to address my feelings about players wanting to gatekeep a highly anticipated item over prestige that players should have to ‘earn’ Cruise Chaser and how I feel that is a poisoned mindset that I’ve personally seen in WoW players,” she tells Fanbyte. “Some people would rather it be ‘free’ to 800 people spread across eight data centers, never to be earned again, because they feel ‘earning it’ is more important than accessibility.”
“I take a lot of issue with people saying it should be ‘earned’ somehow, because that mindset is unfair, elitist garbage. The most popular, iconic items should be the most accessible, not locked away to a select few.”
Mawile cites a comment from the game’s producer and director Naoki Yoshida where he explains how the Mog Station revenue funds development on features of the game, like new servers. There’s a sentiment among many FFXIV players that their money goes directly into enriching the game versus the pocket’s of Square Enix’s C-suite.
“As far as I’m concerned, the FFXIV team has never given us any reason to mistrust what they say on record at Fan Fest or in their Live Letters,” Mawile says. “They’ve been far more communicative than other game development teams about their intentions and decision processes. So when they say that profits from the cash shop helped fund the EU and Oceanic servers, I’m going to believe them.”
As Mawile mentions, WoW players are much more cynical about where that money goes. For years, many feel burned by Blizzard’s controversial cash shop items. They have not seen that revenue materialize in the game, or the developers at least acknowledge that it does. Many of these players recently fled to FFXIV in the wake of the game’s poor direction and Blizzard’s ongoing public reckoning with its own toxic workplace culture. As a result, the skepticism surrounding Square Enix’s intentions with the Mog Station is higher than it has been in the past.
“This got released at the point where some of WoW’s largest streamers are all playing FFXIV,” Ranor, a long-time FFXIV and WoW player, says. He preferred to keep his real name private. “So you have the pre-existing thing for FFXIV players who want more content to earn in-game or don’t wanna pay $30, which is just normal discourse. That would’ve happened regardless. But then you have streams that are garnering 30,000 people, 60,000 people, 100,000 plus people all coming from WoW — some of those streams being vocally anti-cash shops.”
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Many of the FFXIV players Fanbyte spoke to welcome the influx of WoW players and the discussions they’ve brought to the community. But it’s clear that the newcomers’ distrust for Blizzard doesn’t map as easily onto FFXIV. WoW and FFXIV are very different games. Cash shop items in Blizzard’s game are designed to expedite content you’ve already played to experience new character classes. FFXIV, on the other hand, is mostly about investing all of your time in one character who can swap classes whenever. Mog Station items feel more optional because the game only expects you to play through its required story content once.
MMOs like FFXIV and WoW have to be careful with what they offer on their real money item shops because their players often already pay a monthly subscription fee. Even though a mount isn’t the same as an item that lets you skip content that others had to play through, like WoW’s character boosts or FFXIV’s job boosts, it’s still seen as unfair for those without the cash to spend on it. After all, character progression, collecting gear, pets, and mounts are the reason you play these games.
“It doesn’t impact me in any way,” Ranor says of FFXIV and WoW’s Mog Station items. “I’ve played both games since basically launch. I’ve been dealing with people who don’t know how to play their classes after 200+ hours since the dawn of time. Boosts didn’t change anything. Cash shop mounts don’t change the fact that I clear hard content before other people do or that I have hard to get things.”
FFXIV already has extremely difficult content with unique rewards. The Cruise Chaser fight itself is still difficult if you want to try it yourself. Though the legacy of the fight may not be fully carried through to how you obtain the mount, it still symbolizes an important piece of FFXIV’s history. And it aligns with the kind of relationship the game’s developers have with its players. In 2016, Yoshida recommended players take breaks and resubscribe when major content patches hit. In contrast, Blizzard will reward you with an exclusive mount for buying six months of game time in advance. FFXIV is a game that respects your time more than other MMOs. It’s probably why the most diehard fans were more concerned with how the Cruise Chaser would be earned rather than the ethics of it appearing on the Mog Station.
While writing this story, I wasn’t fully aware of the mount’s place in the game’s canon. A two-person mech that can also transform into a flying ship was enough to hook me in initially. It’s understandable that fans want Square Enix to acknowledge the Cruise Chaser’s history through a more specific method of earning it. At the same time, there are so many newer players like me who can appreciate what it represents and want to be a part of it all, too. $30 on the Mog Station isn’t the most elegant solution and it won’t satisfy everyone, but those who care deeply enough about the mount can finally own it — and those who just want a big, iconic mech can, too.