Cities: Skylines 2 kills off its (virtual) landlords to save players from the cruelty of soaring rent prices

An image of a stately beach house from Cities: Skylines 2's upcoming DLC.
(Image credit: Colossal Order)

Cities: Skylines 2 has—or rather, had—a rent problem. As evidenced by even the briefest of searches on the game's subreddit, players kept bumping into the same systemic nightmare time and time again: The rent is too damn high.

Oof, if that doesn't hit close to home. Just look at the real-world UK right now, for example, which is in the midst of a renting crisis—with the Office of National Statistics reporting that rent has increased by 9 percent over 12 months, the biggest pricing bump since it started tracking increases in 2015. The US isn't doing much better, either.

Depending on who you ask, the reasons vary: Supply simply isn't meeting demand, or the poor landlords are facing all sorts of rising costs, or, as Generation Rent's Ben Twomey points out for The Independent, "landlords are raising the rent just because their tenants have no choice but to pay these prices." Pick your poison—housing machine's broke either way.

Funnily enough, much of the advice given by other Cities: Skylines 2 players tracks with the real-world problem: "Zone more smaller sized homes—it's like what's happening in the US. There are no starter homes left in and around major cities," writes one player on the game's subreddit.

Another player adds in a separate thread: "If the economy is healthy and tax rates are set appropriately, most cims [what City: Skylines 2 calls civilians] will navigate low rent signs and be OK," ah, yeah. Healthy economy. Appropriate taxes. That sounds nice. "In the end, cims need to earn income and taxes need to be low enough for them to be able to stay in the building. It's a systemic problem with low density neighbourhoods which matches real life as well. Some people buy homes they just can't afford to live in."

The icons flooding player's cities have become so irritating, in fact, that City: Skylines 2 developer Colossal Order has had to step in with two hilariously contradictory measures that should, hopefully, solve the problem of rent prices. In a videogame, unfortunately; I don't think Colossal Order has the kind of sway to sort things out in the flesh world.

"First of all, we removed the virtual landlord," it says in a blog post, "so a building's upkeep is now paid equally by all renters." This entire mechanic appears to be news to just about everyone: "Wait, the who now? There was a landlord? Renters weren't paying equally? Did we know about this?" Responds one baffled player, in much the same way I did when I moved into my first apartment. It's a harsh and cruel world.

Don't get too excited, though, because the second solution is just as hard on the tenants—forcing them to complain less through the sheer power of code: "even if [renters] currently don't have enough money in their balance to pay rent, they won't complain and will instead spend less money on resource consumption."

Haha. Ha. Yeah, yeah that seems about right. I'm laughing because I'm in pain, and a little delirious from all the salt from these cheap ramen noodles.

After snipping digital landlords out of existence, developer Colossal Order is looking to bring a major patch later this year which'll improve the service import function—which brings services from neighbouring cities—alongside a touch-up for the game's UI to improve "how the game relays information to you". In other words: no more hidden digital landlords no-one knows about. The team's also working on some free buildings, presumably as penance for, as fellow PC Gamer writer Andy Chalk calls it, its DLC boondoggle earlier this year.

Harvey Randall
Staff Writer

Harvey's history with games started when he first begged his parents for a World of Warcraft subscription aged 12, though he's since been cursed with Final Fantasy 14-brain and a huge crush on G'raha Tia. He made his start as a freelancer, writing for websites like Techradar, The Escapist, Dicebreaker, The Gamer, Into the Spine—and of course, PC Gamer. He'll sink his teeth into anything that looks interesting, though he has a soft spot for RPGs, soulslikes, roguelikes, deckbuilders, MMOs, and weird indie titles. He also plays a shelf load of TTRPGs in his offline time. Don't ask him what his favourite system is, he has too many.