A couple of years back, Final Fantasy 14 had a major drama involving a pizza emote, GrubHub, and a promotional campaign some unlucky souls spent over $30 dollars on. Yes, this really was a big deal. Let me explain why.
Back in December 2021, FF14 had an official promotion with GrubHub. It was meant to be a simple, cutesy little event that'd give your Warrior of Light an /eatpizza emote. Of course, it became an absolute trainwreck that caused drama, because if any game is going to generate actual arguments about virtual pizza, it's Final Fantasy 14.
To get your slice of the action you had to order around $15 of pizza via the Grubhub app using the promo code. A little while later, you'd get sent a code to unlock the emote for your account. It, uh—it did not go well. Many players were snubbed out of their emote entirely, despite ordering the pizza, with some spending even more to no avail. Some people even sold the thing on eBay for $200.
It didn't help that customer reps from GrubHub were sending mixed messages. A comment on this reddit thread from a couple years ago perfectly encapsulates the drama, like a Greek tragedy preserved in amber: "This [rep's] saying it's a lottery. Others are saying there were a limited number of codes and it was first come first serve, but aren't even being consistent with what that limit even was. I know I saw one person post that a grubhub rep told them you had to place two orders in order to qualify."
GrubHub also had some absolutely baffling fine print on the website itself, which said the codes would be supplied on a "first come, first serve basis while supplies last". It's a digital code for an emote in an MMO, nobody's gonna run out of virtual pizza. There's no pepperoni economy to tank.
It was pretty much an unmitigated disaster. Which makes the revelation that the emote is now available—guaranteed—for $7 on the online store a surprisingly big deal, as announced by the official FFXIV Twitter account:
Fan response is a mix of jubilation and gentle upset. Players are happy that a cute emote which was previously restricted to the US is now available worldwide—they're also a little sore that they ordered pizza for absolutely no reason. Granted, assuming you went through with the promo, it was technically a better deal. As one Twitter user points out, "You can buy a real pizza with some extras here in Italy for that price".
As silly as it seems, there are some ethical concerns here (yes, over virtual pizza, bare with me). Fear of missing out—or 'FOMO'—will always get people to spend money. If you're going to sell something as a limited-time promotion, it's always gonna feel like a twist of the knife when that thing becomes less exclusive. I'm not saying Square's wrong for making it available, I just kinda question the wisdom of the promotion in the first place.
With hindsight, those people who spent $15 (or heaven forbid, $100-$200 on eBay) didn't buy an exclusive emote, they bought two years of early access to it. It might be weird to wring my hands over this, but this is an MMO we're talking about. Mobs have polished their pitchforks for less.