Today the Saami Council, an organization representing the Sámi people, has publicly demanded the removal of an outfit from Final Fantasy XIV.
If you're unfamiliar with the Sámi people, they're an indigenous minority inhabiting the Sápmi region including parts of Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Russia.
The announcement explains that the Council took umbrage at the outfit named "Far Northern Attire" which has been made available for purchase in the game's cash shop in December 2022 for $18.00. The council wrote a letter to Square Enix demanding the immediate removal of the outfit and the engagement in "meaningful dialogue with the Sámi people."
You can see the outfit portrayed below.
The council's president Áslat Holmberg elaborated on the demand and on the reasons behind it.
"This is not about sensitivity or whether the depiction is appropriate. These elements are Sámi cultural property and Square Enix has infringed on our rights"
The Sámi people’s position has been made very clearparticularly to entertainment companies, specifically in the agreement that the Sámi people have with Walt Disney Animation Studios.
It is the position of the Sámi that their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi."
Holmberg also claims that the cultural property rights of the Sámi people have actual legal or quasi-legal value.
"Our cultural property rights are not theoretical. They are protected and protectable under intellectual property laws, which are generally harmonised throughout the world. Square Enix, as a media company, is highly aware of intellectual property laws and has no excuse for this blatant violation of Sámi cultural property"
The announcement also defines the issue as "particularly damaging" in a further explanation of the council's view on the issue. Incidentally, it's not known where they have found the "41 million players" figure, as the latest announcement from October 2022 marks the game's total registered players as 27 million.
"The Saami Council is of the opinion that the issue is particularly damaging because Sámi clothing traditions are not merely aesthetic; they carry the significance of being specific elements of Sámi identity with meaning, content, and context. By creating this product, Square Enix has allowed their 41 million players to dress up as a Sámi people, clothe themselves in the Sámi identity without our consent, and contribute to the erosion of our culture."
That being said, the Council "appreciates proper and appropriate collaborations and has a deep history of finding ways to collaborate with entertainment companies on the use of sámi cultural properties" but it argues that there should be a proper way to establish such collaborations.
In conclusion, the Council hopes that "this situation will advance the discussion of the rights of indigenous people to their cultural properties and looks forward to a productive dialogue with all industries."
It's worth mentioning that Final Fantasy XIV includes outfits inspired by many cultures from all over the world, and they're generally very popular among the game's player base. As a cultural trait, Japanese developers tend to see the celebration of diverse cultures (including their own by foreigners) as something positive.
At the moment, Square Enix has not issued a public official response, albeit the Saami Council claims that the company dismissed its concerns in written form in January according to additional details shared on Twitter. We have reached out to our PR contacts inquiring about Square Enix's official position on the matter, and we'll let keep you updated if we receive a statement.
Final Fantasy XIV is currently available for PS5, PS4, and PC both on Steam and via the stand-alone client. The game is one of the most popular MMORPGs on the planet, having pulled a basically miraculous recovery with its relaunch as "A Realm Reborn" in 2013 after its original release in 2010.
After its fourth expansion "Endwalker," it currently counts 27 million registered accounts worldwide. Recently, it received a brand new update numbered 6.3 and titled "Gods Revel, Lands Tremble,"