I saw this article on Massively Overpowered about useless housing systems in MMOs. Of course, this is a more or less subjective question, but that’s why I liked reading about their choices.
My first thought – I’m only going with the MMOs I have played – was Lord of the Rings Online. The system changed for the better over the years, but it is still rather useless in that you can’t do a lot and it doesn’t offer you a lot of advantages. It has a fixed amount of “hooks” where you can place specific kinds of items. You can rotate the item and move them a little bit to the left or right, but that’s basically it.
But then I saw Syp’s comment mentioning the home instances of Guild Wars 2. He is right! This feature isn’t housing per se, but it was advertised pre-launch as something amazing when it clearly isn’t. It offers some conveniences like daily gathering nodes (most of which I bought if I remember correctly), so the home instance per se isn’t actually useless. However, since they talked about it changing depending on what you chose in your personal story, players expected more from it and when it comes to that, it is quite useless. We did a side-by-side comparison on the original home instance after finishing the personal story and it was just so disappointing. ArenaNet hasn’t given us anything more to play with in the home instance that counts as housing, but they did give us the guild hall housing. This makes it even more frustrating for me to see that such a feature could be in the game and they just decided not to give it to us.
However, as disappointing as the home instances are, as I said: they just aren’t housing.
I started this post by saying that this question is subjective, because what is “useless”, after all? Rift does not offer you any advantages in having a house, but I still rate their feature very highly compared with other MMOs’ housing systems and would never even think of calling it useless. For me, it means that I can sink countless hours of gaming time into creating and customizing my personal space, my virtual home. If it also adds some gameplay features or conveniences, it’s even better, but absolutely not necessary! Which leads me back to Lord of the Rings Online. I wrote about their housing system several years ago. They have since improved the housing a lot, but it’s still nowhere near what Rift offers, what Wildstar offered, what Everquest 2 offers, etc.
So in my opinion, the most useless housing can still be found in Lord of the Rings Online. They have made changes and improvements, but when it comes to creative freedom, there simply is none, and the most amount of time that I did spend with the housing feature was looking at the available houses trying to find one that I liked (they’re located in instanced neighbourhoods, so you can have a nice view, lots of close neighbours or choose a more remote location if you like). But once I had the house, I didn’t do much with it.