Optional economies
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 15 January 2013, 6:46 am
Stabs is poking fun at the way some people approach the economy of EVE Online. Reminded me a bit of Gevlon calling people morons & slackers for the way they traded on the WoW auction house. Wasting money just seems wrong to some people. But is that really the case in virtual worlds?

Unless you were born with a trust fund, money in the real world is a major determining factor on how you will live, and earning money is rather important. Opting out of the real world economy isn't really an option, unless you want to live in a cardboard box. And even then you're probably participating in the economy by begging or collecting cans. If you belong to the majority of people for whom the way they handle their money determines their standard of living, Gevlon wouldn't totally be wrong to call you a moron if you stupidly waste your money and end up with your house in foreclosure or your car repossessed.

But applying the same thinking to virtual worlds doesn't usually work well. The economy of a MMORPG often enough *is* optional. Either you get enough virtual currency by just playing the way you want, or you can buy such huge amounts of virtual currency for so small amounts of real money that being filthy rich is an affordable option. A million gold on the Diablo 3 real-money auction house costs 25 cents, a billion ISK in EVE bought legally via Plex costs around $30. If you don't enjoy trading or farming, opting out is a viable possibility.

The consequence of a good number of people opting out of the virtual economy is that it makes life easy for those who enjoy economic gameplay. Earning money from others is a lot easier if those others are careless with their money. But that isn't really a good reason to look down upon those careless players. By definition being careless always has an upside: You don't have the cares. As MMORPGs have no win condition, somebody who is just out to maximize fun might well be on an optimum path for himself by ignoring the economy.

I would love to see more economic MMORPGs where the economy wasn't optional and everybody had to care about how to handle virtual currency. But I'm sure that would be a niche game, and then the game would probably quickly be ruined by RMT.
Tobold's Blog



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