Bargain Bin Posts Week: Killing the Economy

In a not-so-recent episode of the Multiverse podcast, the gang was discussing some of the root causes of gold selling and buying (a currently hot subject that I cannot muster the will to debate right now).  Ferrel, I think, suggested that if MMOs really wanted to combat this plague of sellers, buyers and hackers, they should cut them off at the source and have a currency-free game.

Hold on a second, I think he may have something here.

Game economies, much like hit points and mana bars, are one of those deeply-rooted staples of MMORPGs that we never question any more — we just assume they are in the game and get all bristly at anyone who suggests otherwise.  Some folks really love “playing the auction house” and accumulating financial wealth as sort of a metagame, and would be upset if it wasn’t there.

But today, I’ll ask, why do we NEED to have a real game economy?  I mean, I understand the good parts — connects players, gives them another avenue for persuing goals, etc.  Yet I’m wondering if we haven’t reached the point where the bad is outweighing the good by a significant margin.

7 thoughts on “Bargain Bin Posts Week: Killing the Economy

  1. Barona September 27, 2010 / 7:33 am

    I think this is one of those things that pretty much NEEDS to be in the game, if anything because of human nature.

    Exchanging Goods for Services has been a staple of human civilization since a pre-historic hunter said “hmm… maybe if I gather these plants, I can trade some of them for the meat my buddy just got.” It is so ingrained in how humans do things that it is hard to imagine doing anything otherwise. And not just in a game…

    It is potentially possible to create a game without it. But I suspect the effort necessary to properly do so is probably more effort than game designers are willing to put in. And in any case, in an MMO, players will probably just figure out some way to have some sort of a market economy anyway.

  2. pasmith September 27, 2010 / 7:41 am

    Barona pretty much expresses my thoughts as well. If the game doesn’t have a ‘coded’ economy then the players will make their own. The only real way to combat it is to have everything in the game bound to a character so there can be no trading or gifting.

    And the gold sellers would shift to power-leveling toons and selling the accounts, I suspect.

  3. Aillas September 27, 2010 / 8:46 am

    I think economies are important to the game, but the flip side is when a game is fairly entrenched, the economy is a major barrier to newbies: everything costs a fortune, gold is scarce at lower levels but in near infinite supply at the end game, gathering resources is frankly dull and repetitive and favors those with lots of spare time.

  4. Stabs September 27, 2010 / 10:16 am

    I don’t think every MMO needs to be the same game. So while I don’t agree that the bad outweighs the good I certainly could see myself playing a barter game.

    I don’t think, however, it solves the problem. If everything is barter then cheats can still illegally buy 1000 steel bars for £50 real money. I think in a barter system you end up with an item that is considered a currency by the player base as Stones of Jordan were in Diablo 2.

    I only half-remember his comment but I think what Ferrel was driving at was a no trade game. So you could still have Need Before Greed instance running but the only way to acquire good loot is to do group content with competent people. Which is a very Ferrel-like perspective. I’m sure he’ll set the record straight if I’m reading him wrong.

  5. Tesh September 27, 2010 / 11:46 am

    Seconding Stabs on this one. If that’s Ferrel’s take, it’s sensible, though not an angle I’d try. No Trade is drastic, but it would curtail gold selling… not by killing a currency, but by killing what it’s used for; trade.

  6. Tyrhoor September 27, 2010 / 12:29 pm

    This is high treason people! Communism! I will not stand for it.

  7. Mesar September 27, 2010 / 3:39 pm

    You don’t -NEED- it in a game, but if you don’t have it you’re moving further away from the virtual world on the game virtual-world scale.

    Personally I wouldn’t play a virtual world without an economy, but would certainly consider a game without an economy.

    WoW of 2010, with its increasingly heavy use of tokens and BoA items via Dungeon Finder could easily go economy free without severely affecting gear progression. It won’t happen, but Blizzard may consider the idea for their next MMO.

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