Let me start today’s post by asking you a question: How important is in-game money to you in RPGs and MMOs?
Because the answer for me, and I suspect many of you, is “not that much.” At least, money doesn’t matter on a daily basis in current games. Looking back, this used to be a lot different in older RPGs and MMORPGs, where there was only one currency that you kind of needed for everything.
I mean, go back to those older console RPGs and see how a great majority of your gear wasn’t looted but purchased from a vendor. Chrono Trigger gated its gear by offering a better quality vendor when you got to new areas, at which point you’d spend your cash to upgrade your team’s armor and weapons.
MMOs used to be a lot more like this as well. We saw a great example of that this year when crowds flocked into WoW Classic and (re)discovered that gold actually had a purpose beyond WoW Tokens and super-expensive mounts. You’d need gold for just about everything, including skills and bags and travel, and that gold (particularly in the first few weeks) was in very short supply until you got your farming on.
But these days I’m not that concerned with in-game cash. For one thing, most MMOs have secondary currencies that are far more useful — your premium (real money-bought) currency and your zone/reputation-limited tokens. My LOTRO characters sit on mountains of gold that they never have to spend because, outside of the auction hall, there really isn’t anything to buy with it. I just save up to buy some first age Legendary Item and that’s that.
In fact, that’s pretty much my strategy toward all RPGs, whether I’m playing solo or multiplayer. I sell and don’t buy, depending more on loot drops to keep me outfitted. I save up a ton of money in anticipation of a possible future splurge on something big. Because that hypothetical massive future purchase is always looming, I don’t want to fritter that money away on smaller and more inconsequential things.
MMOs have pretty much devalued gold to the point where it’s not worth thinking about much unless you can trade it in for something worth real-world value (such as WoW Tokens or EVE’s PLEX) or you’re just the type of person who plays the economy as the core game. When you can quest and grind forever, there’s no upper limits on what you can earn, and so MMOs have given up on gold sinks in favor of alternative currencies that do have hard limits and specific purchase options.
The only game that I’m concerned about money these days is FFXIV, where my ultimate goal is amassing enough gil to buy a house and outfit it. But since I don’t play the market, that’s probably going to be a long while in coming, and so I try to be frugal and gear up through other avenues.