How MMO savings work – EconoTimes

ByJose A. York

Jul 3, 2020

MMORPGs like World of Warcraft, RuneScape 3, or ArcheAge Unchained have rich, fantastical worlds you can get lost in for hours. However, despite the presence of dragons, spells, and medieval armor, they still have a lot in common with the real world. The economy is a fundamental part of any MMO, and creating a robust economic system is harder than it looks. So how do they do it? How do MMO economies work?

The problem of hyperinflation

In MMOs, players always print fresh money. In most MMOs, if you kill a monster, it will drop money or loot which can be sold for money. When you think of a game with several thousand players killing monsters every day, this can be a real problem. If this goes on long enough, the in-game currency will eventually become worthless. It’s bad for everyone. New players will feel discouraged to join a game where you need millions of gold to buy basic items. Returning players will return to find that their gold is now worthless. Players with lots of extra gold will have a hard time selling WoW Classic gold on platforms like Eldorado because the currency is no longer worth what it used to be.

Fight against hyperinflation

One of the ways to fight hyperinflation is to use currency sinks. These are mechanisms that periodically remove money from the game. For example, in World of Warcraft there are auction fees, equipment repair fees, etc. Other games have a property tax or take money by creating valuables that can only be purchased from a vendor. Some designers will create a dependency on consumables and make these consumables a core gameplay feature. This can be a great strategy because if the in-game currency starts to inflate too quickly, they can simply introduce a new consumable like a potion. If players are already used to using potions to level up, then they will be happy to upgrade to this new consumable and the money can be taken out of the economy.

There are many examples of currency sinks in MMOs and if you’ve ever played an MMO, you’ve definitely come across one. Have you ever had to pay a flight master? What about paying for a quick trip? Or unlock bank locations? Have you ever paid gold to send mail in a game? If you answered yes to any of these questions, your currency has been removed from the game for the sole purpose of controlling inflation.

Currency sinks help, but they’re not perfect. If game designers try to take as much money out of the system as is being created, players will feel like they are just grinding to pay taxes. No player finds this amusing! An overly balanced system might eliminate inflation, but it will also lose a lot of players.

Another way to combat this is to use reserve currencies. This is usually done by linking the in-game currency to a currency that has real value (a currency that can be exchanged for real money). EVE Online has done this with its Plex currency.

This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or management of EconoTimes