The Daily Grind: Does an MMO’s economy ever stop you from going back?


I’ve written before about MMO economies and how badly handled inflation can wreck them because it’s one of my pet favorite topics, but the last time I really wrote about World of Warcraft’s economy specifically was years and years ago. I’m the closest to done I’ve ever been with the game, and yet there are things about Shadowlands – like the chance to play Pandaria from level zero – that pique my interest. And then I remember I’m poor now.

I mean, the last time I played, I was rich. But that was Legion. The economy was already blowing up then, and now it’s a runaway train. I hadn’t realized quite how inflated it’s gotten until I read post from the Nomadic Gamers blog, whose income stats makes clear that coming back would mean a whole lot of farming just to be comfortable again. And I kinda can’t be bothered? If I’m gonna do that, it’s going to be in a new game or an old game that’s much more friendly to crafters/traders. So the wild inflation becomes a barrier of re-entry.

How about you? Does an MMO’s economy ever stop you from going back?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!

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Fenrir Wolf

The only good economy is one that apes a single player game. That’s all there is to it. The reason why crafting in the earlier days of The Elder Scrolls Online (before they ruined it in the name of greed) was so popular.

Here’s how it goes for most MMOs:

1.) You find you have to grind for materials in order to be viable for most of the game’s content;

2.) You find that you cannot do this alone, so you join a guild to benefit from crowdsourcing this harvesting;

3.) You accept this guild’s raiding and grinding habits as a necessary evil, shackling you with a social obligation to keep you playing;

4.) Via your guild you achieve viability for a short time and you’re feeling like a bad arse who can take any content;

5.) The next balance patch rolls around which means that your build is now broken, and you’re back into another cycle of grinding and harvesting to get back to where you were.

This is why you “can’t be bothered.”

You’re slowly waking up to how much of an operant conditioning chamber most MMOs are, which is really unfortunate. You could have more reasonable crafting in the vein of the vast majority of single player games, but MMOs don’t want to have reasonable crafting. They want to keep you invested so you give them more money.

They can’t keep making content, so they need a way to keep you invested between content. What they do is they break you while promising they’re working on new content, and telling you taht these changes are for the best. They’ll tell yout that these changes will benefit the raider, the PvPer, and whomever else.

It’s all nonsense.

This is why patch notes don’t make any sense. Those who follow the meta know this, but they don’t know why. The reason why is because they’re looking into how best they can break the meta in a way that encourages more grinding without inconveniencing people overly. I began to research this because I don’t really like getting involved in guilds and I was always sleft feeling like I couldn’t get anywhere.

The results of my research was that this is an intentional manipulation.

Everything about it is designed to artificially create investment. This is why I won’t bother. The only reason I play Guild Wars 2 is because thus far it hasn’t stopped me playing content with a level 80 boosted character. LS4 was as annoying as hell and I almost threw my hands up then and there, but it wasn’t outright stopping me at any point.

This is why GW2 is really the only MMO I’m playing right now, and the only reason I ever even really bother with MMOs is because they’re the only ones who bother to even slightly bother to try to target starved and underserved demographics. I prefer to play non-human characters so that’s where I fall into it.

Guild Wars 2 doesn’t do it well, of course. Few do. If they did, they’d see profitability go through the roof. I mean, there’s a reason that Zootopia was so successful it almost paralysed Disney (they’re being so cautious with that that they have two sequels and a TV show in the works but they’re taking their time to not screw it up). You should look into just how insanely profitable Zootopia was, it’s nuts.

Yeah, the charr often get the short end of the stick in content, lore, and visuals. We feel like second class citizens. If the game was any worse I wouldn’t bother with it even to play a non-human character, I’d go play Divinity: Original Sin 2 again.

The thing is is that no MMO has yet treated me well enough to make me want to even bother to see if the operant conditioning chamber will sink its hooks into me. Everyone who plays non-human characters is left feeling like a second-class citizen. That’s the folly of people with money, they don’t know how to make money well for the most part (lack of foresight, sacrificing sustainability for immediate profit, and acting like a deer in the headlights when something ends up being far more profitable than they projected).

I’m always amazed at how out of touch most marketing departments are.

Anyway, yeah, I don’t find it fun. You’re now realising you don’t find it fun. Welcome to the land of the conscious, where people realise that maybe operant conditioning chambers aren’t that great.

Bruno Brito

Depends on the game.


So a good economy will get me into crafting and trading but that would mean that all items are finite and also can be lost. Think UO or SWG where crafting something ment something as well you can lose something. When games come down to everything. Is just glamour I will only get what I want and I end up being the person that will keep a look for years as well it’s not with spending what currency I have on anything so then the market becomes useless to me.

Kickstarter Donor

Not really I guess

Part of the benefit of being an Alt-o-holic is that I don’t have to really rely on purchases via the economy to survive, progress and/or prosper as I am always largely self-contained.

In my opinion – Most games economies are quickly broken and over-inflated to ridiculous levels by we the players in short order constantly, which is why whenever I do use them I undercut hugely in order to forcibly DEFLATE the price of what I am selling as screwing with greedy players gives me joy on principal and things which are too over-priced I will flood the market with at reduced prices to do so as I despise greed.

I can remember way back in WoW for example when they first opened up the Darkmoon Faire server, I was one of the first on it and its economy was bliss, things were priced sensibly, people were decent… I stopped playing for a couple of years, came back and wow..the server was wrecked even low level gear, mats and recipes were in 10’s 100s if not thousands of gold… any new players entering that server couldn’t even buy the lamest stuff or recipes without having to go off site and BUY GOLD! to do it, unless they were existing players and making a new alt and funding it themselves via hidden reserves and we cannot always assume that is the case with everyone.

Broken economies are harmful to games and their appeal, they work like a closed door in the face of enquiring new faces. People need to curb their greed.

But then we all know WHY this happens if we’re being honest and that is because these people are either a) Gold Sellers whom over inflation DIRECTLY benefits in terms of real money earned or b) people selling gold TO gold sellers who also benefit from inflation as it increases the real money amounts they get paid for their gold.

Economies don’t break by accident, they break by design and intent its just the rest of us that suffer for it..


In the games i play the only really expensive items are endgame gear/mods/etc or cash shop stuff, usually if you go for the second or third best gear available you are able to do anything and the cash shop items just require patience.


I wouldn’t say it stops me from anything, but I do find the practice usually referred to as “flipping” quite detestable. And I do find that I enjoy games that have their server markets controlled by a few “elite” who hoard the wealth quite less.


I haven’t played an MMO where the economy was important since early SWG days.

Every other MMO I’ve played has been a themepark with all the best stuff coming as loot drops. So, I’ve never needed any money except for repairs and potions. As a result, I’ve always spent the bare minimum of time on generating money and am usually considered “poor” in game terms. But, this means I get to spend a greater proportion of my time engaging in fun activities.

I think if crafting or the economy were ever enjoyable (as gameplay) or important then I’d probably engage more with it.

But having money for money’s sake just seems like a waste of gaming time to me.

Does not check email

Usually no. However Losing interest in an mmo is Death by 1000 cuts anyways.


I wouldn’t saying it’s stopping me from going back, but it definitely put a dent into my motivation to amass riches. Back in Warlords, WoW absolutely destroyed the economy by introducing such an inflation of gold through garrison missions, that ultimately everyone who was an active player became a millionaire within a few months. Problem is that if you took a break during that time and just prior to the fix/nerf, you became poor over night as all prices on the AH skyrocketed.

So yeah, i’m still very much salty about the fact that my character went from being “upper middle class” to being completely economically irrelevant, all in the span of one expansion.

erock steady

this may be a stretch – then again, maybe not – any and every netease title I refuse to go back to or begin. the games themselves are not bad, but the company’s monetization practices leave you feeling lied to, laughed at and joked about. though not literally, I fully stand by my statement: netease is the root of p2w.