The topic of inflation has come to a head recently in the SWTOR community as Hypercrates and other high value items have increased in worth beyond what the game’s auction house, the GTN will allow them to be sold for. I’m no game developer or economist, but I thought I’d add my two cents to the discussion, which in this economy won’t go far.
Inflation is a common problem in MMOs where credits are generated out of thin air and often never leave the game, but it’s been compounded in SWTOR where there have been in the past exploits allowing free credit generation and content lulls where there is little else for players to do but accumulate wealth without having much to spend it on.
During Onslaught I have made billions of credits casually selling excess crafting materials on the GTN. I typically post between two and five auctions when I log on, and then at the end of my session or the next day collect the proceeds from sales and replace what’s been sold. I’m not selling high value items, but have been making bank at a steady pace throughout the expansion.
And I’m not alone, I know many other billionaires, and I’m certain the “tres comas club” is hardly exclusive company anymore. I doubt SWTOR’s current credit sinks are making a big dent in the economy these days. The problem of how to drain trillions of credits from an artificial economy has got to be a tough nut to crack without drastic measures that enrage the rich and punish the poor.
However, there are steps that I imagine Bioware might take to cool things off in the forthcoming expansion, Legacy of the Sith.
First and almost most certainly, the day-to-day cost of doing business will increase. Expect to pay more for repairs, profession training, crew skill missions, pulling mods, and rerolling amplifiers. This is standard practice in SWTOR already, but I wouldn’t be shocked if those costs increase closer to the pace of the inflation we’ve seen. Should Tacticals and class set pieces sold by the Spoils of War vendors cost 10 million credits or more next time around, I won’t be surprised.
I make my own augments and stims, and it’s not worth it to run missions for the supplemental materials that are necessary for crafting. Instead I’ll pay a vendor hundreds of thousands of credits for the cloths, flux and recombinators needed to craft even a small stack of purple components. I bet the cost of crafting stims and augments will skyrocket in Legacy of the Sith. Likewise, if they add more craftable dyes and color crystals and other cosmetics (remember when Cybertechs could build speeders?), plan on needing expensive supplementary materials for those as well.
This is all fine. Credits are pretend money, and they’re meant to be spent and not gather dust in my Legacy bank.
I’ve also seen it suggested that the game could use more credit sinks. It is already significantly more expensive to unlock the newer strongholds than the old, and if they add new ones, opening all the rooms will surely not be cheap. I didn’t need to spend any credits catching up with Galactic Seasons, but I also didn’t hear of many people spending more than a few million on that themselves.
Would people crack open their piggy banks if Kai Zykken offered extravagant and expensive loot on an extremely limited schedule? There is some precedent for this. After game update 1.1.5 back in 2012, SWTOR added a limited time vendor that sold white color crystals for the then princely sum of 2.5 million credits, and I remember the fear of missing out was real as people scrambled to save up before the vendor went away.
I agree with the notion that Bioware would not offer Cartel Market items for sale for credits at any price, but there are rare and in some cases no longer available items from PVE and PVP content they could offer as replicas or reskins. But would that be enough to tempt a significant number of players to spend enough to the point where the economy cools down? Would you pay a billion credits for replica Wings of the Architect?
Lately I’ve been asking friends what would they spend a billion credits on, and no one has an easy answer, and I doubt there is a single magic bullet that would appeal to all players. The folks I know seem to be willing to pony up those credits up for something that has a long-term benefit to their characters or their guild. What that might be, I can’t say. A multi-passenger mount? No cooldown rocket boots? Legacy hood toggle?
Come the expansion, we might see a mix of expensive Legacy unlocks and cosmetic items added to any new Reputation vendors (and maybe some old ones as well), but I don’t know if Bioware would actually offer a billion credit item for sale, but if they do, I hope it’s spectacular.
Finally, I think it is possible that Bioware might follow the example of other MMOs and offer a way to turn credits in to Cartel Coins or game time. Since these transactions would be happening outside the GTN and player economy, Bioware would, in theory, be controlling the price and insuring that the value of credits never sink below a certain dollar or Cartel Coin amount and thus slowing inflation.
Some games allow players to purchase their version of Cartel Coins with in game credits, but I doubt this is a road Bioware would take. Perhaps instead we might see a SWTOR version of World of Warcraft’s “WOW Token” an item which can be redeemed by the owner for subscription time or cash shop credit. The Token’s real money cost is more than the regular subscription price, but it can be sold to other players for in game gold through a Blizzard controlled marketplace, not the auction house.
This allows players who are rich in the game to fully subsidize their subscription through the real life purchases of other players who don’t mind trading dollars for gold. I don’t know if this has meaningfully slowed inflation or gold selling in WOW. If I’m being honest, I’m not a fan of the WOW Token, and I’d be reluctant to see my SWTOR credits be tied to real money. It’s pretend money, and I think it’s meant to be spent on pretend things. I don’t want to feel like I have to choose between blowing a few millions credits for a cosmetic item on the GTN or saving a few bucks on my subscription. If that means inflation is a thing in the game, then so be it.
But I have friends who play WOW who do like the Token since it allows people with more free time than money to play, and people with less time to drop a few dollars and come away with enough gold to stay ahead of WOW‘s own inflating economy. As always, I do not ever want to tell people how to spend their money or their time, and it would be foolish of me to think my outside impression is correct.
My gut feeling, however, is that SWTOR won’t go down this path. At the very least I doubt Bioware has the infrastructure in place to smoothly and securely set up such transactions. But they have at least acknowledged the problem, and I hope they’ll be taking steps to address it as best they can. Who knows what the future holds? I surely don’t! Still, just to be sure, make certain you’ve got plenty of walking around cash when you get there.