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October 22, 2015

The Necessity of a Gold Sink in MMOs

Video Games

Recently I decided to join a few of my buddies and play Old School Runescape. I’m still playing WoW, but not as much outside of raiding with my guild. I’m really cheap so I decided to use that wonderful garrison AFK inflation money to pay for my WoW sub.

I can just log onto my 5 lvl 100 characters and make at LEAST 33,000g a month. I can afford a WoW Token due to how broken the garrison mission system is.

The sheer amount of money this allows people to bring into the game is absolutely ridiculous and makes the money worth less the more money that gets brought in. This is basically what inflation is, money becoming worth less due to more money being brought into the economy.

This is a problem seen in real life too. There are plenty of different ways to stop inflation or use it to our economic advantage. Essentially, any economy where people are allowed to partake in it en mass will experience inflation. One method of dealing with inflation is to create a sink, a way to take currency out of circulation. This method is commonly used to combat inflation in MMOs and is commonly called a Gold Sink.

The Gold Sink

Gold sinks are a way to take currency out of the economy. This is important because the money does not go anywhere, it’s gone and will not be used by anyone else in the economy. This is an easy way for games to lessen the blow of inflation and get a chunk of that excess money out of the game.

An example of a gold sink is purchasing an item from a shop ran by an NPC. That money does not go to another player and is taken out of circulation. Generally, this affects the economy minimally and will be cancelled out by players selling items to a shop and thus generating more money. Regardless, the basic idea is a money sink.

Please realize that inflation is not a bad thing (or else those rare items would never be worth much), just too much inflation too quickly can be detrimental to the economy.

The Setup

When I was a young boy I did extra chores around the house for a subscription to a game called Runescape.  Runescape at its core is a sandbox MMORPG that has a lot of different skills to level up. There are combat skills, crafting skills, gathering skills, and even skills that support the other skills (Agility/Slayer) and you can level all of these up from 1-99.

Leveling a skill to 99 takes a TON of time to do and essentially forces the player to make their own goals based on what they want their end game to be. Players can level their skills  to make high level equipment and consumables, fight challenging monsters or other players, and most of all, make money. Some people just like to be rich, you know?

Anyways, around 2006 Runescape was going to be adding a new skill to level up. It was called Construction and allowed players to build their own house and customize the rooms inside of it. The higher your construction level, the more intricate the house would be. The benefits were not all aesthetic either, there were many utilities to be taking advantage of in your house if you had a high construction level.

However, what made construction truly unique was that at face value, the skill does not help you make money. Every other skill at the time COULD play a hand in doing so, but Construction was a money sink through and through.

Construction and POHs are a great example of a MMO gold sink.

Though it is extremely expensive, leveling Construction takes very little time.

A Gold Sink in practice

In order to create anything, you needed to make planks of wood. This could be done by taking different types of wood. Wood can be gathered using Woodcutting, picked up from monsters, or bought from other players. However, to turn any piece of wood into a plank, you would have to pay a NPC a base value of a few hundred coins. The better quality of the wood, the higher the cost to turn it into a plank. You would also have to pay NPCs to purchase new rooms in your house, changing the walls of the house, and buying cosmetic furniture like plants and fountains for your house.

You can see where this is going. In order to get to 99 Construction efficiently you will have to spend around 200 million coins. A large amount of that money is spent purchasing materials to create the rooms and furniture. A large percentage of that money is given to NPCs or taken out of the game in other ways.

Is it effective?

So, did Construction solve the inflation problem? Not necessarily. But it did force a lot of the richer higher leveled players to dump a lot of their gold out of the game.

Unfortunately abilities such as High Level Alchemybotting, and money making methods such as taking advantage of some of the shops in the game, money was (and is) being generated in the game at such a rapid rate. Even in OSRS the inflation has become a bit of a problem with some of the problems as well as a few unique problems for this version of the game.

Construction was a nice way to add a gold sink into the game at the time. Money sinks would still need to be continually added to the game. They will have to be desirable enough to continue to take money out of circulation in the game. With new players joining everyday, this is a challenge for any MMO.

Conclusion

This concept obviously does not apply only to Runescape. As I said before, any multiplayer game with currency will have this issue. However, it is generally only a huge problem in the MMO genre of games.

Other games have their own unique problems with inflation. For instance, WoW’s garrisons in this expansion has brought an ENORMOUS amount of money into the game very quickly. WoW will have to combat this eventually. Maybe money sinks will be the answer? Who knows!?

One Comment on “The Necessity of a Gold Sink in MMOs

Lorathorn
October 23, 2015 at 11:41 am

I would implore you to look at Final Fantasy XI, and their attempts at stopping inflation. It was some years ago that they removes tons of money from their economy and came down heavy on gold sellers. It made a tremendous difference, and the game was more fun to play as a result. I don’t know where they are with it now, but even if it re-inflated, it would be a fascinating point of research.

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