Discussing is fun, but let us use some real numbers and facts here. I through cloak and dagger operations, bribery and extortion (=Nitram was nice, thanks) I was able gain access to some statistics. These statistics include the total active wealth in the game, excluding quest characters.
Thus, the sample is a total of 541 characters over the past few months.
Why the need to look at such statistics? It’s not only about the injections or inflow of money into the economy which matters: It’s also HOW the money accumulates once it enters the game. What is more important than the TOTAL amount of money is the AVERAGE amount of disposable money.
ALL (541 characters)
Total amount of money, in silvers: 70450.
Top 20 (3,7% of the sample)
Amount of money, in silvers: 42813
As you can see, a whopping 61% of ALL active player wealth, excluding buildings, is in the hands of only 20 characters.
AND it gets better:
Top 5 (0,92% of the sample)
Amount of money, in silvers: 24525,74.
Proportion of the Top 20 Wealth: 57%.
Proportion of the Total wealth: 35%.
Five richest characters have 35% of ALL the active money in the game. This leaves the 521 other active characters with 27636,9 silvers, making 53 silvers per character, on average. In retrospect, the sample probably should have disqualified characters with less than five silvers of property, but this does put things to the right proportions. Of course, the fact that some of this money is probably guild/tax money distorts the situation somewhat, but the point remains. The wealth is highly concentrated in the game. But what effect does this have on the game economy? Can this be felt somehow? I guess, the only outwardly manifestation of wealth are houses.
Even though Salathe presented the amount of money rising as some anomaly, it’s in fact quite logical. Like people in real life, characters tend to accumulate wealth as they grow older. This is due to the grinding-style skilling mainly, which means that you’ll end up with a ton of money as you try to progress your skills to the higher level (without dueling/andor being matt). Unlike in real life, the characters have very limited means to spend the money to something, meaning that it lies around in depots in larger and larger piles especially as most people do not wish to spend what they gain at 1/1 ratio. Getting wealthier is usually desired and perceived as a good thing. This money doesn’t really matter, as its influence is mainly theoretical and RP thing. The amount of money in circulation doesn’t change all that much. Good chunk of that money is such (I speak from personal experience, having had once the by far uberly richest character in the game) which would not exit the depot even if there was a spending opportunity. Some people are magpies, and this money only exits the game when the character becomes inactive/is banned.
Due to the lack of valid investment and spending opportunities, the value of money is mainly the value of time which is commonly perceived or felt to be necessary for the accumulation of money, which alongside the NPC prices and perception of quality/rarity defines the “street value” of items.
Current problems with the economy:
- 1.) Limited spending opportunities -> Sensible spending. You can’t expect people to spend money on things which don’t benefit them or are pointless (a badge of “I’m rich” has no function). However, I could see players spending money on long-time skill or stat buffs (not to mention cool stuff which is beyond the technical situation right now, like mounts). I should actually poll that.
2.) No investment opportunities. You can’t lend money to people. You can’t invest in stuff, but they don’t give you any returns unless you personally make them to. Or, well: You can, but firstly you have very few means to gain any profit or even break even, as you lack any mean of force-retrieving the investment. It doesn’t make sense to build a mill or field, because nobody will pay to use yours.
3.) General imbalances with items, crafts, NPC’s , prices and so on.
Personally, I’m what you would call a gold standard advocate. I want that the money has actual “value”. To some degree, this works already: You don’t see people throwing away more than 1s regularly. This is of course not a scientific study and is based on my own experiences and perceptions, but silver coins are seen as “valuable”, and gold coins are seen as a “small fortune”. I sort of like that, actually. It helps to separate "rich" and "normal" characters in a world where poverty is practically a choice. When the situation is such that certain items are seen to be worth only a fraction of a copper, then perhaps this is more a question of the utility of the item or supply side problem? If you can get 250 cherries in 5 minutes for most of the year, for no skill at all, for me it doesn’t ring all that strange that you can’t get a good price for them. Since getting 250 coins takes an investment of time which is greater than five minutes usually (walking and stuff) it’s no point paying that money, as you could then do it yourself and “save”.
Now, change the situation to winter and you’ll immediately notice a change: Cherries and apples can get you more than 1 per each. So maybe the excessive availability OF the raw materials is more issue than the value of money. See the leather crisis. You couldn’t buy leather without paying obscene amounts for it.
This is why certain raw materials have actual value, such as gems, stones, ore and gold. It’s either a shitload of work to come up with a large quantity of these materials (ores + stones), or then you can only HOPE to gain these materials (gold and gems) which means low supply in high quantities either way, and even then have to arrange the stones to be processed to get cut gems. Supply and demand.
We do need money sinks: But such sinks which increase the VALUE of money, by being desirable and useful. Keynesian theory of having more money and thus spending more doesn’t really, IMO, work here if the only effect is that you are paying more for the same value as before. By increasing supply of money, you risk just inflation without any real gain whatsoever. Except that apples now always are 1cp each (as you've treated the symptoms, instead of the cause).
The point of the text? The accumulation of money is, at least with these spending opportunities, more or less irrelevant with the game economy on mind as the money just sits there. What are important are the inflow and outflow of money, which adjust the actual usefulness and value of money. High, steady value money is better than low value money, or money with highly fluctuating value (or value perception).