Sunday, 3 January 2010

Ultima-Online economics

I played Ultima Online years ago, an online role-playing game similar to today's World of Warcraft. It was a fantastic game but also a clear example of economic mess-up.

One of the highlights of the game was the possibility to buy your in-game house. It was not too expensive at the beginning but things changed when more players joined. Because the game allowed only a limited number of houses due to server limitations, prices started to rise and most new players could not afford them.

The programers tried to sort that out by "quantitative easing" or printing money. Killing monsters suddenly offered twice as much money. They thought that would allow new players to buy houses but instead it created massive inflation: the money became less valuable because there was more of it available, destroying the players' savings and ruining all the fun. It must be the Government's favourite game.

World of Warcraft has 11 million players. As long as they keep their in-game currency strong, things will go well. Otherwise it will become some sort of Ultima-on-Britain.

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