Online Text-Based Games and Inflation: Gold Versus Dollar

text game money

Like many Americans who remember gas prices under $2, online gamers can recall when gold coins simply bought more in their favourite MMORPG. The gold value can mimic the real world in many ways. Known as a "virtual economy", in-game items become priced by players according to supply-and-demand. You can begin to figure out the perceived real-world value of a game item like a rare sword or statistic-altering armour if you figure out what backs the value of the golden sovereign. Iron Realms text games feature a second currency known as 'credits' that can be purchased and traded with either cash or gold, and while the price of credits on the website has remained the same, the in-game value has fluctuated dramatically over the years.


A common package that players purchase is 300 credits for $105, or .35 cents per credit. In 1999, $105 had the same buying power as $138.34 in 2010, which means that you could get almost 100 credits more for your money. In 1999, you could purchase 1 credit for 2500 gold in-game. Today, 1 credit sells for an average of 5000 gold, which makes 50,000 gold the equivelant of $10. So a character that forges an exceptionally rare sword could auction it for over 300 credits, making the text-weapon worth a hundred dollars.


However, some argue that gold inflation is more relevant than the dollar. As developers add new areas to a game, gold value decreases a little bit. Hunting or questing in some areas can produce high amounts of gold, which means characters can raise fortunes in little amounts of time. In 1999, Achaea had less than 5 designated 'bashing' areas. Today, the game has grown to epic proportions, with multiple continents and islands your character can sail to.


The amount of available resources also effects an online text game economy. For instance, if too many people are harvesting a specific herb, that herb will shoot up in price. Players who have hoarded that herb can rake in gold, hand over fist. A prime example of this happening would be when bloodroot went from 20 gold per to 150 gold due to overpopulation and a shortage of harvestable areas. Since the plant only grew in caves and some players were 'overharvesting', there wasn't enough to go around. And since the plant cured a common affliction, many players began dying in battle due to simply running out herbs. Many players were purchasing credits from the website to trade with other players for the precious plant. It wasn't until the administrators stepped in and added more cavernous areas to the game that the prices finally stabilized.


Finally, one interesting thing to note is the impact of credit sales and special promotions. It's not uncommon to see 20% bonus sales on the website, and with a special Iron Realms Elite membership netting you a 10% bonus on all purchases, this combines for a whopping 30% bonus to your purchases around holidays. As these cheap, discount credits suddenly flood the in-game market, players scramble to buy low so they can sell high when the promotions are over.


Bring out your inner text economist in some of the most immersive MUDs out there!


Tony Celentano is a text game enthusiast and currently plays games from


The fluctuation of gold in Achaea has always astounded me.  I can remember thinking the 1500 gp I made from catching butterflies was substantial, then someone directed me towards the credit market where a single credit cost the 3000 gp.   That's when my inner merchant took root.  Remembering the impact of the bloodroot shortage, I, with the help of some like-minded friends, have orchestrated a number of shortages, sometimes for no other reason than to study the behavior effects on people when the thing they normally don't think about is suddenly gone (see: diamond dust before it was gatherable).

I really wish shortages like this were planned in the games sometime. Let some herbs not grow during different IG years, etc and see the effect it has on people. This constant supply (like on Imperian, now) is kinda boring and just makes herbs 'one of those things you gotta buy, and they are all 25g per' type thing. A shortage would change that up and be really cool.


Sadly, because of the current herb system on Imperian it's impossible to plan a shortage without divine intervention.

I'm not sure how imperian handles herbs, but in lusternia herbs have yearly cycles: on some months growth is doubled and on others all the herbs of that type die. Most herbs are common enough that there are large enough stores of them to eliminate the effect of this on the market, but I've certainly noticed quite a variation on the cost of some of the rarer herbs.

I've always been fascinated--and confused--by how those shortages would occur. I had no idea so much of the economy was player-driven!

I'm terrible with managing money in real life, and I've carried that practice over into Achaea. The only thing I can do is put effort into bargain hunting, and even that doesn't help much. I have a faint idea of how one might go about amassing certain goods, and then selling them for inflated prices later, but I just end up using up all those goods (see: irid moss) myself. Maybe the day I become good at managing my gold flow, I'll be better at managing my cash flow too.

It's sad, but I'm richer, doing the math, in game than in real life.

You also have to remember that time goes by 10 times as fast in a game than in real life. If you slowed down bashing and economics in game to equal real life you probably wouldn't be so rich.

I totally agree with this here. I think I'm WAY richer in-game than real life. There are some days I wish there were a way to sell your credits for real money. I could make a OOC living off of my IG living! Haha.

I've been around for awhile and remember when creds were only 2.5k. Then again, at that time I wasn't the player I am now, and I didn't seek credits as much as equipment and curatives.

I was richer when I came back than I am now, but I can buy more with what I have in game than I do in real life... and I still want to buy credits OOC for InkMilling and Gathering... totally lame :( was as easy in real life to accumulate wealth as it is in the game. I'm pretty much the wealthiest Lusternian, as far as I can tell, and it would be awesome to translate sovereigns, credits, dingbats, etc directly to dollars (using an equitable rate of exchange, of course).

Not just as easy, but just as fast. I wish I could have gold fall out of random killed animals.

There seem to be some factors that can somewhat control inflation in game with gold, such as the "real life" worth of credits in dollars, and how much mobiles and their shops charge for certain items. (Although refills from the bots cost six times more than from player owned shops!)  It seems the worth of things in game depends on how hard it is to get, for the most part.  When an herb is "out of season" for harvesting in the game is when I can sell it for the highest profit, since people need it and not as many sellers have it.

I definitely agree that credit prices IG reflect the economy IRL.  I know even recently in Lusternia, credit prices jumped about 1000+ gold, and people are constantly searching for the cheaper credits, even though they do not exist.  We all wish, iG and IRL, that the economy was the way it used to be, and in order to change IG prices, people need to have more money IRL that they can spend.

I like how buying credits allow players that want to invest into their MUD to do so, but that it is not a must have. That is what other F2P often too, if you want to get the best out of it then your only option is spending real life currency. In IRE games you can spend the other currency, called time, and achieve similar results, making it both friendly to the working class player who can buy some credits and sell them for gold, as well as the stereotype student with time on his hands but no income. He then can get gold ingame and buy credits. 


It is also my experience that allowing players to "buy gold" through legal means has a positive impact on keeping RMT at bay, which forms a problem in so many popular games, and can be a factor that if not kept under control can severely destabilize a virtual economy.

Releasing new items, auctions or new dingbat items causes credits on the market to inflate ridiculously, but at the same time gold isn't really that hard to come by.

I've easily gambled millions of gold away and into our pockets so I wouldn't want to think about how much RL cash I've gambled away in blackjack. Don't gamble kids

I too have gambled away ridiculous amounts of gold and not even thought twice about it, simply because I can make it back in a few short hunting trips. Real life though, I'm stingy as all hell with my money. Heh.

I definitely noticed an increase in the gold price of credits across all IRE games. One thing I have often viewed credits as are a reflection of using real world money to buy in game gold rather than devoting the time in game.  It would seem me with your dollar buying more credits nowadays (due to inflation and the dollar being able to buy less) that you would actually be getting less gold for each credit, but I think the fact that inflation effects salaries (and therefore the value of time) and that all IRE games roll out more opportunities for gold has led to hirer gold credit prices.


I suppose one brighter note in all this is that I have never seen them raise the credit price of artifact items so it seems that all of the artifacts are getting cheaper in terms of what you are opting to give up in the real world to obtain the artifact.

I think one of the most interesting things regarding the economy of all IRE games is that they're slightly different! Herbs in Aetolia are each roughly one gold each, whereas the average credit price usually shifts from three thousandish to five! It certainly adds a note of realism to the game when you've got to consider when would be the best time to buy credits from market, as well as when it'd be smart to start selling certain herbs in bulk.

as Nyrus was saying, the variation of the economy makes this very similar to how the real econmy is as the fact that the credit market is the same as the stock market being as the fact that they fluctuate more than anything I have ever seen. The main point being people want to sell high before the price drops again therefore relating them to stocks would be the best point to make, no?

I have been around IRE games for 8 years, most of them in Aetolia. When I first started you paid 2500 - 3000 gold for a credit. I've seen it go all the way up to 7000 for a credit. It has leveled back out recently though and is back down to 3000-4000 a credit. In game economies really do fluctuate just like real world ones.

What is interesting is the fact that this can be seen in ALL IRE games, so it can actually be used for some interesting experiments.

And people wonder why citizens and guild members wait until city/guild credit sales in order to buy credits. Like yesterday. I came back from a few days' absence to find the credit market at upwards of 7k per. That's INSANE! I guess that's how inflation goes...

Dingbats, and other special promotion currency like tokens, really add into this fluctuation as well. It is always interested to see how prices jumped on dingbats in Lusternia when new dingbat artifacts were released, especially with how much more difficult it is to get dingbats compared to gold and credits in the game.

The article certianly holds true (having seen credit prices rise from 1000 to 15,000) and covers most points, however one thing that wasn't mentioned is the use of a global market for credits. While before-hand people had a set limit which they considered acceptable, the ability to check at an instant the average prices, and the amount requested by others led to a constant rise (no doubt the intention of IRE to gently "nudge" people towards real-life purchases by pricing them out of the game-based ones).


It would certainly be nice to see more randomization (in Imperian especially) though rather than the more standardized approach they are heading down.

Its interesting to se the value of credits over time in Lusternia, having played for a long time on various characters - indeed, since credits were 2500 apiece. Also, just as a quick aside, I recall when Gas being 90 cent per gallon was outrageous, and some big deal. Anywho, Whats even worse is when you come across these once-a-year auctions, and the credit prices go through the roof. Nowadays people try to buy at 5k or even 6k but since the auction and SOMEONE (won't mention any names) buying up mass amounts of credits, the price has sometimes spiked up into the 7k range. Moreover, this article doesn;t even TOUCH on Dingbats, which are yet another less available commodity in Lusternia-land that has their own Credit and Gold Ratio (Between 1:1 if you're lucky and 2:1 if you're desperate)

It is interesting to see how the prices of different commodities in terms of gold change over time. Credit and dingbat prices have already been mentioned many times now, but simple things like healing refills and cube charges have gone the opposite way. I remember when a refill of healing potion would be at least 200 gold, if you were lucky and the cheapest cube charges were around 25 gold. Nowadays, you can get healing for about 100 gold and cube charges for around 10. Sure, a large part of this massive drop in price was because of the release of artifacts that increased the sips/charges a keg/cube produced when they are first filled/enchanted, but a few months ago, the price of these two items were still about 20-40% higher, depending on shop stock, than they are today.


Another commodity that has had many changes in price is esteem. A fully imbued item costs 6-7k today, but once upon a time, it cost 20k (although this is just from what I have heard). I remember how over a few weeks, the price went from 12k to 4k (possibly even less) because of people flooding the market with it. I think the only thing that has saved the market (from a seller's point of view) is huge events like Final Ascension and the subsequent hoarding of esteem by organisations in preparation for these.

With Lusternia's credit market the way it is currently, a lot of options open up to players who are willing to be a little enterprising. You can buy low, sell high and build up a massive fortune until the market drops, or invest your gold in dingbats and re-sell them for the credits you're looking for. Other investments (shops, aetherships, etc.) can pay dividends in the long run if you're patient 

Whatever you choose (and despite how frustrating it can be at times!) the in-game economy is part of the realm's immersion and, like real-life, you just have to go with the flow.

While the article reads true about many things, it is still important to remember that a relatively stable economy is the most simple one for new players to get comfortable with.

New players are the most important commodity of any game!

Herbs can be one of the most readily inflated objects due to the ability at least in Lusternia to "strip" the herb.  We do have a loose counter to this, nature guard, which stops the plant from being harvested below a certain amount, as well as nature growth which increases how fast it grows. For awhile Sparkleberry (cures health/mana/ego) was hard to get hold of because it was stripped and prices went from 25 to 50 per sparkleberry.

This makes me want to take up merchanting, with credits or items. It seems like with some patience it would be worth the effort and time.


If I buy 100 credits for gold now, maybe in a year I can make a profit.

Perhaps not the most constructive of comments to post, or even pertaining to the IRE game that I play now, but I'm surprised that bloodroot was mentioned and moss was not. Such an expensive herb, at least it was when I played. When more cavernous areas were added, both bloodroot -and- moss were increased. Even then, it took prices a good while to stabilize.

And yes Tekla.. oh Gods the diamond dust.. Hah!


Edit: I wonder what sort of impact there would be on our respective credit markets if the credits we got from this Digging promotion weren't bound credits..

Really interesting post about parallel economies.

However, wouldn't prices of things like herbs go DOWN if everyone was harvesting them, thereby flooding the market?

That all depends on the IRE game you are playing on. I know in Aetolia the way the system works is everyone has a fixed ammount they can harvest per day depending upon several artifacts and racial talents. So there is almost always a steady supply of herbs to be found as there is limitations to what a single player can harvest.


However, our I find our comms are what hard to come by. Wood for example for several decades now has been in a critical supply. Usually as soon as it is restocked someone travels around and buys it all up. Leaving me to wish they would make a gathering skillset that allowed for people to harvest or collect comms much like we do our herbs already.

As someone who plays both Imperian and Aetolia, I agree with Alaric on this one. The caravan system in Imperian adds a lot to both the ability of a place to maintain commodities as well as offering another way for a player to gain experience and gold. Several long wars basically decimated the supplies of wood in Aetolia with little way to regain them outside of waiting for them to replenish over time. In Imperian, it only takes some dedicated players running caravans religiously to help replenish supplies.

It was being harvested faster than it could grow, so there became a shortage

I've found personally that the biggest flux of cred prices comes from when IRE has cred sales and bonus creds available. Also, the addition of new arties (good new arties that is) tends to shove the price up as people are willing to pay more to get what they want.

As far as herbs go...I hate things the way they are now in Achaea. Ginseng and sileris, the latter worse by far, are probably the two more difficult to find herbs. Moss isn't even that bad, though perhaps those selling take advantage of the combatants that like to buy in large bulk and sell higher than it would normally be worth. With sileris, it's just the tiny areas that have the terrain they grow in. With ginseng it's one of the most frequently used and people harvest the forests clean of it and hoard it.

Another thing that'll REALLY drive prices down are the out-of-sub housing auctions. Since everyone wants one, and the really rich will pay exhorbitant prices to get one, and since they cost can extrapolate the result.

I love watching the credit markets moving up and down.

I usually keep a small handful of credits on me, at all times, for investment purposes.

Buy them low, sell them high, and artifcially inflate the market when it's -really- low to start seriously raking in the gold. I bought my first aethership in Lusternia this way, before having ever spent IRL money on credits.

Credits hold pretty stead in Aetolia and at their worst hit around 4.5k and at their best 2.8k. Currently they are sitting on 3k which is nice and makes entering the game and gaining skills a easy task for all. This is why I always tell people to give Aetolia a try and you are bound to pick up a lot of great skills from the onset.

I wonder how a guild or city credit sale affects the worth of gold. Potentially you could be flooding the credit market with very cheap credits, driving the soveriegn righer. This would be parallel to insider trading though. Not that there is anyway for people to really know.

I've started playing Lusternia (my first MUD game) in August 2010. During that time the average credit price was 5000. It steadily rose up to 5.5k to 6k, until during the latest auctions, the credits available for sale dropped in numbers and the prices went up to minimums no less than 6k. Items for sale in shops also increase or decrease depending on current commodity prices, resource availability, and general demand. Those that aren't sold in a lot of shops tend to get really pricey, unless you know where to look.


I'd like to think, just like in other games with an interactive economy, all the concepts of economics still come into play. The time, effort and energy one puts into a game are investments, and adding real life money into the equation makes the investments seem more tangible and hold more weight than one would normally perceive them to have. An argument here could be that in-game gold can be accumulated faster than real life money in most circumstances. And, unlike in-game gold which would seem to be a much less limited resource, real-life money is limited and is thus given quite a high value by most people. High-lever influencers and bashers who influence/bash non-stop for hours can earn gold in hundred thousand values more or less. You'd be hard-pressed in real life to earn that much, even just gaining opportunities to earn that money would be a difficult task for a lot. So, more than gold, credits (and other limited resources) would tend to have greater value and would thus prove to be expensive. It's a natural reaction by most to go with that flow, because opposing would be quite disastrous unless done right and supported many.

Same as Faur, I find it really sad that I'm richer in the game, than in real life.. but then again, with the economy the way it is, it's hard for teenagers (and adults), like myself, to earn money that way.

I like the intstant gratification personally.

I find that I am just as irresponsible with my IG money as I am with the real stuff

I remember the bloodroot shortage days in Achaea. Somesdays stacks of the herb were worth their weight in credits. I've never been much to play the market though. I make enough to pay for the necessities through hunting.

Yeah, credit prices are always fluctuating, though in Lusternia they seem to get higher and higher, even when the promos are going on and after the Vesteran honours are announced...

I wish I was as rich irl as I am on Achaea :(

Ya this is happening with Sparkleberry but I disagree with the credit prices being effected by promotions....they are just effected by the stupid auctions.

There is also those who buy huge amounts and flood the market. It is one of the reasons I only buy of people I know in most cases.

... seems to be holding rather steady. I remember 4k credits or whatnot. But for the last couple of years it seems to be hanging around 5k. I appreciate that, especially when I read about 15k credits in other IRE games.

The fluctuations can be infuriating, and a more stable economy can give an advantage, but the ways to influence the market can also open up warfare by other means between city states. Could Eleusis restrict herbs, forcing mhaldorians to only get their hands on basic curing herbs via a string of middlemen, each taking their cut? Could a cities' warchest be depleted without a single drop of blood being shed?

I actually enjoy watching an economy in a game fluctuate. It's interesting, sometimes dependant on the RL economy, sometimes not and moreso on holidays and sales, and it tends to stay much more stable!

Credit inflation right now is pretty strong. Considering that in Lusternia, for a few weeks now the cheapest credit you can buy is at 7225 gold. I imagine it will stay like this for awhile, though I wish we had Achaea's more stable credit economy (where it inflates but doesn't stay inflated for very long).


Although gold is now easier to come by in-game, no one wants to pay 7k+ for a single credit, especially when you have to accrue many of them over time. That's... an extremely long grind as it is just for 100 credits, and 100 credits isn't going to take you very far.

It would be interesting if the influx of comms was related to the guilds and cities, like if Oakstone and the Druids do well, then herbs replenish faster. Or perhaps if the gods each took dominion over certain herbs and their essences strength would determine how quickly their Particular her replenishes.

Ah the downside of joining the game several years late, I'll be on the back end of the highest costs there's been. Oh well, it can't be helped.



Mystere has on many an occasion tried to strike up a conversation with somebody who is selling or buying something that Mystere wants to get someday. Most of them aren't willing to give away information like how much one could be expected to pay for a given resource(for instance, a mayan crown or a used windcutter). I have come to the conclusion that most of the hawkers and profiteers who know what they're doing are rather tight-lipped.

been around long enough to notice price differences yet. The only thing I've noticed is that credits prices went up from 3,000 per to around 4,000 per. It makes me said, but I can bash enough to get enough every now and again when my internet is nice. 

Well done, IRE. You've managed to publish an article that assumes we've never heard of something called an "economy." Nice job.


I noticed you pretended that players can create items that are worth 300 credits in your games. Nice try.


I noticed you failed to mention that more than $100 for in-game currency to get _anything_ of value (just one item or skill, mind, not full access to all the best stuff in the game - all for more than the price of a triple-A title that costs far more to develop and maintain, and actually has PAID CODERS working on it) on a game you fail to provide sufficient development resources for is a completely ludicrous attempt to get money for nothing.


At least this one is mostly grammatically correct, which is something of an improvement over most of the drivel you pretend to call articles here.