When Jagex released Bonds onto RuneScape, they came out with a number of reasons and statistics to explain their decision to move on this issue. And while there is nothing inherently wrong with Bonds themselves, we discovered a number of things that didn't seem to add up.
In my previous article on this subject we concluded a number of things:
- Bonds do nothing to stop GP-selling/Goldfarming companies.
- Bonds do little to nothing to halt inflation.
- Jagex appears to track very poorly where all the GP comes from.
- Bonds are a missed opportunity, but have potential for much more.
- And finally, Bonds are more popular to purchase from Jagex to trade for GP than they are to buy with GP to trade for something else.
In this article, I'm going to attempt to solve the first two issues, by exploring and understanding the third. This should give us some material to work with for the fourth and fifth thing on this list. So let's start with the mammoth in the room:
Where is all the GP coming from?
GP-sellers need to get their products from somewhere. Jagex claims that they are inserting a whopping 17 billion new GP in the economy every day. To give you an idea of the scope of the problem, this is about $3,500 worth each day, or one-and-a-quarter of a million dollars a year for over 6 TRILLION GP (6 million million) or +/- 3,000 maxed stacks of GP.
These numbers are beyond staggering and certainly mean big business for a relatively small customer base to target. We already saw that, in order to create these truckloads of GP, it would require an army of bots, their controllers, and then some, all working at peak efficiency all the time. This is simply not the case, but something must provide the GP needed for the customers of these companies.
As it turns out all this money isn't created. For the most part it isn't anyway, as it's much more profitable to have bots and slaves do this kind of thing in other games. The actual sources of these large sums of money can be classified in two main groups; Hoarders and Quitters.
The first group is quite a broad generalization at first glance, and at no point do I wish to suggest that everyone that I'm about to mention, or those doing similar activities, participates in the GP-trading business.
Everyone who is collecting large amounts of GP just for the sake of having a lot of GP, not doing anything with it except getting more GP, is a Hoarder. I place Stakers, Dicers, Flippers, and Manipulators in this group. All of these people are out for some quick GP, and the more you have of it, the easier it is to get even more of it for obvious reasons.
Having exorbitant amounts of GP is pointless unless you wish to do something with it, and I don't mean cornering the Drygore market. This is where a message of someone who speaks terrible English comes in, offering you dollars for your hoarded in-game wealth. Suppose you have an extra maxed stack of GP lying about and someone offers you $200 for it, would you do it? If you can do this weekly, you can live quite a copious life in all but the richest parts of the world.
And that is just providing the GP. The ones who do the actual trading can live it large.
The other group I named the Quitters. I know that it sounds ridiculous, but at some point you're going to be done with RuneScape. Whatever you're going to do next, you might wish to see some returns on all the time and money invested in your account. Some people sell their account outright, but others will strip it like an old car, hoping that the sum of the parts is worth more than the total. Either way, someone is going to buy it and put it to good use.
So that 17B GP might have been recycled a few dozen times already this year as soon-to-be-Quitters make one last attempt to get the maximum out of their account and Dicers take your losses to pay for their own bills.
If at some point it is still unclear to you how this works, the South Park Studios have provided us with an excerpt from their "Cash for Gold" episode that might illustrate an aspect or two.
Just remember that the old person in this sketch is YOU!
Now that we know where the GP comes from, we can do something about it.
The problem with Jagex's latest attempt (Bonds) is that they are too expensive to buy from Jagex themselves, so they aren't undercutting anything offered by the GP-selling companies. But at the same time, there are more people buying Bonds from Jagex (indicating that people still want to spend money to get GP in a safe way) than people buying those Bonds from others in game. The price graph clearly shows this. They also work too slow to remove any substantial amount of GP from the economy to slow down inflation.
To make bonds popular, and at the same time deprive GP-sellers of at least one major source of GP, requires a controversial solution; Allow Bonds to be redeemed for money. Actual Dollars, Pounds and Euros.
Not the full price, but maybe a third of that. Depending on administration costs (which can be cut down by allowing only multiples of 10 Bonds to be redeemed this way), it still means that Jagex is making £2 on each bond. it also gets all the GP that's just sitting there flowing back into the economy without ever going through the dirty hands of GP-sellers.
This would generate a high demand in-game on Bonds, causing them to rise in GP value, which in turn leads to Bonds giving you much more GP when bought from Jagex.
The net effect on the economy in the short term could be inflation not unlike what we've seen during the 76k-era. But this is not new money. It's money that already exists but is "locked" in people's accounts. When this money is circulating again, Jagex can introduce whatever device to unplug the drain, and we'll finally see an end to hyper-inflated prices. This Well of Goodwill is one such method, but we need something more permanent.
One such permanent device can take care of one of the versions of Hoarders as well. Dicing is still going strong, even if all traces of it have been removed from RuneScape itself. Outside of the game, there are still random number generators and poker games that people are betting their GP on, for example.
All Jagex has to do is create an in-game Casino (an actual building, and not something like the Squeal of Fortune) that has the same games that the Dicing community plays, but offer better rates. The nature of a casino is that the house always wins (unless you're Donald Trump), so it should also have an effect on inflation. This Casino puts Dicing hosts out of a job since better rates are available at a more trustworthy place.
Staking can be made unviable by limiting the amount of GP someone can stake in a day. Setting a maximum on how much you can win or lose on an account per stake, as well as limiting the amount of times an account can stake, limits the total amount you can offer up in a day. If the parameters are tweaked enough that it still takes many hours to actually reach that number (must wait some time between duels?) it stands to reason that you can't earn a living doing this, and forces you to move on.
That leaves Flippers and Manipulators. While we once tried to limit free trade, it didn't go over all too well, and quite frankly it cost Jagex about half of its subscribers. So I'll be the first to admit that I don't have a clue how to fight these varieties of Hoarders.
That is, I can't come up with anything for Jagex to implement. However, in a stable economy that doesn't overheat on the whims of whatever update, AND has enough permanent money sinks to cope with current and future inflation, YOU should easily be able to detect when prices are being manipulated and act accordingly.
So the last bit is going to require some effort and vigilance on our side, but that will only work if Jagex does its part.
While I realise that some of these measures are drastic, painful and even controversial, I can almost guarantee you that this is the road we're heading down. Economics 101 teaches you that someone will always attempt to supply whatever there is enough demand for. People are desperate that way. Why Jagex took so long to move in on this market is a mystery, as other games have taken similar steps successfully.
Personally, I'm hoping to enjoy a game where the economy is stable enough for me to finally afford some stuff that is on par with the levels I'm gaining. I can dream, can't I?