The release of the Knights of the Eternal Throne expansion brought many changes to Star Wars: The Old Republic, but perhaps none had a more pervasive impact on the in-game economy than the removal of crystals or commendations from the game. The reason that this change had such broad impact on the game’s economy is that dozens of vendors on the fleet that previously sold items for crystals or commendations were instantly converted to selling those items for credits. One of the prevalent economic topics for more than a year has been the sudden and drastic devaluation of credits during the previous expansion, Knights of the Fallen Empire. Although a precise value would require extensive research, a rough estimate is that the same item on the GTN now costs at least five times more than it did previously. There are many theories about the reason this inflation occurred, but that is a topic for another blog.
While the change from non-credit currency vendors to credit-based vendors was not likely motivated by concerns related to the amount of credits in the game, the change provides an excellent opportunity to reduce the number of credits in the game economy. This is because vendors are the simplest and most direct way to remove credits from the game. Every credit that a player pays to a vendor for an item is permanently out of circulation and this is one of the only mechanics in the game that completely removes credits from the game economy entirely. Even if that player turns around and sells the item purchased from the vendor on the GTN for a profit, the total amount of credits in the game has still decreased because the GTN, or Galactic Trade Network, is only a mechanism for credits to be exchanged between players. There are no net credits created via GTN transactions and the GTN transaction charge that’s taken out of the proceeds of any GTN sale actually removes a small amount of credits from the game economy as well. A few examples of vendors that offer a high volume source of credit removal in the new system include the gear vendors that sell leveling gear, the companion gift vendors, and the decoration vendors.
What’s the catch?
There has to be a downside to this though, otherwise BioWare have just made this change earlier. One negative impact of this change is that it undercut one of the most active parts of the GTN during the Knights of the Fallen Empire content cycle, which was the selling of companion gifts. When the companion influence system was introduced, companion gifts became incredibly valuable commodities. For instance, Rank 5 purple gifts could be obtained from crew skill missions very affordably but could be sold on the GTN for 25,000 credits or more in almost limitless quantities. I added hundreds of millions of credits to my balance sheet playing the companion gift market throughout Knights of the Fallen Empire when prices would predictably fall during the middle of the week before rising again on the weekends or when a new chapter released. I have not made a single credit in this market since the new expansion though because the same gifts are now available from a vendor on the fleet for 10,000 credits, less than half of the GTN price previously.
However, despite the negative impact to my personal credit balance I think that this change is beneficial to the health of the in-game economy going forward. The impact of removing hundreds of millions of credits from the game through the companion gift vendors far exceeds the negative impact on a small number of savvy profiteers on the GTN that have to find a new market inefficiency to drive their profits. The change has also made many decorations significantly easier to obtain, but generally these decorations were ones that had been available for more than a year already, so increasing accessibility to the decorations now seems appropriate as well. The least notable change is almost certainly the leveling gear vendor change, because the combination of level sync and multiple alternate sources of leveling gear limit the volume of gear being purchased from these vendors regardless of the currency required most likely. Even if it is only marginal though, every little bit helps and many small purchases can still add up to meaningful reductions in total credits in the economy.
So is it worth it?
The increased amount of fleet vendors accepting Galactic Credits is not going to solve the issue of inflation that Knights of the Fallen Empire introduced, but there are already some indications that the devaluation of a credit has at least plateaued now. A moderate amount of inflation over time is typically desirable, even more so in a game economy than the real world economy probably. The new focus on credits instead of crystals and commendations is definitely simpler in this context though and especially in the case of leveling gear that’s beneficial for new players and making the learning curve less steep. Considering the lack of significant negative impact though, it seems that the change to more credit-based vendors offers many more benefits than costs. Over time, as players continue to spend credits at the dozens of vendors on the fleet that were changed, the cumulative amount of credits removed from the game economy will only continue to grow as well.
I thought that a positive blog was long overdue since most of my recent activity on Twitter, Reddit, and the forums has been focused on criticism of a certain game design decision. Despite those criticisms, I have consistently stated that the replacement of the crystal or commendation system with the Galactic Command system was a good idea. The change to a more credit-based vendor system was part of that change and provides greater simplicity and choice for players in addition to creating one the largest credit sinks the game has ever contained in the process. The disintegration incentive within the Galactic Command system is also an indirect credit sync because it offers a more appealing alternative to selling items from Galactic Command Packs to a vendor for credits which would be the opposite of the credit-based vendor positive.
If the game’s developers agree that the amount of credits in the game is an issue, there are many ways that this same thought process could be expanded to have even greater incentives to remove credits from the game. The sale of Galactic Command Experience Boosts for credits would be a significant opportunity, but would also compete with Cartel Market sales for the boosts. This highlights one of the fundamental difficulties with the total credit supply in the game today. Any item desirable enough for players to spend tens of millions of credits on is always going to be an attractive addition to the Cartel Market instead. Weapon tunings are the latest example of an item that could be placed on a vendor for high credit costs to remove billions of credits from circulation, but that would impede Cartel Market sales. However, the developers need to realize that credit devaluation is a long-term threat to Cartel Market sales too. Many players buy items on the Cartel Market to sell them on the GTN and inflation creates a disincentive for that behavior. Once an item has been available on the Cartel Market for more than a year, it would greatly benefit the game to sell it on a credit-based vendor at a premium to the pervasive GTN price for the item across the game. This avoids the issue of undercutting Cartel Market sales as well as undercutting GTN sellers, but offers another way for the game to benefit from desirable items that are no longer available through normal means.
That’s enough for now and as always thank you for reading. Hopefully you found this topic interesting, but I’ll take feedback of any variety to help focus my time on topics that are of interest!
Andrew | SWTOR Economics