Fallout 76 Reserve Currency: Prepared for The Future

written by Alastrom

Caps have effectively very little value and eventually, they’ll have no value at all. As players continue to accumulate this currency we should expect inflation to occur but a upper limit on the quantity that can be kept at any one time ensures that prices don’t typically go beyond the cap cap (two words there, Bethesda’s fault) save for extreme situations. Players have a very difficult time spending caps in game. Ammo is expensive, which acts as a drain but there’s rarely enough of it to justify the time investment in place of other means like crafting or scavenging. Serum’s can be purchased, however for many players it’s a one time use. Mods fall into the same category and it’s uncommon to find a vendor that offers gear that players are actively seeking. Because there’s no real demand for caps in game, there’s no real value to them. If you’re active on the Fallout 76 trade communities, caps are often used to purchase weapons though it seems many players only do that to obtain the weapons/gear/mods they actually want. We’re already seeing players deny cap sales in place of trading their current offer for a relative desired offer. This translates to players self devaluing caps and over valuing equipment.

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To illustrate the low value of caps, let’s do a quick theoretical trading situation. If you currently had a balance of zero caps on your character but you had the perfect legendary weapon for your build, would you ever consider selling that weapon for 25k caps which is currently the max allowed per player? I suspect the overwhelming majority of players would prefer to have that weapon over the caps. In this scenario, the weapon almost always has more value than the caps because the caps might be used to obtain the weapon. Reverse the scenario, you don’t have the perfect weapon available to you but you see someone selling it for 25k caps. If you had the opportunity to purchase said weapon, how many would regret the decision? Again, I suspect very few.

As stated, players have a max allowed cap amount attached to their character, which means that amount will become the default for high quality goods in the rare case that caps are used for currency. Until caps can hold buying power for goods and services that players actually desire, they will quickly take a backseat to non cap goods. This can come in many forms with players likely establishing a true system of currency, rare consumables or weapons most likely. The long term effect on player trading being reduced to specific rare items will severely limit player interaction for trades. Given that trading is a significant portion of players’ enjoyment, this runs the risk of alienating a large portion of the player base. For cases where a player is not taking part in the market meta, they likely don’t go out of their way to collect more caps than they expect they’ll need to achieve their goals – be they travel or basic resupply. In both situations, the player has devalued caps and removed a large portion of their self determined play style. This eventually leads to player stagnation which always results in a “dead game.”

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The solution to this problem is to institute a reserve currency, purchased with real world currency from the online store and then made available to players in exchange for caps. This “reserve currency” could be purchased for a set amount, 5-25k caps and would then become a no weight stored item in the players inventory. This item could not be dropped in the world and would only be exchanged to other players. It’s important the token itself is never exchanged for goods, less it replaces caps as the primary currency. That token could then be exchanged back to the in game store for a set amount of ATOMS. This would cause the price of caps to hold their value relative to the price of ATOMS. The ATOMS would further be backed up by the price of real world currency. This would give players a continued reason to deal in caps and when they reach the cap limit, they could exchange that amount for the ATOM exchange token. In turn, players could trade those tokens with other players for caps, ensuring trade focused players would remain involved in the game. Players who are not currently involved and not projected to be involved in trading still have a goal they can achieve by exchanging their caps for ATOMS, which gains them items from the ATOM store.

The idea of using real money to obtain something in online games activates a primal instinct in players. They tend to lash out at blog writers who are simply looking to present a theoretical idea. Since my initial publication of these ideas I’ve been harassed through private message, downvote brigades and people attempting to scam me through the Fallout 76 trade system. I don’t mention this in an attempt to garner empathy. Instead, I use it as an illustration to show that if you have a similar reaction, it’s completely normal. You’re also an idiot. The system above doesn’t print money in exchange for real world money. A player cannot obtain in game caps using a token without first exchanging it to another player. Those caps must already be actualized in the market in order to be accessed. They also must exchange it for a predetermined amount, so there’s no gifting that can occur through third party sales. While you may not like the idea of exchanging your hard earned money for hard earned caps, the system above requires that very trait to exist in order for it to function. Some players will choose not to buy the token or the ATOM it gives. Some of those players will still want said goods. This creates demand which is generally needed to ensure players will agree to exchange their caps for tokens. In short, if you don’t want to spend money on the token, you don’t have to. You’ll become one of the people that buys tokens when you want to access the in game store. If anything, it’s a way for you to spend less money on the game than you would under the right conditions and it gives you a chance to exchange caps for more than fast travel and that rare item you want off a vendor.

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One of the major benefits of demand is one of the major drawbacks. If implemented, Bethesda would be forced to continue a steady stream of content to the in game store to give players incentive to continue trading for the token. While for most game designers this means hiring on new help, this is a company that has benefited wildly from its modding community and could benefit once again. Players lost their minds when Bethesda said they wanted to pay their mod community by introducing paid mods. It wasn’t a popular decision for a variety of reasons but it’s one I actually agreed with. This is one more place I feel the paid mod community could actively contribute and earn a little bit of extra caps on the side… the real stuff, not the in game variety. Content creators breathe life into games and offering players that slick new coat or fancy weapon skin is a great way to keep them involved. There are any number of ways the selection process could occur but none of them are relevant to this article. What matters more is ensuring supply meets demand and hopefully getting the people who supply that supply an appropriate level of compensation.

Currency systems such as these are already active in many major MMOs from World of Warcraft to Eve Online. In both examples, and many more, the “reserve currency” has effectively promoted a stabilized economy and lead to the extended life of said titles. While I’m not making a direct comparison between Fallout 76 and larger online games, I do believe it would solve many of the problems that are rapidly approaching the game. This system is not without drawbacks. It could never be implemented unless the game was in a stable enough state that players could trust the tokens to hold their value. The duping issue of early December is a prime example of a critical issue that would cripple this system and player trust in it. In addition, there are many changes that would need to occur to the already established game in order for this to see the light of day. The positive effect of a reserve currency system is a steady stream of income for Bethesda which enforces continued development of the project long into the future. I understand that players are hesitant when it comes to involving real world money into online games and I won’t pretend that it doesn’t have a high probability of falling apart if poorly implemented. If Bethesda wanted a system like this they could join the ranks of video game companies that employ economists to manage their delicate in game markets and help us all…

“Prepare for the Future!”

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