The game's economy refers to a set of standards and rules that ArenaNet has designed to maintain financial balance within the game world. Financial balance does not mean that everyone has the same in-game wealth, but that no one can gain an unfair advantage due to their wealth. The number one function of the game's economic system is to prevent players from becoming so wealthy that they can extort exorbitant amounts of gold for trivial items making the price of items in player trade very expensive to the average player.
The following is an examination of some of the key features that the designers use to control the game's economy:
The Trader System
The drop rates of most valuable items in the PvE game (rare crafting materials, gold items, green items, and so forth) are fairly low (the chance for the aforementioned examples is usually less than 5%). When these items do in fact drop, they are not worth a lot intrinsically, but are subject to supply and demand. Crafting materials, dyes and runes have trader NPCs that act as the middleman while gold items, weapon upgrades and green items are usually traded between players directly (either in game or using auction sites like those listed below).
This supply and demand scheme guarantees that players cannot simply hack and slash their way to very high amounts of wealth. Let's say that players found a creature that drops black dye consistently and often. Pretty soon, the creature will be mercilessly killed over and over and there will be an influx of black dyes in the market. The supply will be more than the demand and the value (at the trader and among players) will soon drop tremendously. In the interim, a few players might make it big (those who did it first) but the value of money (not black dye) will not drop.
Each character in the game has at most 45 slots in their inventory and can carry at most 100,000 gold. In addition, storage only provides a maximum of 80 slots, up to 250 of each crafting material, and room for 1 million gold. This aspect is aimed at limiting players' ability to hoard gold and/or valuable items.
One technique that players use to get around this is to store their wealth in stacks of Globs of Ectoplasm, which usually value in the realm of several platinum each, making a single stack of ecto worth more than a million gold. However this has a couple of disadvantages:
- In the long term, ectos change value, and the trend has been that they decline in value with time.
- In the short term, there is the trader penalty. Material traders always sell crafting materials at a higher rate than they buy it. Therefore, if a player were to convert 100 platinum into ectos at one price, then wanted to liquidate these ectos a week later, they would likely sell them at a lower price. Buying and selling to other players is less variable, but means that the player has to stand around a town and spam "WTB" or "WTS" each time they need to store or retrieve some cash.
Another technique players use is the usage of mule characters and/or accounts. This has the cumbersome disadvantage of having to buy extra character slots and at times, a whole new game package (i.e. costs real world money).
Buying gold with real money
Some players resort to buying in-game money in exchange for real world money. Those players are often referred to as ebayers because the website eBay is often the place they find sellers of in-game gold.
ArenaNet looks very seriously at this issue and will penalize all parties involved if they can find them. The sellers of in-game money usually deploy bots into the game that simultaneously farm lucrative areas and generate a constant stream of wealth. They then sell this money to others using websites like eBay. Besides being annoying to players who legitimately earned their gold, these activities can devastate the economy. Farming bots can generate gold much faster than humans can. This results in a large influx of gold into the economy, making the value of each individual gold piece lessen—in other words, the purchasing power of gold decreases. This makes the price of items increase. Legitimate players become comparatively poorer over time in this scenario. This puts pressure on serious legitimate player to also go and buy their money to stay competitive.
In many MMORPGs, this trend has made it so every player must buy gold using real-life money to be able to play the game normally. This has not happened in Guild Wars because ArenaNet closely monitors bot-like activities (repeated farming, usually) and have their own undisclosed ways of detecting such bots. When a bot is detected, the account is banned and undisclosed other measures may be taken.
- Earning gold: A guide on how to make money in the game.