MMORPG 101: What are financial systems in MMORPGs?

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Nearly every MMORPG has some sort of financial system. Money or its equivalent is usually represented by something that makes sense within the larger context of the game. Thus, in most fantasy MMORPGs, gold is the unit of money. Along with money or its equivalent comes things to buy with that money. Items or rewards which can be bought with and sold for money are usually collectively referred to by the playerbase (and most developers) as loot.

In-game money and loot are big components of the social structure of most MMORPGs, although they don't hold the same importance in every game. World of Warcraft, for example, is a game where gold and the items it can buy are fairly critical aspects of the game. City of Heroes, on the other hand, while it does have a market system and loot-like items now (it didn't have much at its launch), places less importance on such things than does World of Warcraft.

Sometimes loot doesn't play a major role in character advancement, but in many cases, it is vitally important. In games where loot represents physical armor or weapons, not having the proper "gear" can make a character undesireable for certain game content. In games like this, loot is highly prized and can lead to arguments over who gets what when an item "drops" (i.e., becomes available upon defeat of an enemy).

Another problem that can arise from MMORPG market systems is "gold selling," or "real money transfers." Companies and individuals will gain a lot of game money, either through relentless "farming" or exploits, and then sell that in-game money for real-world money. This is against the rules of nearly every MMORPG, and it is a problem that game companies are constantly striving to squash. Accounts are banned if they are found to be in violation, and harsh restrictions are placed on trial accounts in an attempt to prevent trial accounts from being used as easy gateways into the game world.

Having a financial system in an MMORPG adds another layer of immersion for players and adds variety, so that it's not just a bunch of "kill that mob" or "collect these objects."


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