Elder Scrolls Online: In Gold We Trust (A One Tamriel Economics Lesson)

Elder Scrolls Online: In Gold We Trust (A One Tamriel Economics Lesson)

As a long time player of the Elder Scrolls Online (since beta), and of course an avid fan, I wanted to talk a bit about the economy of the game. How it is has been, where it is now, and where it’s going in the future. Now, when I say economy, I mean the in-game buying and selling of in-game items for in-game gold. None of these are real money transactions, unless you went out and purchased gold (with real money) from some site that farms with bots. While I will touch upon that, this article is about the transactions by players for things within the game, so when I speak of economy in this article that’s what I mean. Please note that most of my experience is on PS4, not PC or Xbox, although I expect the Xbox has a similar economy, with PC being a bit different.

In-Game Storage

If I have one complaint about The Elder Scrolls Online it is the lack of storage space for characters, and it has one of the most significant impacts on the economy. While this is something I would expect from many F2P MMOs, it has been an issue with ESO since day one. In fact not until recently, with the addition of the Craft Bag (only for ESO Plus subscribers) has the game been remotely playable for me. As it stands right now players can have a max of 200 bank slots and 200 slots in their bag. That’s a total of 400 spaces for everything that you own which includes crafting materials, style gems, motifs, equipment, food and drinks, and now housing items as well. To give you an idea how little that is, let’s give the example of a player who Crafts in 2 professions, which is pretty standard and not unreasonable.


Let’s say for the sake of argument one is Enchanting and the other is Blacksmithing. If you have one stack of each raw and refined material in your bank for both of these professions, then you have used 85 banks spaces. This does not include Style Gems, which determine the look of the Armor or the Trait Gems which apply a bonus to the armor piece/weapon. If you had at least one of each type of these that’s another 68 spaces for a total of 153 bank spaces gone just from crafting in two Professions. If you take on a third, be prepared to have zero bank space for anything else but crafting materials. Or you can do what I did and pay 15$ a month to get the craft bag, but that’s up to you. Obviously players can use any of their guild’s banks or put items into another character’s bank if they wish, but not everyone wants to put their valuables into their guild bank and not everyone has more than one character. Why are you telling me this? How does this affect the economy? Good questions, let me explain by leading to my next point about Guild Traders.


Guild Stores and Guild Traders

Elder Scrolls Online does not feature a global or universal auction hall, but instead allows players to list items in their guild’s store if it has enough members (30 per guild at one time, for a maximum of 150 item across all 5 guilds). The downside to this is that you can only belong to 5 guilds and each guild has a maximum of 500 players for a total of 2500 players, and so are limited to what you can buy from as you can’t buy from any guild you didn’t belong to. This gave rise to what are called “Trade Guilds”. These guilds are specifically created with the purpose of buying and selling goods to improve players’ chances to finding what items they need and sell the items they don’t. However, because this still wasn’t good enough, Zenimax finally added Guild Traders, which are stationed all across Tamriel, that allow players to purchase items from other guilds they don’t belong to. What does this all mean for the economy? Where the hell are you going with all this Cas?


Unless any of your guilds has a Guild Trader, your goods to sell will only ever be seen by a maximum of 2500 people. This means you will be reaching less than 1% of the game’s population, and that’s only if all your guilds are full and all those players are active, otherwise you’re looking at something like .1%. What this means is that you better have something incredibly good to sell, rare to sell, different to sell or you better be selling at an extremely cheap price or you will never sell anything. Meanwhile all the items you could be storing until which time you can sell them, keep piling up because you have nowhere to put them and no one is buying your listed items fast enough, so you cannot list anymore. This drives prices down and makes Guild Stores a last resort to finding items. What impact does this have on the average player? Surely there is equipment worth selling that everyone wants from raiding and Dungeons right? That’s a very good question.

Bind on Pick-up Changes

With the One Tamriel update all gear acquired from Dungeons and Raids became bind on pick-up, meaning that once you pick it up it’s bound to you if not traded to anyone in your group when you picked it up. Although you can still sell items to members in your group, once you leave you cannot sell them to anyone else. And while generally speaking, One Tamriel brought a much needed surge to the economy as gear on the landscape became useful, it also did damage to it through this change. As mentioned above players already had issues with storage space, but now you can’t do anything but store gear from dungeons and raids, deconstruct it or vendor it, none of which helps the economy one bit.

eso hist release 5

Had these items remained bind on equip, which is the way they were from the update, there would be many more items listed on guild halls and people would be buying and selling more frequently and for much more money. Sharpened Weapons are a hard thing to come buy if you want a dungeon set, and players would pay thousands of gold for them, but since you cannot sell them to anyone who isn’t in your group, that’s a lot of Gold that will never change hands, and instead might simply be vended because you don’t need it or it’s not a set you want and you simply don’t have the room to store it. Ok, so there isn’t as much equipment to sell, but surely there are rare items like motifs and crafting materials that sell for a lot right? Well there are, or more correctly there were, but there may not be anymore.


Community Festivals and Events

Surely these can’t be bad for the economy right? I mean they bring tons of people back to the game. Well they certainly have their upside, which is more activity, and that is ALWAYS good for an economy. However, they also come with minuses. Just recently there was a Thieve’s Guild event that doubled the crafting node drop rates for a week or two, which caused players to flock there and stock up on as many raw materials as they could in hopes they could get the coveted crafting materials that are very valuable. What was the result? These rare materials dove from an all time high after One Tamriel’s release to being worth roughly 50% of what they once were. Why did this happen? Because they supply from the event flooded the market driving prices down. They may recover over time, but it will take time.


As far as motifs are concerned, they are some of the most valuable and rare items out there, probably only second to sharped weapons. However, with the anniversary event going on right now players are able to obtain the rarest of the rare motifs from doing daily quests, some of which take only minutes to finish. Again what this does is flood the market with supply, driving the prices down to an all time low. People are even giving away motifs in zone chats because they simply don’t have the room to store extras and they’d rather people use them then destroy them. It’s pretty shocking to see really.


How Can We Improve the Economy

The first and easiest way to improve the economy is to increase storage space by a large margin. Increasing storage space would allow players to hold less than ideal items longer, until such time as they could sell them. As it stands now, you simply don’t have the room to do this any longer, and so must vendor or deconstruct them. The good news is that there is a rumor that Zenimax is doing just that for ESO Plus members with the Morrowind expansion coming in June. From what i understand it is suppose to double the storage space for these members. While this won’t affect all players, there are indeed a good number of ESO Plus members and this WILL help the economy.

Second, they need to replace the guild vendor system or expand the sizes of guilds because the economy will always under perform when you cannot reach more than about 10% of the player base at best and that’s if you have a Guild Trader. Doing away with guild vendors and implementing a global auction hall would be the ideal way to improve the economy, and while this would inevitably drive prices down, at least players would be making some gold from their items instead of the 78 gold the vendor gives you. If this cannot be done, even just upping the size of guilds to 1000 players would double the amount of sales happening. While that isn’t as effective as the global auction hall, I’d still rather reach 2% of people than 1%.

eso hist release 3

Third, stop devaluing rare items such as motifs and tempers by making them so easy to get. Make players work for their valuable shinies so they are worth more and sell for more. This is not only good for the economy, but it’s good for the game itself. No one feels great about fleshing out their Motif library from doing practically no work, and on top of that, what are they going to do once they’ve gotten them all? Now they have less incentive to keep playing as one of their goals was completely finished in a week! If ESO is going to have events they should give new items or simply make the drop rates for the rare items much less frequent.

Finally, remove bind on pick-up from dungeons and raids once more, making all these sets available to be bought and sold. It won’t help in the slightest with the storage space issue, but will flood the market with an influx of new Sets for people to try out, some of which they can’t be bothered to go farm. And, just like when One Tamriel launched, players will need Tempers, Rosin and Dreugh Wax to upgrade their new Sets, driving the prices of these items up once again, and helping the economy recover.

eso year ahead

Final Thoughts

You know things aren’t going well when the people in the chat trying to sell in-game gold for real money are offering less and less for more and more money. The value of Gold is going up, because it’s not changing hands nearly often enough do to the reasons listed above. How does this affect you? Why should you care? It means that everything you have in your bank in storage in your bag, etc is getting less and less valuable by the day. You got a nice shiny Sharpened Sword of whatever? It’s probably worth half what it was worth when One Tamriel launched. When new Sets come out with the Morrowind expansion, everyone will want them, not what’s in your bank. This means that you must SELL now and get as much gold as you can because gold is what you use in Guild Stores; you cannot barter. Any time you do a transaction with a player outside of a Guild Store, always, always, always be sure you are paid in gold and always try to barter with something that isn’t gold, because gold is only going to increase in value and everything else is only going to diminish in value.

Am I crazy? What do you guys think? Let me know in the comments.

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One comment on “Elder Scrolls Online: In Gold We Trust (A One Tamriel Economics Lesson)”

  1. Avatar Lich180 says:

    Something you didn’t mention is that most of the large trade guilds in game require weekly donations for membership, simply to have access to people to buy and sell from. A free trade guild often can’t afford a guild trader, especially not one in a major city that runs for several million gold as a weekly expense.

    I’m part of a large trade guild on PS4, and I don’t have problems selling items often, as long as the item in question is desirable. Cost of membership is 10k gold or 100 raw materials per week. Also, your guild leader must have connections with other trade guild leaders, to help maintain prices in acceptable ranges, as console has no mods to constantly scan the guild traders and track prices.

    The lack of desirable items also hurts the economy, as motif pages are often a one time buy for people (one dedicated crafter character, due to the skill points and time required to research traits). Crafted set items are almost useless, as meta builds only use crafted sets as stand ins until the BiS items can be obtained from dungeons or trials.

    There ARE good dropped set items that are Bind on Equip, and the areas those sets drop in are heavily farmed both by bots (less a problem on console) and live players. ZoS has been cracking down on bots, thankfully, but they are still around.

    The good, dropped items usually are only "good" in desirable traits, like Infused, Divines, Impenetrable (for armor) and Sharpened (for weapons). There might be a few other good weapon traits, but those are much more situational. That’s 3 good traits out of 8 possible ones for armor, with only 1 good trait out of 8 for weapons. The absurdly rare nirnhoned is almost never used, as the Precise trait out performs nirnhoned and is STILL out done by Sharpened.

    The good items go for 15k to a few million, depending on the set, trait and what piece is being sold.

    I don’t feel that there are enough gold sinks in game to really dent the economy, even with player housing. It reminds me of Diablo 2, where gold had almost no value, and items were traded and priced according to a rare amulet (or was it a ring), the Stone of Jordan. Players who have the time and willpower to trawl through guild traders can make a few million a day, buying and selling items, while everyone else is left with pocket change and the hope of a lucky drop.

    Public auction houses would be a great addition, as would more gold sinks. I don’t feel that player storage is as big an issue right now, especially with the crafting bag and rumoured increase of storage capacity with Morrowind. Maybe it’s because my last MMO was World of Warcraft, and inventory there was even more limited than ESO.

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