ESO and the Resurgence of the Social Economy

A few days ago I was speaking with TESO Elite’s Garbrac as he wrote his own article on the economics of The Elder Scrolls Online.  We had just learned that public guild stores were only to be available through keep ownership, a limitation we both agreed will prove severely limiting towards the ability of guilds to hawk their wares to the general public.  Over the course of our discussion, we agreed that the lack of accessibility to sellers and lack of predictability to buyers will ultimately see the public guild stores become a lesser-used facet of the game’s economy; a more expanded discussion on this subject can be found in his article, which I recommend reading before continuing as the article below is heavily based on the line of reasoning outlined therein.

So if we believe the speculation that public guild-stores won’t be the prevalent form of trade within the game economy – what else could fill that void?

A crafter crafting his crafty crafts.

A crafter crafting his crafty crafts for trading. That’s… sort of related.

Astute Tamriel Foundry veterans and readers who continue reading for twenty-five more words will know that many months ago there was an old thread debating whether or not an auction house should be included in game.  The argument against, essentially, was that in older MMORPGs the economy had been much more based on exploration and social interaction, two things opponents of the auction house model wanted to see make a return.  At the time, the popular opinion -which I shared- was that an auction house would be included in some form, with my own thoughts on how to adapt it to solve those problems running the gamut from player stores a la Star Wars Galaxies to a full-blown auction house with burdensome taxes.  Since the announcement of guild stores we’ve seen their possibilities being speculated along a wide range of options, from essentially being micro-auction houses open to all, to being limited to guild-members only, and finally resting on what we currently know to be true; that guild stores will only be open to members, unless that guild owns a keep in Cyrodiil.  With this highly limiting implementation, how will the economy adapt?  My theory – by doing exactly what opponents of the auction house wanted.

In the early MMORPGs of yore the economies were not as streamlined as what we have now become accustomed to.  Some games had no support for the trade economy, with the primary method of trade often involving external forums or going to a popular hub and spamming local chat if you did not know a crafter; that, of course, is the essential caveat.  The less the game was able to find a crafter for you, the more you relied on the connections you were able to form with the players around you to acquire whatever goods you wanted.  Crafters became renowned for their abilities and dedication to their craft, with the cream of the crop rising to the position of go-to-guy for the vast majority of their server communities.  Some  games managed to maintain the social economy while streamlining the process; in Star Wars Galaxies crafters could set up shops within their homes manned by NPCs which their patrons could buy from without them having to be directly involved, and crafted items were usually tagged with the name of the crafter who had created them to help consumers remember crafters who were capable of creating specific items.  For players seeking to enjoy an MMORPG as a virtual world -arguably the point of an MMO- it couldn’t get any better than this.

Khajiit are often merchants.  Or thieves.  She could be robbing the place.

Khajiit are often merchants. Or thieves. She could be robbing the place.

As the MMORPG market evolved, the focus moved from crafting based itemization to loot based itemization, and through games like Everquest and World of Warcraft, the importance of the crafter and player economy was reduced to virtual meaninglessness.  Auction houses were streamlined, and eventually, the crafter-consumer relationship was resigned to obsolescence.  Now the pendulum is swinging is back; The Elder Scrolls Online specifically is attempting to make crafted gear useful without ruining its theme-park progression by attaching veteran level requirements to items, and along with that, it may just lead us to the resurgence of the social economy

After ruling out public-guild stores as the economy’s primary method of distributing goods, we’re left with a view of a far more intimate market.  Many players have begun planning and forming trade guilds where vendors and customers will come together to exchange goods.  With members restricted to only a few hundred at most, their reach is limited, and the logistics of a guild with larger reach utilizing a revolving membership only composed of current buyers and sellers may be more than organizers will be willing to accommodate.  There is the possibility for trade guilds run by especially industrious crafters where the store is so well stocked that much or all of the need for socialization is removed, but I suspect these will be the exception, not the rule – and most likely on the smaller and more exclusive side to boot.  I am very interested to see if the development of crafter-client relationships become prevalent, especially when players find themselves needing to commission rarer items.

I bet that glove was crafted.  Maybe it was even traded.

I bet that glove was bought in a trade.

But what about the solo players?  Crafters seeking personal renown in the style of older games may not be interested in joining a trade organization, and some players may wish to go it alone for other reasons.  We don’t yet know whether or not soloers will be able to set up their own stores; while Nick Konkle has mentioned a requirement of 50 members to host a guild store, it remains unclear whether that applies to all guild stores or simply those being opened to the public – though I would think that if you could capture a keep and hold it, such restrictions would be unnecessary.  Further, we don’t know if the requirement is 50 current members, or merely having achieved that at one point to unlock it, leaving the crafter free to pay people to join temporarily to do so.  If these options are not available to crafters seeking to go it alone, they will most likely have to find themselves working on fostering professional relationships with consumers, frequenting popular hubs, and listing their wares in well curated forum threads if they want to successfully grow their business.

For both types of traders though, one thing is for sure – the benefits to fostering social connections with other players will be much stronger than they have been in other recent MMORPGs; yet it is important to remember that ultimately, The Elder Scrolls Online has been forced to limit players’ access to the market because of their decision to utilize a mega-server.  With the massive scale of the population, having the economy split only into thirds by the alliances would quickly result in a highly saturated, nigh untenable market, which would inevitably detract from the overall quality of the game experience.  While their decision to segment the market based on social mechanisms like guilds may lead to a more socially involved economy, it is important to point out that this is most likely seen by the developers as an incidental benefit at best.  The social economy is something that is by necessity player driven, so if this is something we want, it is up to communities like our own to make it succeed.

166 responses to “ESO and the Resurgence of the Social Economy”

  1. Profile Photo


    Total Posts: 50

    Dunmer Sorcerer


    Thank you! (:

  2. Profile Photo


    Total Posts: 679

    Bosmer Nightblade

    Very interesting indeed, I would love to see the social economy make a comeback

      ”Our showdown, while inevitable, is premature. Although it would be the simplest thing for me to kill you right now, I won’t. You’d only become a martyr. Your nation would only rally behind your untimely demise. But I assure you, I have a plan. And I’m saving you for last. Then, you’ll get your duel, and I will destroy you…”

  3. Member Avatar


    Total Posts: 39

    Imperial Nightblade

    Have to agree with Gederic, I miss the days off tunnel trading from EQ.  Granted its more convienent ala auction house, but the social aspect is what makes me play MMO games, and that is a part of it.

  4. Profile Photo


    Total Posts: 11

    Breton Sorcerer


    Having specialised crafters with (perhaps) unique or hard to get recipes, can lead toa certain point, when you have only a few players you can turn to if you want that awesome armour/weapon/etc.

    This also comes down to having a great community where both sides help each AND respect other in this process, there is no buyer without the seller and vica versa.

  5. Profile Photo


    Total Posts: 369

    Imperial Templar

    Lowly Knights of Stendarr

    Interesting indeed. Thanks.

  6. Profile Photo


    Total Posts: 2841

    Breton Templar


    With members restricted to only a few hundred at most, their reach is limited, and the logistics of a guild with larger reach utilizing a revolving membership only composed of current buyers and sellers may be more than organizers will be willing to accommodate.

    This is doable but requires officers willing to be bugged quite often and to kick regular members for not being active in the guild store.

  7. Profile Photo
    Strider II


    Total Posts: 73

    Dunmer Sorcerer

    I love this system just one more reason to be excited about crafting in ESO.  I don’t think you can have a realistic and interesting economy with the presence of an auction house.

  8. Profile Photo


    Total Posts: 185

    Breton Dragonknight

    +1 for a social economy



  9. Profile Photo


    Total Posts: 31

    Orc Dragonknight

    Great review thanks

    Don’t kill, Don’t steal and don’t attack people without reason

    The strong survive and the strongest rule

     Mental toughness !!



  10. Profile Photo


    Total Posts: 51

    Nord Dragonknight

    Discover Eventide

    yea, awesome

  11. Profile Photo


    Total Posts: 254

    Breton Nightblade

    Astterion said on November 1, 2013 :

    Have to agree with Gederic, I miss the days off tunnel trading from EQ. Granted its more convienent ala auction house, but the social aspect is what makes me play MMO games, and that is a part of it.

    I couldn’t agree more. I miss the days of sitting in EC auctioning and bartering with people using trades. Playing the market how it was meant to be played. When Luclin came out in 2000, the Bazaar took the social aspect out, but it was the stepping stone towards an Auction House method. Once the Auction House took off in MMO’s, it made things more simplistic but it watered down item values.

    It also allowed for a group of people to play the market by numbers and do so with a bot using a linked in program based on a set algorithm.

    With TESO’s method, it would eliminate that and allow for a much more realistic approach to trading which is set for the world of TES.


    Those who complain may not know what it was like and only know of an AH. With that said, I won’t really consider their opinion until we see how well ZO implements it.

    V14 Breton Nightblade Healer
  12. Profile Photo


    Total Posts: 311

    Breton Sorcerer


    i like what’s going on in the article. i remember times that were described and liked them.

    there has a been a lot of talk around these parts about player made websites that they anticipate to handle exchanges. i’ve never really understood how that could reliably work, but should we still be considering that sort of thing might happen too?

  13. Profile Photo


    Total Posts: 685


    I won’t jump on the anti-AH bandwagon. Looking at an AH from a logic-only perspective clearly  trumps other systems in the utility and function in a 24/7 world. When you blend in concepts such as social interaction and player to player contact, you pollute the pure logic.

    Saying that, does not mean I am anti-community though and other systems do work and will work; just expect those that don’t play during prime time to be relegated to second class citizenship because most great crafted goods (or the items needed for progressive reasons) will mostly be available during prime time only. An AH removed the prime time requirement completely. I have been saying for the last year here on TF how a tight community found in older MMO’s created a much friendlier environment as opposed to games that have a lousy community such as seen in all WoW servers chat and LFG dungeon runs.

    Here is exactly how I see this evolving: This system will flop. It will be bad enough that the DAoC system of housing will be implemented which will enable “Consignment Merchants”. Those will become the standard ( and they worked very well) trading format and the Guild Stores open to all in Cyrodiil will be relegated to highly speciallized or unique items.


  14. Profile Photo


    Total Posts: 18

    Nord Templar

    Indeed, quite the interesting Read. i will have to talk to my friends about this. I’m both excited, and somewhat concerned about the idea. But regardless, i’m glad to see they are standing out from the rest.

  15. Profile Photo


    Total Posts: 4236

    Khajiit Templar

    Dash said on November 1, 2013 :

    “Consignment Merchants”

    I really liked this model in Star Wars Galaxies, and I’ve always wanted some sort of housing model for ESO.

  16. Profile Photo


    Total Posts: 925

    Dunmer Templar

    The most important things I for see is,

    1 how quickly can mats be gathered, gathered, earned, or traded

    2 how easy it is to level and unlock rares

    3 websites that willnhost buyer, seller forums, I recommend keeping them seperate.

    4 the eventual upgrades to the system, such as housing.

    Of course buy all means buy you poisons, potions and comfort foods from me

    Mr. Pink: Hey, why am I Mr. Pink?




  17. Profile Photo
    Elock Shadowheim


    Total Posts: 67

    Dunmer Sorcerer


    If anyone hasn’t seen the shoddycast video on economy i suggest you do so cause they bring up some very intresting points.

    ”Was it Molag? No, no… Little Tim, the toymaker’s son? The ghost of King Lysandus? Or was it… Yes! Stanley, that talking grapefruit from Passwall.”


  18. Profile Photo


    Total Posts: 1262

    Altmer Sorcerer

    I definitely like this kind of economy;  Lord knows my only experience with an auction house in the MMO I used to play was a /fail and left a bad taste in my mouth regarding auction houses.  I look forward to mingling with other players to buy things and I think it would be cool if you had to go to certain people for certain items/gear, definitely makes crafting an integral part of the game.

    Death is a guarantee;  Life is not.

  19. Profile Photo
    Master of Fate


    Total Posts: 1249

    Dunmer Sorcerer

    Iron Fist Trade Complex

    Ah. This article was excellent. Similarly to how we might be led to believe that Guild Stores are likely not the primary way for players to trade with one another, I don’t mind an Auction House as long as the system doesn’t force us to do it that way. It would be a good option that exists, so long as it doesn’t control the entire economy. I love the social interaction aspect of the in game economy.

    It’s been awhile, but my personal favorite in game economy I’ve seen in an MMO (despite the obvious flaws) was RuneScape. At least, before they implemented their auction house instead of the old way, which was through simple player to player trading. That auction house ruined everything. (I did not stay long enough to see what happened after that.) But the auction house was only bad because Jagex implemented it as a replacement for regular player to player trading rather than an extra option. They had just burned of all the old parts of the economy in one move. Had they just kept regular player to player trading, I believe it would have been a fine addition for the convenience of it. But instead they took away the best thing the economy had going for it. In fact, I believe the two most important things going for that economy was the fact that RuneScape had an extensive (albeit a bit crude) crafting system and players had the ability to trade without penalty. Players would gather around key areas like a bank, and advertise what they were selling like merchants on the street. And it more or less worked.

    We know ESO is supposed to have an extensive crafting system. I think ESO couldn’t go wrong if they just implement a simple player to player trading system as an option. Then maybe we could see guild stores in keeps get another purpose, becoming gathering points for merchants similarly to the banks in RuneScape.

  20. Member Avatar


    Total Posts: 19

    Argonian Nightblade

    Aegis Nocturnus

    The social economy sounds good but on the flipside dont like socializing all the time and I know that sounds like it deafeets the purpose of playing a MMO type but I like just having the option to socialize not a need to.

Comment On: “ESO and the Resurgence of the Social Economy”

You are not currently logged in. You must log in before commenting.