Sunday, November 25, 2012

Is the SWTOR Credit Cap Killing Unlock Resales?

A few weeks ago, I pondered whether SWTOR's credit cap was going to cause issues for the game's business model.  It's a bit early to tell, but the answer may be yes.

To recap, non-subscribers cannot ever have more than 350,000 credits on their person - in context, it's easy to make over 100,000 credits per day doing endgame daily missions.  By design, every item in the cartel market is available for re-sale, subject to a several-day waiting period to deter fraud.  This includes the items whose purpose is to lift restrictions on non-subscribers.  These items have zero value to subscribers (except if they can be flipped for a profit), so the only real market for them are non-subscribers (who cannot pay more than 350,000 credits by definition) and subscribers who are stocking up because they plan to let their subscriptions lapse in the near future.  The latter demographic is limited because the game's model in general discourages people from playing at all while unsubscribed.

Right now, the market is distorted by large grants of cartel coins that were granted to existing subscribers, many of whom seem to feel that these should immediately be spent, rather than saved to pay for future additions to the marketplace.  As a result, my server at least is seeing the global trade network flooded with unlock items that cost several dollars worth of cartel coins but that cost well under 350,000 credits.

An especially egregious offender is the unlock for access to Section X, the new daily quest area and also the home to the quest to claim the HK-51 droid companion.  This unlock costs 600 cartel coins in the cash shop (roughly $5-7 depending on your exchange rate), but the item is also available as a (presumably unwanted) reward in the "cartel pack" gambling boxes.  As a result, unlocking this area for my main would currently cost me rough 75,000 credits, or less than the credits that I can earn back by doing all of these quests once each.

The sector X unlock may be a special case because of the decision to include it in the gambling packs, which players are purchasing in large quantities for the other possible rewards.  Demand for this particular item may be especially skewed because subscribers don't need it and neither does anyone below level 50.  That said, I cannot imagine that a secondary market in which players actually fork over several dollars worth of cartel coins for a day or two's worth of daily quest rewards is in any way sustainable.  If I'm right, either supply will drop to the ground as players realize that cartel coins cost money and stop wasting them, or else something will have to be done about that credit cap on non-subscribers.


  1. My favourite so far has been the artificat item unlock selling for 3 million credits. There is definitely a broken link between the perceived worth vs what people can actually pay for it.

  2. A co-worker of mine said that he logged on his former subscribing account and they capped his credits to 350k when he previous had a few million. I'd like to think that was a bug, but it seems like they're just being overly stringent with the credit cap.

  3. @Psychochild: Not a bug, that's the intended cap (for people who have spent money, the completely free tier is something like 250K), allegedly to prevent abuse by farmers. Nonsubscribers cannot lift it for any price, but Bioware will hold all your surplus credits in escrow to convince you to subscribe.

  4. Yeah, that's just poorly thought out. My co-worker said it basically demotivated him and he's no longer interested in the free-to-play version anymore, so it's working against them.

    Seems like a good way to screw up the economy, as you said. Particularly funny that EQ2 finally lifted currency caps, though.

    I think this is another case of a developer being too timid and trying to use free-to-play for the buzzword aspects to gussy up a trial. A shame given that DDO showed how you could do free-to-play well and fairly profitably. They dropped a lot of the gating BS (the dreaded sigils that were gone before I got on) because they realized it just didn't work.

    Ah, well.


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