Here's a totally amazing and fascinating story about hyperinflation crashing the economy of Blizzard's massively multiplayer online RPG Diablo 3. Blizzard blew its economic strategy for Diablo 3 by making the "sinks" (places where gold is taken out of the economy) unattractive, adding in real-money-for-stuff trades, and then letting a bug run wild. Before you knew it, players were loading up virtual wheelbarrows full of virtual gold to buy virtual bread:
This was demonstrated when, in a message board entry prefaced by stating “Sell Equipment before Patch 1.0.5 Hits!” (a patch is a piece of software added to an operational program or application as bugs are found, changes desired, or ways of improving performance discovered), a player warned that,
Blizzard just announced that the drop rates for [certain] items are going to be doubled … if you haven’t already, you should consider converting your current gear to cash … since real $ [are] the best hedge against gold devaluation[.]
If historical cases of hyperinflation — real, and now virtual — have one thing in common, it is the instinct among its victims to blame the symptoms rather than the disease. The Austrian economist Hans Sennholz noted that during the German hyperinflation, “intrigue and artifice” were believed to be at work. Similarly, a handful of Diablo 3 players, frustrated about the decimation of their purchasing power, expressed increasing suspicion of manipulation and conspiracy theories.
[W]hy [are] certain items priced [s]o astronomically high? Many of them are not even that good yet cost 100’s of millions of gold. … I have about 45,000,000 gold saved up [and] check every few days to see if I can get any upgrades that are worth the gold, but … everything is vastly overpriced … clearly controlled by the gold sellers.
In case you missed it, I wrote a book about this.
A Virtual Weimar: Hyperinflation in a Video Game World (Thanks, Tom Keller!)
I write books. My latest is a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it's the sequel to Little Brother). More books: Rapture of the Nerds (a novel, with Charlie Stross); With a Little Help (short stories); and The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (novella and nonfic). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.