Yesterday, I laid out two personal problems I have with Red Dead Online, an empty map and a bad power fantasy, but there’s one larger, over-arching issue that everyone seems to have with Red Dead Redemption 2’s online mode: the economy.
Everyone assumed that there would be some measure of grind in Red Dead Online, following in the footsteps of GTA Online. But the end result is something that’s way, way worse than most players would have anticipated.
The entire economy seems broken to the point where it’s hard to know what Rockstar was thinking releasing it in this state. I mean I know what they were thinking. By making a two-tiered currency with cash and gold bars, the bars will eventually be sold in the store as shortcuts to pretty much everything, including many of the best outfits/horses/weapons in the game.
The problem is that the earn rate for both types of currency is painfully slow. A “good” mission will give you about a $4-5 payout and maybe 0.01-0.02 of a gold bar. I’ve played for maybe 20 hours or so and have not even earned a single gold bar, and while I have a few hundred dollars in cash, once the game just suddenly dumped about $250 in my account suspiciously, perhaps in an effort to get me to whine less. But here I am whining anyway. It’s just not a good system.
The prices of items right now are ludicrous. Every weapon is priced so high that it will likely take you several dozen or a hundred hours just to farm for one. And that’s paying with cash, as the earn rate of gold bars is so low that I can’t imagine how long it would take you to earn enough to pay for any of the items that cost 20/30/40 gold.
You earn far, far less money in Red Dead Online than you do in the campaign, and everything costs the same or even more. A score might get you $50-100 in RDR2, and most corpses gave me anywhere from $2-4 when looted to as much as $20. Compare that to $3-5 mission payouts in RDO and corpses that give you 9 cents if you’re lucky.
I get that not everything can be exactly the same across the two modes so there was bound to be some sort of adjustment. And yet what is here is bad, and feels much worse than GTA Online. You’re charged unavoidable upkeep fees for maintaining your camp and stables. There are less sources for money. You can’t rob stores, for instance, and you barely get any loot to sell. The loot you do get exemplifies the price goofiness even more. You can sell a gold wedding ring for less than it costs to buy a can of beans at the store. You can spend $9.50 on a horse reviver, two full mission payouts, or you can buy horse insurance for 5 gold bars which would take uh, like close to a hundred hours to earn? What is going on here?
The problem Rockstar faces is that if the open beta now draws in millions of players who bought Red Dead Redemption 2, the current state of the economy may end up turning them off from the outset. And that’s a serious problem if they’re looking to replicate the success of GTA Online, a mode that according to analysts has made Rockstar over $1 billion in revenue since launch through its microtransactions alone, helping to turn GTA V into the golden goose it’s been since launch. Starting off on the wrong foot could turn off countless players who are uninterested in a grind this unrewarding, and what could have been a cash cow will turn into a rotting steer carcass in the desert rather quickly. Rockstar needs to fix its pricing immediately, and explain exactly how gold bars are going to be priced in the in-game store so players can judge if that’s remotely fair or balanced as well. You only get one chance to make a first impression, and even if some are saying “well it’s just a beta,” in this day and age, you will rarely find a beta all that different from final release, as they’re mostly used and promotional teases and stress tests. And with something like Red Dead Online, it’s not clear exactly how long this “beta” will go, and when it will shift into a full release. There is no end date for this beta in sight like you see with many other early tests.
GTA Online players and critics have always debated its economy, but clearly things ended up working well enough to make that mode a hit. But even longtime GTA Online players are looking at Red Dead Online with disdain because of its current state. Even if you are trying to attract mainly high-spending whales with this kind of pricing, I do think the economy plays into another issues the game has that I mentioned yesterday, the fact that there really isn’t a great pool of stuff to grind for/spend cash on compared to the supercars and superweapons of GTA Online. Mildly faster horses and slightly better guns are just not that enthralling, and they certainly don’t seem worth the thousands of hours of grinding the game demands for them.
Something has to change, and fast, or Rockstar risks losing a healthy playerbase for this mode before it even gets off the ground. I’ve reached to Rockstar for comment about the current state of the economy and future microtransactions, and will update if I hear back.