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Behind the Grassroots Campaign to Fix Red Dead Online's Broken Economy

The economy is broken and players are partnering up to fix it.

Feature by Matt Kim, .

Red Dead Online has only been live for less than a week and already all anyone can talk about is the game's economy, which encourages grinding and is stacked against the player. But rather than just sit around and complain, players are organizing with one another to send feedback to Rockstar to let them know about their economic hardships.

In the wild world of Red Dead Online making money is hard and everything is expensive. Players can earn cents and dollars completing missions, competing online, or selling resources like animal pelts, but the payouts rarely cover even just the necessities. And that's not getting into the really good items like new guns or clothes.

There's also the matter of gold bars, which are a separate currency from the standard dollar. The eventual plan is for gold bars to serve as Red Dead Online's premium currency which can be purchased using real money when the online stores go live. Until then, players can earn gold bars by collecting gold nuggets. A hundred nuggets will automatically convert to one gold bar.

After taking into account the rate at which players can earn gold nuggets, Reddit user UnavailableIDs calculated that it will take eight hours to earn one gold bar. Or put into perspective, an important online item is Horse Insurance which lets your horse heal up for free if it dies. The first horse insurance is free, but each one afterwards will cost five gold bars, or 40 hours of grinding. Without horse insurance, players will have to pay a small dollar-fee and wait two minutes before a horse is healed, making insurance more than just a simple cosmetic feature.

Enter the Red Dead Redemption subreddit, which has been narrowing in on Red Dead Online's economy as more players gain access to the online beta in Rockstar's staggered release schedule. Microtransactions (or "Micahtransactions" as it's being called, after the unpleasant side-character in Red Dead Redemption 2) are the subject of many threads of complaints, jokes and memes, and suggestions on how to improve the economy.

But rather than just share jokes and complain on the public forum, there appears to be some kind of grassroots efforts to get redditors to redirect their frustrations directly at Rockstar through the proper channels. As Red Dead Online is a beta, Rockstar set up a feedback page. And that's where players are going to make sure their voices on the online economy are heard.

"A lot of users were upset by the in-game prices and were linking Rockstar's Mouthoff page, unaware that Rockstar had created a feedback page specifically for Red Dead Online, so we're doing our best to publicize that," Red Dead Redemption reddit moderator u/OcelotWolf tells USgamer in a direct message.

Several members of the community, including on the moderation team, have been posting in various threads about the online economy to send feedback to Rockstar. Moderators on the subreddit have added bolded links to Rockstar's feedback page and are sticking them to threads dedicated to discussing Red Dead Online's economy.

Some redditors, in addition to submitting feedback to Rockstar, are now also ensuring others do as well, turning the endeavor into a small grassroots campaign. One user even posted this GIF to let others know they've joined in on the feedback effort.

"Often, when a [game] developer does something that its community doesn't agree with, you'll see all kinds of memes and complaints on Reddit," says u/OcelotWolf. "The question is, do they serve a purpose? Maybe indirectly, if they raise awareness, but unless the company sees the response and decides that it wasn't the response they were hoping for, then nothing will come of it.

"Here we're seeing countless opinions being posted to our subreddit, and I think everyone wants to make sure that these opinions are heard and not lost in the void, so to speak."

The coordinated effort to get members of the Red Dead Redemption subreddit to direct their complaints to Rockstar via official channels is interesting to see. Players are utilizing the available options they have as customers; blending internet humor with actual action. It's noticeable in a time when major releases like Fallout 76 and Red Dead Online are releasing to mixed reception. Especially as the ongoing debate around microtransactions recontextualizes what video game customers will and will not tolerate from publishers.

We'll have to wait and see how Rockstar will introduce Red Dead Online's microtransactions, and whether a similar inflation problem will occur in Red Dead Online as it did in Grand Theft Auto Online. In the meantime, we will continue to monitor Red Dead Online and all of its many moving parts.

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