Players Are Already Upset About Red Dead Online’s Economy

Players Are Already Upset About Red Dead Online’s Economy

Red Dead Online‘s beta launched this week, and fans have finally been able to play Rockstar’s next big online game after the mega-successful GTA Online. The initial impressions have been mostly positive, but one aspect of the game that is under a lot of scrutiny is the in-game economy.

Are prices too high? Is it too grindy? Will it be fair for those who prefer not to spend real world cash on in-game microtransactions? It’s too soon to tell, but so far, the economy of Red Dead Online feels unbalanced.

Fans have been worried about microtransactions since before Red Dead Online launched. Some joked about “Wolf Cards,” a reference to the divisive Shark Cards that can be purchased in GTA Online for real money. Some GTA players feel that Shark Cards are the reason GTAO has seen in-game prices on new content skyrocket.

These fears aren’t completely without merit: Evidence shows that over the last five years prices have indeed risen on cars and other items in GTA Online.

Horse reviver costs $9.50

Red Dead Online‘s economy is different from GTA Online‘s economy in a few key ways. One of the first and most obvious differences is the prices and rewards players receive. Many items in stores cost a few in-game bucks or even less than a dollar, in keeping with the economy of the old West, where a few dollars could go a long way. Many missions and activities payout only three or five dollars.

In GTA Online, the payouts and costs are in the thousands and millions.

The other major difference is that Red Dead Online includes two currencies. Cash is the easiest to earn and is rewarded when completing missions, playing competitive modes and selling animal pelts or fish. The other currency is gold, which functions more like a premium currency found in games like Rainbow Six Siege. Gold bars are used for various things in RDO.

Players can use gold bars to buy special cosmetic items, unlock certain items faster, or even to reset their morality meter, which can be useful for players who want to always be a good cowpoke or a nasty cowpoke.

Gold will be purchasable in the future, once Rockstar turns on the in-game store, but we don’t know what the price of gold packs will be or how they will be sold. In the current beta, players can earn gold nuggets by completing missions, finding treasures or playing PvP modes online. Once a player has earned 100 nuggets, they get a bar of gold.

Getting gold bars is currently a grind. Reddit user UnavailableIDs calculated that it will take most players about eight hours to earn one gold bar. Some in-game items and weapon modifications can only be bought using these gold bars, and some of them are very expensive.

For example, if you want to completely change each metal piece on the starting rifle it will cost 30 gold bars, which currently could take 200+ hours to earn. Another gold-only purchase is horse insurance. While your first horse is insurable without gold, future horses cost five gold bars to insure.

Getting insurance on a horse allows it to heal for free and automatically when it dies; otherwise uninsured horses have a small cost and two-minute wait time before they are healed from death.

If used wisely, a premium currency can let developers price wackier, more elaborate or unnecessary cosmetic items with these currencies while not disrupting the in-game economy too much. GTA Online‘s lack of a premium currency is one of the reasons why things started getting more expensive.

Everything players did earned them the only currency in the game, making it easy for players to grind, buy or exploit their way to high-end items. In theory a premium currency can be a way to have special items that players have to pay for while still having items that players can earn in-game for free.

In Red Dead Online, gold-only items like horse insurance don’t seem like unnecessary cosmetics. They seem important to the game, and locking them behind hard-to-get gold bars feels like a poor way to implement a premium currency.

A high level fishing lure that players can buy early with gold

Rockstar has stated on their website that gold bars will be used to unlock cosmetic items, like decorations for your camp. But in the current RDO beta there are items that can be bought with gold, like a fishing lure or some crafting pamphlets.

These items aren’t going to break the competitive balance of a match or a mission, but they’re more than just cosmetics. None of the items you unlock early are powerful weapons or unfair armour, but having the functionality at all to unlock stuff early using gold in game is worrying.

If not properly balanced, it could lead to a situation where players willing to fork over cash for gold could get an advantage over players unwilling to engage in microtransactions.

Fans are concerned, sharing memes and posts about how Rockstar is using gold bars in Red Dead Online. The fear is this will unbalance the game and force free players to grind for days just to get the gold needed to buy some of these items.

The cash and gold rewards for getting 2nd place in a horse race

Apart from their anger about gold bars in RDO, players are also upset with the lack of high-paying missions, especially when they think that many in-game items are too expensive. One particularly expensive item is the Mauser pistol, which cost $1000 in-game dollars.

After playing for about 15 hours I only have $380). Missions and deathmatches tend to pay out no more than five or 10 dollars, with many paying far less. Hunting and fishing don’t pay out much until you level up higher and unlock better lures and rifles. Even then, the payouts for perfect pelts and big fish are only around two to 10 bucks.

Players feel like the economy of Red Dead Online is broken, with fans on Reddit and GTA Forums sharing their frustration. Some of what they’re sharing is funny, like the fact that in Red Dead Online a can of beans costs more than a gold wedding ring. “We make money like it’s 1899 and everything is priced like its 2018,” one Reddit user wrote. “Jesus christ, if I wanted to deal with a shitty wage/cost-of-living ratio then I’d walk out my fucking front door.”

Money being hard to come by is even more of a problem given how many mundane activities require money. In RDO, you have to clean your weapons with gun oil, buy ammo, feed your horses, and pay a fee to have a camp.

These tasks require purchasing things, and if you can’t afford them, you’ll be at a disadvantage, with a character whose health will be lower, a horse that can’t run as fast and guns that do less damage. This has some players feeling like they have to grind for petty cash just to survive.

Of course this is a beta; things will certainly change. Once you complete the few story missions that are available right now, you really only have stranger missions to do, some deathmatch and racing variants, and some fishing and hunting. It is very possible that in the future Rockstar will add heists, bounty hunting, poker, and more.

These activities and events could pay out better. They might even pay out gold, fixing the grind for gold issue. It also very possible that Rockstar will rebalance the economy, maybe lowering prices or making it a little easier to earn gold. Kotaku has contacted Rockstar and asked about future gold prices and the Red Dead Online economy, but has not heard back in time for publication.

Right now, many Red Dead Online players feels like the game is a grind with not much to actually grind for. It’s a similar feeling many, including myself, had when GTA Online first launched. Veterans of that game will be familiar with grinding missions like Violent Duct over and over again for hours just so they could buy an apartment. GTA Online eventually added more ways to earn money, but for many fans it also became too expensive.

Hopefully Red Dead Online can avoid that scenario.


  • The fear is this will unbalance the game and force free players to grind for days just to get the gold needed to buy some of these items.

    A minor quibble but these aren’t actually free players, they’ve all paid $50-100 for this game. A nitpick to be sure but I’m concerned about how normalised MT in AAA gaming is becoming.

    • While I do agree that microtransactions shouldn’t be normalised in AAA games, people paid for RDR2, not RDO. It’s a distinction Rockstar made with how they advertised GTAO and I’m sure how they advertise RDO. The online portion is “free” with the main game.

      • Not really, that’s argument is kind of sophistry.

        If I wanted to “buy” RDO the only option is to buy RDR2, which is demonstrably not free.

        By referring to them as two separate products and bundling them you create a sense of value in the consumer but that’s about it, they’re still paid products.

        • So, if you buy a bottle of coke, you pay the normal price for it and it comes with a free glass, are you paying for the glass or is it free? Yes, there’s no way of getting the bottle without buying the coke, but it’s free, no extra cost.

          • If I want to buy that glass then yes it’s not free. I might not even like coke, but buy a few for the cheap glassware.

            There are two products and if I only want one I still need to buy it. Even if I do want both I still have to buy it. This is the case regardless of the product.

            There’s a saying in life, nothing is really free.

      • people paid for RDR2, not RDO

        Show me a way to play RDO without purchasing RDR2, then your argument has validity. Also, RDRO has always been a component of this game, it was announced during the games reveal, thus has always been part of the package. People paid for RDR2 and RDRO. This goes all the way back to the fallacy of GTAV “I paid for the single player game only”, the fact is, people paid for the game that was announced, both single and multi were parts of the announced package, therefor, that’s the product you purchased, not the parts you wanted to pay selective attention to.

  • I was pleasantly surprised when the single player game wasn’t a blatant recruiting tool for the online. But just as I was starting to think that I might actually give the online mode a try, this happens.

    I’ll stick to the lovely, slow, meditative experience peppered with occasionally weird, fun stuff in the main game.

  • Hunting is my jam in RDR2:SP, so I was looking to engage in that RDR2:O.

    Nup. Fuck that. The cheapest sniper rifles cost a thousand bucks. I was able to earn around ten in an hour of roaming around and hunting (and getting repeatedly shot by randoms who I was not shooting back at, as I tried to collect animal corpses). I kept getting money deducted from my account on stable fees and camp fees, not to mention what I had to spend on consumables, because what you can find in all those little gang camps has either been dramatically reduced from SP, or they’re eternally picked clean by other players.

    Wake me when the economy’s fixed.

    • Not to mention there is very little reason to actually hunt. Even if I save up enough for the bow and craft improved arrows and carefully track and kill a perfect *insert animal here*, as you said, some asshat is going to kill me before I get to sell them. Best to just blast away close to town so if and when you are killed you haven’t lost an hours worth of work.

      • I managed to kill a perfect buck with a repeater (ended up with just ‘good’, naturally). Put the entire carcass (worth more than the pelt) on the back of my horse and hoofed it to the butcher for a quick sale… got randomly disconnected. Logged back in, everything in my pouch was fine, all the rabbit pelts and plucked feathers, etc, but my buck was gone off my horse. 🙁

        At least I could get a varmint rifle early, but fuck me, the griiiiiiiind… they clearly intend for you to take months if not years to achieve what only takes a few weeks in single-player.

  • Prob is R* has already balanced the crap out of GTAO so its a grind and Shark cards become more appealing to some folks.
    You can bet that same balancing has already been applied to RDO and it will just be tweaking from here on out.

    • A friend of mine actually broke it down pretty well, the cost of a house was like 1 million and to get that you had to grind for like 4 hours or buy a shark card that cost $25, so his logic was go to work for four hours pay for the shark card and come out on top.

      • Yeah, most long term players will also tell you that basic grinding is a no no, you stock up your businesses and wait for a X2 cash event.
        Even heists, if you have already completed them and received the standard bonuses, there is no practical reason to do them again, they don’t make money as fast as other activities on their own.

        Personally I wait(ed) for x2 car import/export events.
        I found if you filled your warehouse with shit cars and then only sold the best ones, every pickup mission was a high value car
        (And it was still a slog anyway)

  • Seemed like the price increases in GTA:O were inversely proportional to the size of the remaining player base. At launch, lots of newer players, game was fairly well balanced. As the player base shrinks, sunk cost fallacy keeps the remaining players striving to stay on top rather than just leaving and playing something else, and by that stage there’s fewer casual players left to complain about the fact that they can’t access any of the new content. Basically, if you bought GTA and haven’t put any additional cash into the game, Rockstar doesn’t care about you at all at this stage. The remaining players have nothing to do once they’ve ranked out (so to speak – bought everything they want etc) so their priority becomes free roaming PvP. Rockstar then starts the electronic arms race, with every update having a newer, more powerful vehicle, at a higher price point than anything before, and the cycle continues ad infinitum – player base shrinks, costs go up, player base shrinks more, costs go up more, until there’s no-one left willing to pay at all and then they close the servers. They want to bleed as much as they possibly can out of their remaining GTA:O whales, and an arms race is the best way to do it.

    From the players’ perspective it’s pretty shit. But from a business perspective, who could argue with the approach? maybe an expert in business ethics, if there is such a thing, but certainly not Rockstar’s shareholders. GTA:O is the most successful entertainment product of all time. That fact alone will all but ensure the same approach with RDR2:O – but I reckon it’ll happen sooner, and more aggressively this time around. Here’s hoping I’m wrong.

  • Some people like a grind, myself included. But I prefer to do my grinding in a game like Nioh, where it isn’t tied to a blatant cash grab verging on pay-to-win.

  • I was never able to get into GTA Online because of how expensive everything was. It felt like fun was being locked behind either a long grind or real money. Shame to hear RD2 Online is heading in the same direction.

    • Yeah I dropped GTA Online pretty quickly when the bullshit levels of grind became apparent. If RDR2 ever comes to PC I don’t think I’ll bother with online at all.

  • Still baffled how people can even play past Level 10, everything after that is like moving at snail’s pace. I also can’t figure out how to search for team-based matches only, for PVP. I’ll just stick to finishing the Gambler challenges in SP.

  • Well my strategy will be wait for an enviable glitch, exploit or whatever, that gives a ton of money and XP and just grind the shit out if it till level 100 get all the achievements and never play it again.

    Then when they release dlc all that I’ll gotten money and gold bars will ensure quick completions of any future achievements.

  • Yep, it’s GTAO all over again, I hope people realize this very quickly. Given the time period of RDR2, Rockstar is going to have to be very, very creative in adding an equivalent to the vehicles they introduced in GTAO for the sole purpose of griefing, griefing which nudges people towards microtransactions.

  • Not sure what is sader, the obvious path this is heading towards P2W just like GTA, or the fact I am not even suprised.

    I give it a month before there’s gatling gun carts and special weapons for gold bar currency.

  • Feels good watching players finally revolt over this kind of crap.

    EA, BlizActi, Bethesda, Valve… We’ve had enough.

    Valve actually annoys me the most. They’re a private company (no shareholders to appease) who make money on every game sold through their store. Why not just publish top quality games at a fair value to attract customers.
    ie What Sony and Nintendo do with their first party titles.

    The greed is out of hand in our industry,

  • I was looking forward to this… I really was.

    Logged on tonight to play, played a few missions. Lag was horrendous and I was playing on a 50mb line with noone else on it. Then, every time I went to buy? I needed gold bars…

    Bloody ridiculous. After how much time I sunk into RDR multiplayer, so many damn hours, I think I’ll barely be touching this one 🙁

    Damn you Rockstar 🙁

  • Of course this is a beta; things will certainly change. Once you complete the few story missions that are available right now, you really only have stranger missions to do, some deathmatch and racing variants, and some fishing and hunting. It is very possible that in the future Rockstar will add heists, bounty hunting, poker, and more.

    I think this is a very important part of the article. It’s really hard to judge something when there are potentially more activities coming that can change the economics. I’m sure their goal with the game is not to have people play for say 20 or 30 hours then move on to something else. It’ll be like WoW where they want people playing it in 6 months or 12 months or even longer.

    So the pricing hints at two things, firstly it’s something for people to work on over a long period. And secondly, over time there are most likely going to be more lucrative possibilities added to the game. That’ll give people a chance to catch up and get the better gear.

  • I think we all knew this was going to be bad after the head of Take 2 said that he looked at GTA V and thought they were really under monetising their users.

    GTA V had a stupid amount of grind in it and the money you paid sure as hell didn’t go towards maintaining any kind of servers. It used P2P match making and they made less than one expansion packs worth of content over 5 years.

    The trend seems to be that the more money these companies make the less effort they put in.

  • Gold is definitely a grind. Most missions pay out about 0.01 – 0.03 gold. As for normal money hunting and fishing are the way to go, earned about $800 yesterday from fishing and hunting. Some animals are pretty valuable a perfect Buck carcass fetches $10 it’s pelt $3 ish plus a bother $1 for the antlers, musk rats are like $6 for pelt plus carcass. Steelhead trout are $4.25 each and you can carry 10. I usually fill up on fish then hunt on my way back to the butcher, usually get $70 – $90 in about 40 minutes (depending on other players interfering). Beats the couple of bucks from missions but you won t earn gold hunting.

  • I’ve played a fair bit of RD2:O now, and going off the several years of GTA:O i’ve played, I feel like the cash economy isn’t as horrible as everybody is making it out to be, because the most vocal about it haven’t played enough to find out that you’re given a treasure map as a reward every 5 levels, which can net upto $200 a pop.

    Now the gold bar economy I can sympathise with – but only because some of the items are locked behind gold with no cash option. Fine for cosmetic customisations, but the horse insurance only being purchasable via gold bars is just plain mean! Without it you have to use horse revivers every time your horse is critically injured and you wish to get back on it without having to go all the way back to a stable, and they cost $9.50 each.

    It will be intriguing to see as they add more mission content if this will require cash from large playtimes/real world purchases like GTA:O had, or if it will be free.

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