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Red Dead Online players want Rockstar to change the game’s economy

Gold bars and a grind for money aren’t sitting well with some

Red Dead Online - three people riding down the main drag of Van Horn Trading Post Rockstar Games
Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

Red Dead Redemption 2 players started exploring the Wild West together with the launch of Red Dead Online’s beta earlier this week, and they were soon met with the cold, harsh reality of the game’s economy. Missions and multiplayer modes pay out a pittance, and many of Red Dead Online’s purchasable items, upgrades and customizations cost considerable amounts of money.

Some of the more egregious examples, players say, are customizations for simple items like your character’s starter pistol. As noted in a popular thread on Reddit, customizing the basic revolver to be all black costs a whopping 12 gold bars. By some estimates, it takes roughly eight hours of play in Red Dead Online to earn a single gold bar, which would make a simple-looking upgrade a huge time investment. Upgrading a rifle costs nearly twice the number of gold bars, and a fully decked-out tent can cost 112 gold bars.

And while buying horse insurance for your first horse is cheap (and essential), insurance for another horse will cost you multiple gold bars (the amount depends on the quality of said horse).

Gold bars are Red Dead Online’s premium and rarer currency. You can earn gold nuggets through gameplay, and earning 100 gold nuggets will net you one gold bar. Rockstar also plans to sell gold bars for real money at some point for “cosmetic items like Camp décor, or a special style for your weapons,” though the company hasn’t announced pricing.

Beyond gold bars is the matter of dollars and cents, and many players are blanching at the high cost of new weapons. A Mauser pistol in Red Dead Online runs $1,000, even though its real-world equivalent was apparently being sold for just $35 during the game’s time period. Activities in Red Dead Online pay out a few dollars at a time, and some people have complained of playing for more than a dozen hours but only having a couple hundred dollars to show for it.

There are more efficient moneymaking opportunities, however. You might want to check out our quick guide to making money fast in Red Dead Online, which can lead to better guns, which can lead to better pelts, which can lead to more money.

But some players have expressed frustration that playing Red Dead Online can feel like a grind or even a second job. “Increase Payout for missions, game modes, and stranger quest then most of our problems will be solved,” one Reddit user complained. “I shouldn’t have to waste 4-10 minutes to make $4-$6 and have my funds be wasted on bullets, food for me, food for my horse, camp costs, and stable costs. Spending more than I make!”

It’s a somewhat valid concern; to keep your character, your horse and your weapons in good working order, you’ll need to spend cash on sustenance items, like food, shelter and gun oil, or you’ll perform worse.

“Shouldn’t have to pay money for your camp,” one player wrote. “It’s a fucking blanket on the ground and a couple empty barrels.”

Others feel the pricing for in-game items is simply inconsistent and out of whack. “A gold wedding ring sells for $1.15,” a player said in another popular Reddit thread. “A can of baked beans costs $1.50.” This has led to jokes that shopkeepers are sitting on stacks of gold bars based on the high price of beans.

Then there are some players who seem perfectly fine with how Rockstar is handling Red Dead Online’s economy, and that as long as real-money microtransactions don’t interfere with the game’s balance, it’s too early to complain.

“So many people jumping the gun without the facts,” a member of the GTA Forums wrote. “They play one game and lose and get $1 and base the whole experience off that. [...] At rank 12 and got like $300, bought upgrades for my horse, bought 2 abilities, bought a couple of hats, bought 2 jackets and I still have a heap of cash. As long as [microtransactions] play a purely cosmetic role then I’m not bothered. As soon as it turns [pay to win] though I’m out.

“Everyone’s crying wolf before the wolf has even come. Play the game and enjoy it while it’s not p2w and give your feedback to rockstar about [microtransactions]. Who cares about a blooming jacket[?]”

One other aspect of Red Dead Online’s economy is that Rockstar is clearly playing a long game here. After five successful years of Grand Theft Auto Online, the company knows that many players will stick with its games for hundreds or thousands of hours, and the online economy may balance out for those dedicated players.

It’s also early days for Red Dead Online. Rockstar has labeled the online component of Red Dead Redemption 2 a beta, and the developer promises ongoing updates. It’s also actively soliciting feedback about Red Dead Online’s beta, which many cash-strapped players have no doubt provided already.