Virtual Economy Balancing - How To Do Effectively?

Let me start this off by being very clear about something: If you haven’t had any experience actually (And I don’t say that lightly) making a game, please do not respond to this thread. When I say that, I don’t mean the initial development process; that’s just another layer to overall game development. I would like feedback from people experienced with managing the release of a game with a consistent playerbase. In my experience, this is one of the most difficult tasks when making and planning a game.


I’m making this thread because my old game, Liftoff, had major economy balancing problems. In fact, I am 100% certain it is one of, if not THE, biggest reasons the game ultimately failed. I am in the process of developing a new game, and this is something I am set on getting right.


Just about every game has its own economy. If the game has any sort of currency system where players acquire currency and spend it, the game has its own economy. I can not, for the life of me, think of an effective way to balance this.


The economy of the game needs to make sense, in that the things players buy shouldn’t be too cheap or too expensive. How do I take into account every way to make money versus every way to spend it? Tycoons are a prime example of what I mean by this; they’re a balancing minefield. Things you are able to buy shouldn’t take too long to get, but should also take a reasonable amount of time to avoid the player progressing too fast. I genuinely have no clue how to go about this, and it seems easy, until your game flops because the economy was unbalanced and unfixable.

Testers? Forget it. I tried playtesting Liftoff 4 times for this. I specifically told the testers to look for balancing inconsistencies. All the feedback I received was predictable, generally unhelpful responses about things irrelevant to balance.

I also find it very difficult to test this internally with myself or other team members. We’re the ones making the game, we know everything about it and what to do. I can’t emulate the experience of a new player with no experience.

I realize that it’s near impossible to get balancing right on the first try. I would just like to get closer to that. I found myself, and still find myself with my new game, planning completely arbitrary number values based on close to nothing.


How do I balance the economy of my game while taking into account every possible income source and every possible way of spending money?


I will note that there are a ton of articles online about tips, common mistakes, and generally just stories from other games - if you haven’t done your research yet, get started. Game economies can be very complex - there’s a reason some AAA studios hire actual economists into their teams. However, there’s thing that you can do that can give you a better understanding if you’re willing to work hard and put the time in. I need you to understand that none of this is easy :stuck_out_tongue:

  1. Have some design rules put in place. For the 2018 Egg Hunt, our collectible currency (gold eggs) was fairly common, but we set a fairly firm limit to how many spawn in each world (with exception for the last world), as well as a spawn timer of 24 hours. In testing we altered this number when we found testers weren’t collecting as many as we liked.

  2. Test more than four times. Hell, make an open alpha just with bare-bone economy mechanics (so testers don’t give you feedback on irrelevant stuff) if it’s that pivotal - and test dozens of times. You’re shooting in the dark without thorough testing. Wipe the data after each session, and communicate what exactly you’re testing and why. Starscape’s dev team found some unbalanced economy mechanics in their open beta and are wiping all data before launch, which has been a brilliant move on their part.

  3. Iterate. Accept that you won’t get it right the first time and keep a watchful eye for when players start exploiting an unbalanced economy mechanic and fix it quickly (and have a plan to fix it quickly). Design your economy with some fail-safes - money sinks such as extremely rare cosmetic items can help, but aren’t foolproof.

I will mention that my education is specifically in marketing, which is more focused on how users spend money more than the system of how it moves around at a higher level, so this is all observation and personal experience. Take what I say with a grain of salt, and defer to expert-written articles (or videos!) you certainly can find elsewhere.


Thanks for response. I’ve been watching talks and doing research for a few hours and I can say this is more in depth than I originally anticipated, but I am more than willing to get this right.

As for testers: You are 100% right. Four times is no where near enough, and in a way, we shot ourselves in the foot with that. We wanted to wipe data after we finally got some sort of usable feedback, but we didn’t make an Alpha or Beta version of the game. We didn’t specify whether or not the game was still in testing, so we couldn’t wipe data because people had already spent tens of thousands of Robux.

I’m going to mark this response as a solution because I doubt anyone will have a better answer than this, but I’m going to keep an eye out and keep researching. Thanks.