by, 20th November 2012 at 02:20 PM (1436 Views)
So, I was originally planning to turn this essay into my college econ class for an assignment, but then I realized I wasn't addressing the prompt, and overhauled the essay. At any rate, to avoid wasting a perfectly good essay (imo), I've decided to post it here. Enjoy! (Hopefully)
Pokénomics: The Economics of Pokémon Trading
In February of 1996, the first Pokémon games were released, and a worldwide phenomenon was born. The series’ most notable feature is the ability to have a Pokémon battle with other people playing the game. A Pokémon battle is a competition between two trainers’ (or players) Pokémon teams (a group of up to six Pokémon), and is won by knocking out the opponent’s entire team. The series’ second most notable feature is the ability to exchange, or “trade” Pokémon with other players. By trading Pokémon with friends, you could get Pokémon that were normally unobtainable on your game, or that were simply impossible to get without trading with another game. Because Pokémon can hold items (as of Pokémon’s 2nd Generation), it was also possible to trade Pokémon as a means of giving someone else an item, by attaching the desired item to a Pokémon that the other player may or may not want. An important component of this feature was that both players would have to agree on the exchange of Pokémon, or else the trade would not be completed. Similar to how spending money in a real-world economy helps to stimulate its growth, trading Pokémon with other players allows for a more competitive atmosphere, which helps both players to learn more about the game. In Pokémon’s 2nd generation, the concept of “Breeding” Pokémon was introduced. Breeding is done by putting two compatible Pokémon of opposite gender (the “parents”) into Day-Care (a in-game service by which Pokémon are trained without you actually doing anything), and leaving the parents in the Day-Care until an egg is found. This egg would eventually hatch into a Pokémon with traits and skills from both parents, some of which would be difficult or impossible to get normally. More recently, with the advent of Pokémon’s 4th generation, it was made possible to communicate online with players across the globe, which opened up the possibility of trading and battling with even more people. This feature allowed for a broader competitive atmosphere, and allowed Pokémon trading to evolve in ways it never had before.
The introduction of online communications had, among other things, the affect of bringing online Pokémon communities, such as Bulbasaur’s Mysterious Garden Forums (commonly known as Bulbagarden), much closer together. On these forums, because of the ability to trade and battle over an internet connection, threads requesting trades popped up, and eventually, “Trade Shops” were born. These Trade Shops offered a very straightforward service. The shop owner would post a thread outlining what they were willing to do, and for what price. These prices were, and still are, generally items that are either difficult to obtain in-game (such as the famed Master Ball), or would help the shop owner obtain and/or raise the Pokémon to the requested specifications. The price of a request, or order depended on a small number of factors, the first of which being how specific the order was. If an order was incredibly specific, it would take longer to obtain, therefore taking the shop owner (or their subordinates) away from processing other requests, and thus would cost more to the buyer. Another factor that would increase the price is the difficulty in obtaining the Pokémon. This factor is slightly related to how specific the order is, but is mostly concerned with whether or not the requested Pokémon has moves only available in a certain Generation (requiring one or two transfers into the current generation), inherited skills, and whether or not the requested Pokémon is classified as Legendary. Legendary Pokémon are usually only obtainable once per save file, and must be captured each time it is needed, as most Legendary Pokémon cannot be bred. The competitive usefulness and/or popularity of the Pokémon also plays a part in its price in a Trade Shop, almost the very definition of demand as it pertains to Pokémon trading. As a Pokémon becomes more popular, people are willing to pay higher prices for them, and the opposite happens when a new counter (another Pokémon which foils the first) is discovered or introduced into the meta-game.
Outside of forums, many Pokémon players also trade and battle with friends in real life. Because these interactions are between people that know each other, and adequately understand each other’s playing styles, trading economics can sometimes be a little different. For instance, unlike trade shops on forums, the price of a desired Pokémon is often another Pokémon equally valued by the other person trading, rather than a rare item. However, because both parties must agree on the terms of a trade, the “price” of a desired Pokémon can vary dramatically based on the situation. If the “other guy” knows how the desired Pokémon will be used against him, it may cause him to raise the price, simply because he knows it will be paid. This causes, in turn, the person who requested the Pokémon to rethink their reasoning, and to seek out a substitute. Assuming the trade does go forward, the other guy now has to find a counter to the Pokémon he just gave his friend. This lone trade provides a dynamic competitive environment between them, and helps them to both grow as players.
Since Pokémon was created, trading and battling have been integral parts of both the game’s motto “Gotta catch ‘em all,” and in fostering a competitive environment between players. Just as how spending money keeps a real-world economy flowing, trading Pokémon opens up a whole new level of competition and allows people to become better Pokémon players through interaction with others. Through the recent innovation of online battling and trading, this effect has been expanded, and can now take place between two people that live on opposite sides of the globe. These players can now grow as competitors as never before.
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