Red Dead Online is only in its beta phase, and has only been accessible for a few days, but players are already criticizing the game's economy.
While it was always fairly obvious that the game would feature some form of microtransactions, the cost of buying in-game appears blatantly geared to "encourage" players to buy in. A recent Reddit thread exploded after someone pointed out that A gold wedding ring sells for $1.15. A can of baked beans costs $1.50.
Rockstar, before launching the beta, pointed out that this is a transitional period and that player feedback will be incorporated into changes made before final release. As it stands, the economy seems so broken that it is possible to play one's self into bankruptcy. However, due to the separation of regular and premium currency, meaning that when microtransactions go live you'll only be able to buy Gold, not regular money, things having a high dollar cost makes no sense.
To illustrate one of the main issues, one user brought the example of winning a free-for-all shootout. His reward for beating 31 other players every round? $22. That apparently isn't even enough to cover the ammo costs. In Red Dead Online, ammo is universal, meaning you don't have a separate pool for instanced PvP. If you play game modes that don't take place in free roam, you still bring your own ammo.
This means that it is possible to go virtually bankrupt. If you end up without enough money to buy ammo, you'll be severely hindered in your ability to make money at all. Food items and general consumables have incredibly high prices compared to the rate at which money can be earned.
Equipment used to acquire goods to sell, like ammo for hunting or lures and fishing poles for fishing, cost significantly more than is possible to earn with any such activity, even after a very long period of time.
Players describe instinctively looting everything and yet having almost nothing to sell, because consumable drops are much rarer than in single player, meaning they end up using all looted consumables. The cost of absolutely everything is so prohibitive that the most basic of general store items require actual grinding to afford, let alone significant items like horses or weapons.
You can only sell things for extremely low amounts of cash, but the purchase prices are infinitely higher. It feels like the sell prices adhere to the era in which the game is set, but if you want to buy stuff, you'll need to pay prices that are more befitting of the modern era.
With the large-scale controversy that this has kicked up, including the mentioned Reddit thread that has accrued almost 30,000 upvotes, over 2,000 comments and was given Gold twice, it is likely that Rockstar will address this issue. Players have calculated that it takes an average of eight hours to farm together a single gold bar. To fully customize a rifle you might need to spend 30 bars of gold. You can do the math...
The fact that many items can't be bought with gold at all makes this grinding economy seem like a particularly odd choice. Even if you pay real money, you can't earn regular in-game currency faster, so what's the deal? It's almost certain that prices will be adjusted by the time of a final release for Red Dead Online, especially if you take the time to give Rockstar feedback through their site set up specifically for Red Dead Online beta testing contact.
In the meantime, since the beta is now open to all players, you might be interested in our money making guide to make things just a tad easier.