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"Lamp oil, rope, bombs? You want it? It's yours, my friend, as long as you have enough rubies!"
"You know, I didn't have a lot of business before you started coming in my shop."
Beedle starts catching on...

So you're in a city. Its inhabitants number in the thousands, and they obviously have (or had, if no longer alive) all sorts of material needs. Scattered all over the place are dozens of vending machines, replicators, general stores, street bazaars, drugstores or what have you. You'd think there would be all sorts of items available from them, ranging from household tools to silverware, from snacks to common equipment, from plain clothes to flowers, et cetera.

Instead, due to the Law of Conservation of Detail, all they seem to be able to provide are items the player needs: weapons, ammo, armor and medkits. The occasional snack might be included, but only if it regenerates health.

No wonder there's trouble and strife when shotguns, machine guns, and RPGs are all the inhabitants can buy.

Alternatively, you're in a teeny tiny town with a handful of civilians. There's half-a-dozen houses, and a couple of shops. But the only thing they will sell is the things you need for your quests, like weapons, Healing Potions, and pokeballs. You'd think that everybody in the town would starve to death.

Or maybe, there are all sorts of things in the shop, but the only things you can buy are things relevant to the game. An Acceptable Break From Reality, as few people would like searching through a shop full of Vendor Trash items to find something that actually has use in the game.

See also Adam Smith Hates Your Guts and No Hero Discount. For games where you are involved in a multiplayer economy, see Player-Generated Economy.

Examples of An Economy Is You include:

Action Adventure Games

  • The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time. How many of Hyrule's population needs magic refilling potions or Goron tunics?
    • The guidebooks for Ocarina of Time Handwaves the Goron Tunic by stating that Hylians used to mine in the area, but it's a flimsy justification.
    • In The Legend of Zelda merchants only sold three items each, and they were strictly limited to items Link might need.
    • In The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess, you can actually see items for sale in a market, and you can pick them up... But Link always puts them right back, for various reasons.
      • It's later lampshaded, in the Oocca shop in City In The Sky. The text below each item boils down to "Why do we even have these?"
      • Also in Twilight Princess, Link is single-handedly responsible for financing the repairs to a Broken Bridge. The man standing on the street in Castle Town doesn't seem to be collecting money from anybody else.
    • The trope is taken to the extreme when items that Link will only need to purchase once (eg. Deku shield at the start of Ocarina of Time) become 'sold out'. Not only is the stock limited to things that help Link, it seems they will sell them to no-one but Link, and as such don't replenish their stock once he's bought them.
    • Trope doesn't stop there: whenever Link loses that Deku shield to a fire or Like-Like, the shopkeeper will replenish his stock.
    • Don't forget the most Egregious example in Ocarina Of Time: the Magic Beans. The only person that buys them is you, and there's a 10-rupee difference between each you buy. And the seller talks about them as if their popularity increased exponentially with each bean sold.
    • It takes a little bit to even explain how much the auction house is this in The Legend of Zelda the Wind Waker. Everything that's up for auction is something Link can use. There's things up for sale that people besides Link might want or need, but Link is the only one who will need all of them. Everybody will bid on something, even if it's something they probably couldn't use (why did that gossipy older lady just buy a treasure map when she probably doesn't have a boat?). But where it really smashes headlong into this is the fact that if anybody besides you wins the auction, you can leave the room and come back to find that they returned it to the auction for literally no reason and more often than not the person who bought and returned it is at the auction bidding on it again. The item will always be returned to the auction house until you win it.
    • In The Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword, Beedle lampshades this when you look at one of his "Sold Out" signs, and Peatrice the Item Check girl develops a crush on Link as no one else in Skyloft is using her services and she initially thinks he's constantly visiting specifically to see her.
  • Averted in River City Ransom: A wide range of completely normal items can be purchased, and they all give stat increases. Unfortunately, the only way to find out exactly what an item does is to buy it.
    • But played straight with the secret magic shop in the underpass. Everything in the store is explicitly designed for combat, so did they set up shop and wait for years until some student decided he needed to lay waste to a rival school with a sword?

First-Person Shooter

  • System Shock 2: inside the Von Braun, all replicators sell only tools of death, gameplay-related hardware and (health-boosting) food. The only exception are video game cartridges.
    • Slightly justified because replicators simply turn currency from Nanomachines into products according to the user's profile, you are a soldier, and the Mega Corp that sponsored the Von Braun may well be money-hungry enough to sell soldiers bullets from vending machines.
  • Spiritual successor Bioshock is exactly the same (minus the videogame cartridges). Except in this case there is a machine that is explicitly for selling ammo. You'd think that firearms wouldn't be allowed to begin with inside an underwater city with big glass windows all over the place.
    • Pah. That's just the kind of short-sighted hand-holding you'd expect from government.
    • It's ok because no matter what weapons you have, you can only break the windows you are supposed to. Many games have glass (and walls and wooden doors, etc.) that even an RPG can't penetrate.
  • Borderlands has this as well. There are ammo, weapon, and medical vending machines, and while it does make sense that living on Pandora would require such a thing, there's never any sign of any place selling the other necessities of life, like food and water.


  • The Thorntail Hollow shop in Star Fox Adventures does sell things that the locals would consider food (Dumbledang Pods and Grubtub Fungus), though both are available for free from the trees and standing around on the ground. It's just as well, then, that the entrance seems designed to keep out Thorntails and Earthwalkers. No wonder he's considering moving...

Role-Playing Games

  • Played to some degree Baldur's Gate 2 in Waukeen's promenade: there are several doors where clicking on them informs you that these shops contain furniture, earthenware and other sundries useless to an adventurer; however, you can only enter the shops that sell useful stuff.
  • Nearly every town in any Dragon Quest game has an item shop, weapon shop, and armor shop, yet it seems the hero, and/or his/her party, are the only ones who would ever need such things.
    • Although it's played with in Dragon Quest IV, where you get to play as Taloon, one of the guys who works in these stores, and you see a whole bunch of NPC adventurers come through to buy and sell.
  • Pokémon has tiny villages with just a couple of houses and shop that sells nothing but Pokemon catching items. The only place you can buy anything not Pokemon related is the massive department store in the big city (Celadon, Goldenrod, etc.), and that one shop that sells bicycles so expensive that they cost more than your body weight in gold - in fact, they cost more than the maximum capacity of your wallet (yet will eventually give one away for free if you ask nicely).
    • Platinum features two bars and a restaurant. All of which are filled with people that want to fight you, and only one of the bars will sell you liquid refreshment: Moo-Moo Milk, which is used to heal Pokemon.....
    • At least that generation has a grocery department selling normal food(but not to you) in the department store town. The closest mention to people food in the earlier generations was the vending machine drinks you gave to the thirsty guard.
      • There was a restaurant in Celadon, but they were eternally in the middle of an eating contest and couldn't serve you.
      • For all we know, every place sells other stuff, but the PC only cares about things related to Pokemon training.
      • The Pokemart shelves are completely stocked with merchandise you can't even look at. So that could be "normal" items like food and clothes.
  • Lampshaded in Jade Empire when you ask one particular merchant if he has any weapons or magic items:

 Merchant Chiu: "I have a cloak so warm it's like a weapon against the cold. I have a scrubber so good that it cleans like magic."

Spirit Monk: "You don't actually have anything I'd want, do you?"

    • Further lampshaded by the Magic Abacus, a celestial bureaucrat with the job of making sure the items you need are conveniently available exactly when you need them. He cuts corners by selling them to you himself (and overcharging for them).
  • In the first chapter of Neverwinter Nights: Shadows of Undrentide, it is heavily implied that the village herbalist sells things ordinary people actually use in addition to adventuring gear, but he only sells you adventuring gear.
    • Completely averted in the fan-made expansion A Dance With Rogues; as there are shops in Betancuria that buy or sell only clothing, and one merchant in the southern portion of the city sells only dyes. You even get to go into a tea shop, but that is because the proprietor is a weapons instructor in his spare time and will train you to fight in his basement, you don't actually get to buy anything.
  • In Mass Effect Noveria has only a weapon/armor shop. On the Citadel, the marketplace has multiple shopkeepers but you're only allowed to talk to the ones that sell weapons. In the sequel, you can actually buy all kinds of touristy things, including light reading, model ships and tropical fish for your aquarium.
    • And alien porn!
  • Lampshaded in Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Ring of Fates: you are the only thing keeping the magic shop in business.
  • Most Final Fantasy and similar games follow this trope to a T; however, in an interesting addition, Final Fantasy VII let you spend the insane amount of cash you get while grinding to beat the Weapon bonus bosses by buying a villa. It's totally useless except for Bragging Rights (and a place to store a particular useless item you can collect several times).
    • Not quite completely useless - it's a free inn. Which means that after just a few hundred thousand uses, it will have paid for itself...
      • But there's already a free inn on-board the Highwind!
  • Final Fantasy IV the After Years is especially notable. Some towns can be visited in several chapters, and in each one of them the shop's contents change to suit whoever you're controlling. For example in Porom's chapter Mysidia's shops sell mage gear, while in Edge's chapter, while you control one of Edge's students who's spying, it sells Ninja gear. When both chapters happen simultaneously in-story. And that same shop sold Paladin gear in the original game. Of course the likely explanation is that the shop actually carries everything and the interface is showing only the gear that interests you.
  • Persona 4 features a modern day, rural Japanese village as the setting, yet the item shop sells things like Vanish Balls, which serve as a guaranteed escape from combat, and GoHoMs, which teleport you out of the dungeons nobody else in the world knows about. Who in the village would ever need these?
    • Justified in Persona 3, where some of the shopkeepers are actually involved in the incident that created the dungeon our heroes explore.
    • Magical gear in both games are implied (and at one point in P3, stated outright) to be seemingly mundane trinkets, medicine, junk food, and weapons that become magical or unnaturally effective in the hands of persona-users or in alternate dimensions like the TV World. The TV World in particular runs on the kind of fictional logic that demands items from an item shop do amazing things for those playing hero.
    • Shops at the beginning of both parts of Persona 2 sell food, clothing, and other mundane items, generally averting this trope, but you can spread rumors that make various shops carry weapons and armor, among other things. And you're probably not the only one buying this stuff, given the escalating chaos over the course of the games.
  • A prime example is in Lufia II, where a certain town contains a shop that deals only in items the main character has sold previously in the game. This despite the fact the character in question has never visited the town or even that particular continent before. Even the other NPCs are a little confused by this one.
  • In King's Field II, any and all items sold by the character can be bought back... from the gravedigger in the starting town.
  • Justified in Recettear, because the town involved is actually a haven for adventurers, so you have to sell them the stuff they need.
  • Similar to the Final Fantasy VII example above, you can buy your own home in Terranigma. Furniture is sold separately.

Turn-Based Strategy

  • In Nobunaga's Ambition 2: Lord of Darkness for the SNES, the only things you can buy ACROSS THE WHOLE OF JAPAN are guns, rice, teacups and (in battle situations) horses. Sure, the platform has its programming limitations, but what about sushi? Fish? Bows? Arrows? Sake? Do they all walk around naked? All that gold and huge castles, with no place for the average Japanese to live.
  • Parodied in the Disgaea series, where the general store does sell things other than weapon or armor, but they're all either usable items or accessories you can equip.

Wide Open Sandbox

  • The only shops open for business in Grand Theft Auto 3 were gun shops.
    • Somewhat averted in Vice City, where more types of shops were open for robbery, and averted again in Vice City Stories, where some shops were open for protection racket.
    • Grand Theft Auto IV averted this. Just about everything that one would expect to be open for business, actually is. Bars, bowling alleys, fast food places, clothing stores, strip clubs, etc (although only two or three of each in the whole of New York Liberty City...) No grocery stores though.

Exceptions, games where you can buy items that normal people would use, but are useless to the player:

Adventure Games

  • In some of the Quest for Glory games there are people who sell stuff you either don't need or do need but not for anything immediately apparent. They also sell stuff you don't need but presumably the hero doesn't buy it because he doesn't need it.
    • Indeed, in Quest for Glory I, when you try to buy something available at the Dry Goods store that your character doesn't need, the clerk will say:

  "Oh, you don't want those. They're for the people who live here in town. Adventurers just need adventuring equipment."

    • Quest for Glory 2 actually has a number of merchant stalls that sell things the player cannot buy, specifically because the game does not allow you to, stating that you wouldn't really need or want it, or have anywhere to put it. By the end of your time in Shapeir, the character keeps getting obscene amounts of cash with nothing to spend it on except for tons of recovery pills (which are a lot more expensive in Quest for Glory 3); all of the money is lost at one point in Raseir. The fan remake actually does allow the player to buy useless things to decorate their inn room, purely as a money sink.
      • The alleyways of Shapeir in the fan remake are also littered with additional merchants to give the illusion of a functioning city although the game won't let you buy anything from them, stating you don't need it.
    • On the other hand, Quest for Glory 3 has a large marketplace, in which you have to buy every single thing that is for sale, for use later on. The game gets much, much shorter once you realize that.


  • In Tibia all the major cities have furniture stores, and some have shops for musical instruments, flowers, party goods and a bar. The best equipment isn't available nor sellable in shops. Of course, the mass amount of player houses gives use for the furniture stores, but most of the other stores are there just for the show.
  • In World of Warcraft, there is a variety of vendors selling items that have no real use for players other than maybe roleplay reasons (wedding dressings, wedding rings, seasonal clothing) or achievements (seasonal clothing again). One of the probably most Egregious examples is a casket of wine that ages over the course of year. What's the difference? None.
  • While they are obtained, rather than bought, Dungeons and Dragons Online acknowledges the wider world outside the players with a similar mechanic. In one low-level quest, the players can break into the safety deposit boxes in a bank and loot things that have no impact on their quest, like mirrors and other heirlooms with very little actual value (though in a way this is played straight, as even the fanciest of the items you can loot have values that pale in comparison to even a +1 sword).
  • Ultima Online of course. Not really surprising given the depth of the game. Food (not of the healing kind), furniture, cutlery... Of course, it still is a nice (kind of inverted) example of An Economy Is You in that all the consumers (and most suppliers as well) are still players. It's just that there are loads of stuff unrelated to adventuring. Some custom servers are quite extreme examples of this aversion (mostly the ones more oriented on role playing).

Role-Playing Games

  • In Morrowind and Oblivion there's plenty of junk in the game's stores, most of which is entirely useless to the player. You can't even sell a bunch of it in Oblivion, so those poor silverware makers are presumedly completely broke.
    • Additionally, a lot of Morrowind's alchemy ingredients/potions tend to double as what might pass as food in Vvardefell: Kwama eggs, scrib jelly, saltrice, raw glass...
    • Oblivion took the "food" part farther, featuring a large number of alchemy ingredients that are actual foods or consumables: cheese, potatoes, carrots, lettuce, tobacco, etc.
      • Stores sell things ranging from food (the effect of which is fairly useless unless one has multiple ranks of alchemy) non-magical clothes and jewelry, and books (most of which are not skill books) to the standard weapons, armor, and magical items.
    • Daggerfall requires Pawn Shops to get rid of some of its more peculiar items, some which aren't useful for anything except selling. A Furniture Store shop was planned and some furniture sprites were created, but the idea was never implemented either due to problems or time restraints.
    • Skyrim continues the sales of food from Oblivion but only some of it is usable for alchemy. The rest can be eaten for a small amount of healing or cooked up in a pot to make dishes that heal slightly more. Ordinary clothes do gain a real use as mages can make a better use of their perks by wearing them while casting armor spells for protection.
  • In Arcanum: Of Steamworks And Magick Obscura, ordinary shops sell things like lemons, carbolic acid, manservant's smoking or dwarven snuff. Some even sell old oily rags, rusty railrod spikes or metal shavings... Most of this will be utterly useless to many of the possible classes/professions in the game. Granted, if you choose to play a technologist much of the junk actually is needed for inventing new stuff, but even then some of it will never be really useful. Ordinary clothes or 'rustic' smokings offer no armor or any other bonuses, and there's no real use for dwarven snuff. This makes for a more diverse game, and throws the old "pick up and keep everything" squarely out the window.
    • The dwarven snuff can be used to convince Magnus to rejoin your party if you make him angry.
    • The key phrase there is "useless to many of the possible classes", as most of those odd-sounding items, including the metal shavings and railroad spikes, are very useful to the player who specializes in making something out of them. This makes the playing experience deeper for some of the uncommon character choices, although it's a nuisance that said spikes, and the spike traps they can be used to build, take up so much inventory weight. This is in opposition to many standard games, in which most of the great items are useful for only a couple of different character classes. There may be Claymores of Ultimate Destruction all over the place, but maybe only one good death-dealing bard harp, and you might have to buy the expansion pack to get even that.
  • In Spiderweb Software games (Exile, Nethergate, Avernum, and Geneforge), some merchants include junk you'll never use, others explicitly show you only the things you'd be interested in, still others have lousy items because they've sold all their good stuff to other people, and yet more others you can't trade with at all because they don't have anything you'd be interested in.
    • Interesting of note is, either intentionally or just a bug, some vendors really DO 'buy' everything, even if its value is 0. It occupies a place in their inventory but is otherwise useless. Bowls, spoons, REAL trash, etc...although with high enough barter sometimes you can squeeze a coin from some of that junk.
  • In Fallout 3 most non-specific item merchants sell an impressive variety of objects, from the inexplicably powerful (mini-nukes, stimpacks capable of healing a broken leg instantly) to items that are nearly useless most of the time (turpentine, fire hose nozzles, pilot lights, bundles of pre-war money worth 10 bottlecaps each) to objects that the player will only care about if they want to decorate their house (Plates, cutlery, bones and skulls, ruined books, etc.)
    • Unless, of course, you used the stuff in the second category to build the "Rock-It Launcher", which turns the stuff in the third category into hilarious ammo for dispatching baddies (or goodies, depending on your character).
  • In Recettear, you can also sell a variety of stuff such as treasures, books, regular clothing, etc.
  • Suikoden Tierkreis has trade goods for you to sell and profit from, like cloth, but otherwise have no use.
  • The Way averts this by having virtually no economy at all, at least none that the player can interact with; on the rare occasions where you need to purchase anything, you barter or get a friend to pay for you.
  • Anachronox sticks to the classic method of stocking the stores with only things useful for adventurers (one store does have display cases with other things, but they're all sold out) and the occasional plot item. However, Sender Station has several Vendorbots who buy and sell ONLY certain esotheric luxury items that you can't use for anything. Hilariously, the prices vary between bots, and they have a seemingly unlimited supply of the things, so you can easily make more money than you'll ever need by buying low from one bot and selling high to another.

Survival Horror

  • In Dead Rising the mall has all of the things you would expect in a mall, including grocery stores, a slew of clothing shops, and only a few weapon shops. Considering the gameplay is based on Improvised Weapons, no problem.

Tabletop Games

  • In GURPS Magic, nearly every Spell in the book is listed with suggestions of possible magic items enchanted with that spell. This ranges from obvious adventuring gear like Wands of Fireball, right down to a spoon that, if used to stir a meal, will instantly season it to the user's tastes.

On the other hand, there may be a logical reason ...

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