An Economy Is You

"You know, I didn't have a lot of business before you started coming in my shop."

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 Poké Balls. You'd think that everybody in the town would starve to death.

If the game bothers with a Hand Wave, it might be stated that there are all sorts of things in the shop, but the only things the game lets you 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.

A Sister Trope to An Entrepreneur Is You.

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.


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    Action Adventure Games 
  • Seen in most The Legend of Zelda games. 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.
    • In The Legend of Zelda merchants only sold three items each, and they were strictly limited to items Link might need.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time:
      • How many of Hyrule's population need magic refilling potions or heat-resistant tunics? The guidebooks Hand Wave the Goron Tunic by stating that Hylians used to mine in the area.
      • Played for Laughs with the Magic Bean salesman. At the start he tells you that the beans aren't very popular, so he'll sell them cheap. Every time you buy one, he increases the price by 10 rupees and raves about how popular they're getting, even though you're obviously the only one buying them.
    • 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 the City in the Sky. The text below each item boils down to "Why do we even have these?"
      • 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 Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker's auction house. Everything that's up for auction is something Link can use. There are 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. The exception is 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?
  • Many Castlevania games have a shop of some sort where the player can buy useful items, and while they're often inside or near Dracula's Castle where such an inventory would make sense, other times they're in random locales. Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia is probably the worst offender, with some random town store selling health potions and armor that only Shanoa would have a reason to buy. There's also a chef in town whose food is so bad that only Shanoa bothers with him, though since her primary means of refilling her health is eating she's probably the single best customer he could ask for.
  • Steamworld Dig takes place in an old Western town and the vast underground mine network beneath it. The town is almost entirely unpopulated except for a scarce few NPC's whose only purpose is to service the player character. In fact, progressing through the game is done by selling the gems acquired from the mines to an NPC, and the money gained from doing so is used to purchase essential upgrades.
  • 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...

    Adventure Games 
  • Indiana Jones and His Desktop Adventures: The village of Lucasio consists of two people who give you healing items, one Marcus who briefs you as to the main quest, one guy who acts as a tutorial, and you. One's got to wonder why Gabriela even keeps so many seats at her cantina. There's a grand total of two buildings other than the ones inhabited by the game-relevant people (and they're not enterable).

    First-Person Shooter 
  • System Shock 2: all replicators inside the Von Braun and Rickenbacker sell only tools of death, gameplay-related hardware, medical supplies, and (health-boosting) food—the only exceptions are video game cartridges. Justified because the replicators simply turn currency from Nanomachines into products according to the user's profile, and that the machines were already reprogrammed to dispense these unconventional items due to the tumultuous situation on-board the Von Braun and Rickenbacker. Also worth noting is that the player can also hack into the vending machines in order to force them to dispense a wider range of items for less, so it's possible that 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 extremely similar, minus the video game cartridges, though 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 . . . of course you can only break the windows you are supposed to, so people in Rapture probably don't have to worry too much about property damage.
  • In Borderlands, there are ammo, weapon, and medical vending machines, and while it does make sense that living on a Death World like Pandora would require such a thing, there's never any sign of any place selling the other necessities of life, like food and water.
    • This is lampshaded by Claptrap in Poker Night 2 if you use an all Borderlands table setup. He explicitly says that Pandora's economy is gun-based, and when Brock Samson (yes, that one, it's that kind of game) asks about snack machines, Claptrap seems to wonder why anyone would want them, especially since they "contribute to the obesity epidemic."

    Role-Playing Games 
  • Played with in Baldur's Gate II 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 and healing 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...
    • Pokémon X and Y feature clothing and accessory stores, which let the player (and presumably other residents of the town) buy new outfits, hats, and bags.
  • Lampshaded by 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?"
    • 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.
  • Averted by A Dance with Rogues, a fan-made expansion for Neverwinter Nights. 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.
  • Averted in World of Warcraft, there's plenty of random houses you can't go in and and people sell things like beer, toys, et cetra.
  • In Mass Effect 1 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, 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).
  • In Final Fantasy IV The After Years, 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?
    • Some optional NPC dialogues mention that some of the supernatural phenomena your party is investigating has happened before, and there are a few hints that at least one of the shopkeepers has at least some idea of what you're really up to.
    • 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, 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: Rise of the Sinistrals, 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.
  • Played with by Recettear. The town involved is actually a haven for adventurers, so you have to sell them the stuff they need. However, Recettear clearly isn't the Only Shop in Town. Recette can visit the market to buy miscellaneous items to sell at a profit (Capitalism, ho!) and if you drive too hard a bargain, a customer will walk out.
  • You can buy your own home in Terranigma. Furniture is sold separately.
  • Averted in The Elder Scrolls games, where you can buy everything from wooden spoons to houses. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has general shops filled with normal housing items and dedicated food stores. Of course most shops will have something for adventures, and there is an abundance of weapons, but it a world as dangerous as Skyrim it doesn't seem out of place.
  • Shining Wisdom has one shop for the whole kingdom (okay there is one more hidden in the middle of nowhere, behind a rock, past a lake, which only the player can reach, and whose prices are insanely high) and he sells only three items. Only one of those could be of any possible use to anybody other than our hero.
  • Lampshaded in Legend of Legaia: After you free Drake Castle from the Mist, the shops reopen, and one lady remarks that they are now selling exclusively weapons and armor instead of meat and fresh vegetables.
  • Averted in the Avernum series. Some shops sell various things that are of no use to adventurers (you can, of course, buy them, but they generally won't do you any good unless they're used in a sidequest), while others mention that other things are in the store, but show you only the items you would be interested in.
  • Final Fantasy XIV averts this somewhat with a wide variety of cosmetic items, including furniture for housing, barding for your chocobo and so on. That said, most of the smaller settlements only have one or two shops selling nothing but armor, weapons and potions.

    Third Person Shooter 
  • In Dead Space 2, all the stores aboard Titan Station, even those in the civilian sectors, only provide guns, ammo, health packs, stasis charges, etc. Justified, as the store welcomes the protagonist, Isaac Clark, by name, implying that the store is only displaying items he told it to display.
  • In Dead Space, it's implied that the automated stores were hacked by the crew of the Ishimura to provide equipment to fight the necromorphs, though it didn't work out too well for them.

    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 
  • Played with across the Grand Theft Auto series:
    • The only shops open for business in Grand Theft Auto 3 were gun shops.
    • Averted in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, where more types of shops were open for robbery, in Grand Theft Auto: 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.
  • If a tabletop RPG features explicit price lists for items and services, expect a heavy (quite possibly outright exclusive) focus on things the average player character adventurer is expected to need as par for the course. Other things and businesses handling them will obviously presumably exist in the game world, but if the details ever become important it'll be up to the game master to make something up on their own.

  • Averted in Dwarf Fortress Adventure Mode - pretty much any human city will have multiple stores dedicated to things you have absolutely no need of - leather, furniture, basic clothing, bolts of cloth, jewelery and other assorted trinkets. It will also most likely have a market, which tend to be much more useful - there are usually loads of farmers there, who all sell edible plants.
  • Played with in the first two installments of the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon series. On one hand, each has a town that seems oddly specific to rescue teams. Some could serve multiple functions, like the bank or Kecleon Shop, but what's an ordinary Pokemon going to do with a Link Shop or a Treasure-Box opening stall? On the other hand, virtually every Pokemon you meet in the towns are members of various teams, and the main items you use tend to be food items. Averted in the Gateway to Infinity series, where you'll have to build most of the rescue team shops yourself.