The Fallout series has been a favorite among gamers for over twenty years. The series is famous for its open worlds to explore, amusing NPCs, and its post-apocalyptic setting. Did you ever stop and look at how the economy in the Fallout universe functions though? It makes no sense whatsoever when subjected to even minor scrutiny. A standard currency that can be easily counterfeited is just one of the problems with the economy in Fallout. Some of the things mentioned in this list that are lacking in the Fallout economy can be found in the games, but not in the quantities they should be. Anyway, here are the top ten aspects of the economy in the Fallout games that make absolutely no sense. If we missed some aspect of the Fallout economy that should be in this list don’t hesitate to leave a comment.
10 Cottage Industries
The settlers of the wasteland still try to live as close to pre-apocalyptic standards as possible. Yet there are really only four types of people in the wastleland: farmers, merchants, gangs (to which I include groups like the Brotherhood), and scavengers.
Where are the people producing goods from raw materials? All the cookware is from the past, much of the clothing being worn is from the past, and most of the buildings are also pre-war. It seems like nothing is being produced in the wasteland – except ammo and chems.
9 Resource Extraction
Where are the mines? Where are the foundries? There are seemingly dozens of mines in Skyrim, but very few in Fallout. The people in the Skyrim games aren’t trying to revive their lost modernity, and they have magic to use as a substitute for many modern amenities. One can understand why there isn’t any logging, because there are no trees in the wasteland (not in numbers to make the venture worthwhile).
Due to this though, one would think there would be very few abandoned wooden structures left – regardless of condition
Where the heck are lightbulbs coming from in the Fallout universe? These games take place hundreds of years after the war. Lightbulbs don’t last that long. By this standard, a single light bulb should cost about 1,000,000 caps.
Also, after all this time is there really going to be as much pre-war food lying about as there are in these games? With all the farms to be found in the wasteland, why isn’t there more fresh food items for sale. Why is contaminated water for sale when clean water sources are available?
Why are merchants’ inventories filled with items that are laterally lying on the ground all around? Is someone really going to buy a burned, unreadable, pre-war book when there are some in nearly every dumpster and abandoned house?
It seems like every merchant has items in their inventory that nobody is going to want, need, or pay for in a scarcity economy. My family is starving, raiders live nearby, radscorpions roam my yard, but I need to go buy a baseball. Good thing they are always in stock. Seriously, who is buying this stuff in a wasteland where death is seconds away at all times?
Currency generally needs to satisfy three main criteria. It needs to have inherent value. It needs to be hard to counterfeit. It needs to be highly durable. Bottle caps possess none of these qualities. Gold was used as a currency because it is eternal – it doesn’t rust or tarnish. Its rarity makes it valuable as well as making it difficult to counterfeit.
Lastly, are we expected to believe that bottle caps would become standard currency across the wasteland - by communities that have absolutely no contact with each other? This is perhaps the most senseless aspect about the Fallout economy.
What is the deal with prices in the Fallout universe? A dirty old teddy bear, which can be found for free all over the wasteland, is worth as much as a case of ammunition. Why does it cost so much more to repair a weapon, which you can do yourself, than it is to buy a new one of the same type?
Why doesn’t clean food and water cost much more, considering how rare they are? The prices in the Fallout games make absolutely no sense, and seem more appropriate to a society that hasn’t gone through an apocalypse; and has shortages of necessities.
4 Cap Shortages
When playing any Fallout game, it doesn’t take long before you have depleted all the merchants of their caps. At that point, when one person owns all, or the vast majority, of the currency in an area the currency will either raise in value; or the people of that area will decide to use something else – in which case the old currency becomes worthless. Neither of these effects occurs in the Fallout games. This is just another example of the developers not seeming to understand how supply and demand, and currency, works.
3 Small Towns
Simply put, small towns would not exist in the Fallout universe – for long. Many times raiders or super mutants live just right down the road. A single adult deathclaw could empty out a town like Goodsprings in a matter of minutes. The economy would be more centralized into large population centers as people congregate for safety in the wasteland.
Realistically, each game’s map would have one large city; with maybe one smaller (highly fortified) settlement near a valuable resource that is being extracted – like clean water. Most of these small towns don't even have a fence around them. A real post-apocalyptic wasteland would resemble the world of Mad Max: Fury Road a lot more than it would Fallout.
2 Travelling Merchants
Prices are pretty standard across the wasteland in the Fallout games.
Are these merchants really moving from town to town, through deadly wastelands, so they can trade a teddy bear for an ashtray? Especially when that ashtray, in say…Novac, is worth the same in the next town. Travelling merchants make their money by exploiting the differences in prices in different areas.
1 Where Are The Vehicles?
The wasteland is littered with vehicles. Some of these vehicles look like they could be repaired without much difficulty. There must be a demand for reliable conveyance in the Fallout universe. Getting from one location to another in a speedy fashion seems like it would be a necessity.
Yet everyone walks from one location to another. Beyond automobiles and motorcycles, where are the beasts of burden used for conveyance – like horses? The only Fallout game we can remember having a working vehicle is Fallout 2. That is as senseless as bottle caps for currency.