I spent 5 years studying economics and I still don't understand how money works in Starfield

Starfield stowage aboard a spaceship
(Image credit: Bethesda)

As a lover of the ideals of space exploration, I have long been looking forward to Bethesda’s latest RPG, Starfield, launching September 6 this year. 

However, it’s become clear that Starfield’s economy may well be something of a mess. Reddit user Mr Twiddles has been through the game’s preview material with a fine tooth comb, and what he’s revealed is baffling. 

It looks as though a Patty Melt, a heated meat and cheese sandwich, is worth 295 credits. Alone, this is a next to meaningless piece of data, but, when you consider that a starship seen in the Starfield Direct is worth 15,950 credits, a disquieting pattern emerges. 

A starship, therefore, is worth 54 sandwiches, a staggering revelation that calls into question everything I know about supply and demand. Let’s consider what this would look like in our real-world economy. Tesco’s most popular sandwich, the Sausage, Bacon & Egg Triple comes to £2.85. Multiplied by 54, this comes to £153.90, roughly 40% of the cost of a PS5

By comparison, a NASA rocket costs $4.1 billion, or £3.1 billion, a far cry from the £153.90 we calculated above. This means that a real-life NASA rocket would cost the equivalent of 1.09 billion Sausage, Bacon & Egg Triple sandwiches and that, in the intervening time, the real cost of a starship has decreased by a factor of 20.1 million.  

Either, this means that spaceships are trivially easy to manufacture in Starfield’s world, or that the dynamics of supply and demand have warped beyond our comprehension, forming a singularity of economic chaos from which there is no escape. 

Starfield ship travelling faster than light

(Image credit: Bethesda)

Granted, starships are more common in Starfield’s universe than our own by quite a margin. Interstellar travel is a reality in the upcoming game, meaning that a cargo ship might be no rarer to the people of Starfield than a truck might be to us. In the UK, a heavy goods vehicle is liable to set you back at least £12,000 used, 78 times the cost we calculated above for one of Starfield’s starships.

What happened to starships to make them so affordable? Do they grow on futuristic, starship trees? Do they spontaneously spawn out of thin air thanks to bizarre quantum phenomena? Only Todd Howard knows, and he isn’t telling anyone.

Of course, there is a grim alternative. It is possible that the value of food has skyrocketed in Starfield’s universe, heralding food poverty and economic turbulence on a literally astronomical scale. Food in Starfield could be so rare and so precious, that it is worth far more to the denizens of Bethesda’s futuristic RPG than it might be to us.

It’s also possible that the patties themselves are sought after for reasons unknown. Perhaps they have special cultural or religious significance. Perhaps they’re made of platinum, palladium, or some other suitably sci-fi material. Either would suffice as an explanation.

Lastly, and most sensibly, it may well be the case that the Starfield Direct was using placeholder prices for these items and that all of the above amounts to jumping at shadows. Whatever the truth, however, once September comes around, we’ll be able to determine once and for all if starships really do grow on trees and whether or not Starfield’s beef patties are lined with gold.

Want something to play while you wait for Starfield? Here's our list of the best Xbox Series X games as well as the best PC games available now.

Cat Bussell
Staff Writer

Cat Bussell is a Staff Writer at TechRadar Gaming. Hailing from the crooked spires of London, Cat is an experienced writer and journalist. As seen on Wargamer.com, TheGamer.com, and Superjumpmagazine.com, Cat is here to bring you coverage from all corners of the video game world. An inveterate RPG maven and strategy game enjoyer, Cat is known for her love of rich narratives; both story-driven and emergent. 

Before migrating to the green pastures of games journalism, Cat worked as a political advisor and academic. She has three degrees and has studied and worked at Cambridge University, University College London, and Queen Mary University of London. She's also been an art gallery curator, an ice cream maker, and a cocktail mixologist. This crash course in NPC lifestyles uniquely qualifies her to pick apart only the juiciest video games for your reading pleasure. 

Cat cut her teeth on MMOs in the heyday of World of Warcraft before giving in to her love of JRPGs and becoming embedded in Final Fantasy XIV. When she's not doing that, you might find her running a tabletop RPG or two, perhaps even voluntarily.