On their collecting journeys, players can broker private sales, sit out a round while relaxing on their private islands, and, if they fall on hard times, arrange loans to museums. The game’s creators, with Dinwiddie (a former art market reporter), managed to incorporate many plausible art market forces without creating an experience that is overly rigid or didactic.
“One could have gone into a lot of really vain, nerdy detail about how the auction works, and I had to think of it in its essence and bring in elements—real-life elements—from the art world that would make the game enjoyable and fun,” he said, “rather than trying to mold the player into following a particular series of actions, because that’s what would happen in a real auction.”
Certain features of the game are less realistic—like museums providing cash-strapped collectors with tens of millions of dollars in loans—but others ring true to current art market forces. Players who accrue more than two works in a given collecting genre (such as
, and contemporary) see those works’ value increase. This feature of the game not only incentivizes players to compete for works in a given genre, but also aligns with tendencies in the real world, where collectors tend to focus on and become known for stockpiling specific kinds of work.
“One of us probably said, ‘What if you collect a group of these, then don’t you think that the value should go up, there should be something?’” Dinwiddie recalled.
A more mundane art market convention that served the game designers’ purpose was the auction house practice of setting a reserve price, or the minimum price at which a lot can be sold during an auction. Much like specialists at Christie’s and Sotheby’s, Dinwiddie and his colleagues were faced with the challenge of encouraging players to bid up to works’ pre-sale estimates in order to ensure not only a successful auction, but that the whole economic system they’d created for the game wouldn’t collapse.