Something that's been annoying me for a while as I read through the forums is people's misconceptions about how the Dilithium exchange works and what it means. A lot of people are basing their behavior and opinions on notions that are just outright false. I'd like to try to correct that.
What is the dilithium exchange?
The dilithium exchange is a market in which players trade dilithium for Zen and vice versa. All transactions on the exchange are directly between players. Cryptic/PWE is uninvolved except that while the dilithium or Zen is on the exchange, it is held in a sort of escrow. You cannot access your dilithium or Zen until you cancel your offer. Prices are determined by the offers players have made. Most people just take the current best offer, get what they wanted, and leave. Others set offers based on what they think the dilithium or Zen may be worth, and hope the offers below them get bought out until theirs is the best. These people are playing the market just like in a real currency exchange.
There are two common misconceptions people have about the dilithium exchange:
1. When you use dilithium to purchase Zen and buy something from the C-Store, you are "sticking it to the man" because you got something "free".
The basic economic principle of "there's no such thing as a free lunch" is in full effect here. You did not pay any real money for the item, but somebody did. They bought Zen, with real money. They then sold that Zen to you in exchange for your dilithium. Then finally you used the Zen to buy your item. What happened was, in effect, you were paid to farm in game currency for somebody else. PWE is not stupid, and they are not giving away cash shop items for in game currency. They got paid for it.
2. Cryptic does not want to raise the dilithium refinement cap, or increase dilithium ore rewards, because they would lose money from people buying dilithium with Zen.
This is the flip side of what happens above. When you are rich on Zen and short on dilithium, you can get some fast dilithium by buying it with Zen. However, you are not buying the dilithium from PWE. You are buying it from other players, who themselves had to grind in game content to get it. The overall amount of dilithium in the game is still the same. Again, no such thing as a free lunch. Even though you saved yourself days of grinding time, somebody else just had to do it in your place.
The gist of all this is that PWE doesn't get richer or poorer regardless of what the dilithium exchange does. People want things from the cash shop. Zen must be purchased to get them. Whether you buy the Zen directly, or buy it from another player in exchange for your hard earned dilithium, doesn't matter. Somebody still bought the Zen, and it still ultimately gets used to buy something from the cash shop.
Hopefully this cuts down on the wildly misguided claims about Robin Hood-esque heroics and the evil corporation manipulating the Zen to dilithium price. Thanks for reading.