In my two games I have a pair or very wealthy PC’s and in one of those two games a pair of players that really enjoy perusing the equipment lists for upgrades. So, I think I have some experience I’d like to share here.
First of all, the Gear system in Infinity, specifically the bit at the end of character creation is somewhat of a hold-over from when the buy/sell system was meant to be a more traditional system where Assets would be spent. The actual Acquisition rules don’t equate so well with that approach given that with “Infinite Time” or even 1 Day, you can reduce the restriction of most items to 0 and for each reduction in requisition you do essentially equates into +1 Earning rating during the final calculation step.
So, at character creation you really have to be careful on how much time you give a player and honestly, I would give them none at all. Even just “an hour’s prep-time” is room for a character to say: “Well if normally its a few moments to get a thing then I guess I will just start at A and work my way through Z seeing what I can get instantly”.
It’s that sort of approach, which a lot of RPG’s encourage when it comes to gearing, that the system falls apart.
But, it’s really all about context.
Firstly, the Acquisition system is not a Downtime system, its meant to be used In-Situ, its meant to just summarize the negotiations with a store owner etc, but it should be done in-scene so you can have consequences for Complications or failed rolls.
Similarly, and I only remember this myself recently, any Acquisition test is still a standard Roll, which means you apply the usual modifiers for Lifestyle ON TOP of the Requisition modifier. Are your PC’s in a gun’s store buying weaponry? if yes then there is no modifier for range essentially. If no then add difficulty as they have to convince the person on the other end of the Commlog to seel to them without seeing an ID. Then, how about delivery? What if the players look a bit shifty? Have they been on the news for involvement in a shootout in the streets? All these factors should add to the roll and demonstrate that Purchasing items in Infinity isn’t a thing “done off to the side”.
Now, having said all of that, that’s more from my perspective running games of “freelancers”, for the default setting of Spy vs Spy you should have a slightly different approach.
In this case Equipment Acquisition is far more a case of what is assigned to the group or what they can requisition using the black-accounts their employers Bureau Noir or their homelands have assigned them.
They aren’t really spending their own money on these acquisitions unless they use Assets, its more about what gear they get access to or request, such factions probably have limits on what sort of gear they want their agents to take on missions, they probably won’t let a TAG get acquired for a sneak ‘n’ peek for example.
Similarly, the whole idea of the default setting is that the players are off doing other things, going about their day-to-day and being brought in for specific operations, that is their “Downtime” and its filled with all the other off-screen activities centred around normal life that does not matter to the cinematic nature of the adventures they go on.
Such Adventures call them from their other duties and probably straight into a briefing, immediately followed by a shuttle-ride to whatever transport delivers them to their destination. Not really the sort of situation the agents would have time to do much shopping in.
Most, if not all Bureau Noir assignments have a level of time-sensitivity to them and wasting time shopping would be pretty frowned upon I imagine.
Now, don’t let this stop you from allowing your players to go out and get gear. In my groups one of the players has a Minor Ally who is a smuggler that they can call upon to get them the odd item hand delivered, for a price. Just make sure that any acquisitions are a part of the story, not the traditional shopping for equipment post-D&D session bookkeeping.
Having said all that, it’s still perfectly acceptable to give you players Downtime that they can use to gain items, just be aware that the system is designed to work hand-in-hand with all the other mechanics of the game.
If your players really want to shop between sessions make sure it happens only between missions and that if the item is well within their Earnings rating on a half-decent roll (aka they can reduce the Restriction to 0), don’t make the roll, just say they bought the item and subtract the outcome from their Cashflow OR if they really want to roll to generate Momentum to increase their earnings, change the type of Roll into a Complication Test (page 31 Core Rules, any roll the GM wants can be considered one of these) and add the Complications as story to their purchases (Maybe that Gun they bought is Hot or they didn’t think to get a permit for it) or take the Heat to represents other factors from these purchases having a direct impact on your next session (such as various factions watching the players and noting the sorts of gear they have bought so they can take appropriate countermeasures if necessary).
P.S. Make sure you check out Incidental Purchases on page 330, that covers what players should be able to buy without needing to work for it, AKA do it in-game.