Tuesday, February 23, 2010

WoW Real Money Transfers Part One: Badges and Tokens and Trophys, Oh My!

"Welcome to SusanExpress.com we have the greatest deals $15 for 5k gold..."  "Level 1-70 in seven days!  Safe, Discreet, and Fast"

How many of these have you ignored or reported in the last month?  One? Five? Twenty?  Have you seen that pile of 200 Level 1 Tauren on the ground outside the Auction House?  It's annoying and common, but Blizzard has put up a good fight against black market trade in gold, items, and maximum level characters.

It all started with BadgesBadgesBadgesBadges (Mushroom Mushroom).  The Badge of Justicewas introduced in the Burning Crusade expansion as a reward from Heroic instances.  Non-tier pieces were available for varying numbers of badges.  When the Sunwell was opened up, new badge gear was introduced at about double the price of the original badge pieces.  The badge pieces were almost, but not quite as good as pieces dropped inside the lowest raid of the current tier.

Tier sets were on a separate token system where specific bosses would drop slot specific gear pieces for three classes across more than one raid.  This put a cap on what level of gear could be obtained without raiding, but improved on the pre-BC system of a single slot, single class item dropping from specific bosses.  However, under the BC system a full tier set still remained exclusive to players who had been raiding since the beginning of Burning Crusade because it was necessary to run multiple raids to get specific pieces.  Much like today's raids, it generally took multiple days to complete one raid instance, concentrating on the one that had been most recently released.  Raids had to be completed during the one week lockout period.  Players who had not been raiding at the time the lowest raid in a tier was released had very little opportunity to obtain tier pieces not available in the current raid.

The requirement of running all raids to obtain tokens was removed in Wrath of the Lich King when Blizzard started creating a new tier set for each new raid.  They also began offering some (but not all) tier tokens as part of the new badge system, allowing people to start or complete their tier sets outside of raiding.  The exact implementation of the token system has varied, with the current iteration being a trophy system where the lowest tier pieces are available with large numbers of badges, and upgrades to those tier  pieces only available through bind on pickup raid items.  To avoid badge hoarding, each new tier brings a new type of badge that can be downgraded to clear out old badges.  This means the player must build their badges during the lifespan of the most current tier.

All of these badges, tokens, and trophies combined with the well established Bind on Pickup system eliminates most high level equipment from the auction house.  On the player level, crafted items are still available on the auction house through token purchased patterns, but as far as external gold sources are concerned this still requires progress through current content, making it impractical for real-money profit.  This leaves consumables as the primary character enhancing items primarily purchased with gold.

Coming Soon: WoW Real Money Transfers Part Two: Eat, Drink and be Merry

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