Thursday, March 25, 2010

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

I think everyone agrees that once you've reached max level, getting gear is the new game.  Players stop counting dings and start counting gear score.  In reality, gear only gets a character 80% of the way to being able to raid or PvP competitively, without factoring in the Gear vs Skill debate.  Considering that gear is essentially non-obtainable using gold, that leaves 20% for the gold sellers to fill in for the high-level WoW crowd.

Turns out Blizzard found ways to cut out the external gold seller here too.

The great circle of buffs goes something like this:

People go out and gather materials one way or another.  For a typical WoW player this involves flying around gathering herbs and minerals, acquiring green items to disenchant, fishing or killing animals for meat to cook with, etc.  The average player will do this only a fraction of their time, maybe as they are doing quests or waiting for a dungeon queue, though I have personally known a few who seem to do nothing but farm.  Gathering herbs and minerals in particular takes more time than effort.  The more time you put into it, the more materials you get and the more money you make.  Gold sellers have nothing but time, giving them a great advantage over the average player in the raw materials market.  The primary in-game limitation on them is the economics of supply and demand.  There are also external forces that prevent gold sellers from using auctions to make money, but those will be discussed later.

Raw materials are converted into the usable goods that make up 15% of the remaining 20% of end game play.  Market-centric professions are Jewelcrafting, Enchanting, Alchemy, and Inscription.  Tailoring, Blacksmithing, Leatherworking, and Engineering are primarily player-centric with a few marketable items mixed in.  Generally, crafting takes too much time and coordination to make a gold seller money.  Also, Blizzard has balanced the game so a smart player can be self sufficient through friendships, guild connections, alts, and the barter system.

The last little 5% is intangibles like character spec, interface add-ons, and profession based enhancements such as special gems, trinkets, and gear that can only be used by the crafter.  It also includes vanity items and achievements such as pets or materials needed to gain reputation with various factions.  These things ultimately come down to personal preference.  This customization portion of the game is very small in terms of actual gameplay, but huge in the WoW marketplace, and both Blizzard and external sources are squeezing every penny out of it.

WoW Real Money Transfers Part Three:  The Best Laid Plans of Murlocs and Men

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