Monday, December 8, 2008

Trade war

It's WoW PvP on Tobold's blog today, but in this post I'm going to talk about a very different kind of PvP. Because while my priest is doing Wintergrasp, one of my bank alts is involved in a trade war with another player, or possibly his bank alt.

The story started shortly after WotLK came out, and I was leveling up the alchemy skill of my warrior, and the jewelcrafting skill of my priest. It turned out that to get alchemy up, you could make uncut meta gems, out of green gems and eternal elements. And to get jewelcrafting up, you could cut those uncut meta gems. And of course my priest, who is also miner, was gathering the green gems and eternals needed when mining in Northrend. Great synergy, priest mines ores and prospects them, warrior turns them into meta gems, priest cuts the meta gems, both level their tradeskills up. As a bonus, the warrior has transmutation mastery, and once I even got 5 meta gems instead of one out of a single transmutation.

While I was primarily interested in the skill gains, it turned out that the cut meta gems are quite valuable. You don't sell a whole lot of them, but they do sell for up to 200 gold on my server. After finding out how good a business that was, I used my Dalaran jewelcrafting tokens to buy more meta gem recipes, and produced more meta gems, just for the money. Send them all to the bank alt, who I log on once or twice a day to look after my budding jewelry business.

What quickly became apparent was that there was one other player in the same business. I would put up my gems for 200 gold, and next time I check he had put up his gems for 199 gold and 99 silver. So I put up the next batch for 199 gold 95 silver, and so on. A genuine trade war, and always with the same guy. With time more people get hold of the rarer recipes, and profits collapse, but while the expansion is still young, the profits are great. I must have made over 4000 gold just with meta gems, after expenses and buying some eternals I didn't have enough of. There will be more demands for meta gems when more people reach the level cap, but I'm afraid supply is rising faster than demand, and ultimately meta gems won't sell for much more than the cost of materials. If not less, because some people don't mind to operate at a loss as long as they gain skill points.

The kind of trade war where you continuously try to underbid the other crafters is due to the relatively primitive auction house system of World of Warcraft. There is no blind auction house system, like in Final Fantasy XI or Pirates of the Burning Sea, where you only see a historic of previous prices, but not the exact sales price of the people offering goods. And there aren't any buy orders, like in EVE Online. So unless the fees for putting up a ware on the WoW AH are great compared to the sales price, it is often a good idea to cancel your auction and underbid the underbidders, driving the prices to the bottom. The same happens in other systems, but usually slower. The WoW system, where every seller sees the prices of every good on auction and can thus underbid them, deteriorates profits the fastest. So I'm pretty sure that while I'm cursing about that other guy ruining my sales, he's having some choice words about me as well. That's why I'm using an unguilded bank alt for such activities in the first place. :)

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