Monday, March 9, 2009

The value of WoW gold

The Greedy Goblin has a unique opportunity to buy 5,500 gold in World of Warcraft for $20 in a completely legit, sanctioned by Blizzard way. He made a character on another server for an experiment, in which he proved that even under difficult conditions he could make 1.5k gold per week with a freshly rolled character and just 10 minutes per day of work. 5.5k gold later, he is thinking of stopping the experiment. So although I was sure I knew the answer, I just had to ask whether he would pay $20 for a character transfer to his regular server, to recover the gold. Of course he won't. He is making 20k a week on his regular server, and already has over 140k gold there. There is nothing he could spend it on, so 5.5k gold are completely worthless to him.

I'm not quite the businessman Gevlon is, but I'm at 30k gold, and consequently put a similarly low value on WoW gold. Don't think I'd spend $20 to buy 5.5k gold, even if it was legit like in Gevlon's case. What would I need the gold for?

But watching how my behavior changes under these conditions leads me to an idea to explain one of the big questions of WoW economics: Given that earning gold in Wrath of the Lich King is easier, why isn't there any inflation? Pretty much every trade good, from herbs, to ore, to crafted epics, is *falling* in price since WotLK came out, while economic theory would suggest prices should be *rising*.

I think the answer lies in the fact that in a virtual world like World of Warcraft, the moment we have "enough" money (on a totally subjective scale), we simply stop working. Why should I spend time farming gold, if there is nothing I want to buy? In the real world you're not stopping work on Wednesday, because you think you already made enough money for the week. In the virtual world you do. The only daily quests I do nowadays are those I need to gather the reputations I want, there is no reason to do a daily quest just for the gold. Instead of keeping working, accumulating a fortune, and then causing inflation with a buying spree, we stopped working, kept our fortunes at some comfortable level, and refuse to go overboard bidding items up on the auction house.

It is hard to tell if many people are in the same situation, that they have enough gold and just don't need any more than that which is coming in automatically from questing and running dungeons. It used to be that raiding was expensive, but nowadays the mobs drop a lot more gold and loot, and at the end of the day I'm often in the plus, even after paying for a flask and the repair bill.

As I'm not following the prices of illegit WoW gold, I can't say how the prices for that have evolved. But if there are many people like me, who have more than enough gold, then RMT must be suffering. Why pay somebody else to farm gold for you, if you already have more than enough of the stuff? I don't know whether that was done on purpose by Blizzard, but I can only imagine that the gold traders must be hurting right now, with not much improvement in sight.

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