Friday, December 2, 2011

Those annoying gold tanks

At several points in the past weeks I have come across in World of Tanks people complaining about the Type 59 Chinese tank, a tier 8 medium tank bought for gold (thus real money). These complaints, in game and on the forums, very much echo those made earlier about the Löwe tank, a tier 8 heavy "gold" tank. People who don't drive one often find these gold tanks "overpowered", based on having had problems against such tanks in battles. That is curious insofar as gold tanks are actually weaker than regular tanks that are fully equipped, because gold tanks only come in a stock variety that can't be upgraded. Thus at the same tier and type of tank, you can find better tanks, stat for stat, among the regular tanks. So why do people complain about the gold tanks? Is it just jealousy or a general hate against paid-for content?

It turns out that many people have a very wrong image about what kind of player is driving those gold tanks. They think that tier 8 gold tanks are driven by newbies who couldn't wait for leveling up their tanks the regular way. But in reality that isn't all that often the case. New players rarely spend $30 on a tank before they even know how to play and whether they like the game, it wouldn't be very rational behavior. But players who already leveled up their regular tanks to tier 8 and beyond are quite likely to end up buying a gold tank for the purpose of farming money. Gold tanks have a very low repair cost, and thus make more money than a regular tank of the same tier. Play the gold tank a while and you end up with far more money than a direct gold to money conversion would have given you. And as the high tier regular tanks make often lose money or barely break even, a gold tank for money farming is a not uncommon investment for a dedicated player.

That not only means that the driver of the gold tank opposing you isn't quite the noob you thought he would be. It also changes the incentives, and thus the behavior of the tank driver. People in their regular tanks often play rather defensively at higher tiers, as repair costs are high. But that is less of a concern for gold tank drivers. And if you drive that gold tank to farm money, you are aware that the money you make is a function of the damage you deal, thus you have all the incentives of playing your tank much more aggressively.

Thus it is very well possible that a gold tank enemy ends up being far more dangerous and annoying than an enemy in a regular tank of the same tier and level. The gold tank driver is simply more likely to use his tank far more aggressively, and thus cause greater damage. The gold tank isn't overpowered, it is the player of that tank who is playing in a different and more aggressive way, making that tank effectively more dangerous.

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