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Monday, July 15, 2013

Bridging the Gap

I like to talk about demand because it's an interesting topic. Demand is what we, as goblins, feed on. If Blizzard creates the demand, we'll show up to the party with the supply and everyone has a great time. It's also one of the few things that, outside of a few special markets, we really can't influence too much. That's because demand is baked into the game design. Raiders wants gems so they can, ultimately kill more bosses, and PvP'ers want crafted gear when they start so they can land more KBs. Collectors want cool mounts and / or pets because they're fun to play with and show off. You get the idea.

The list goes on. Each of these wants / needs form, at their most basic level, as a desire in a discrete individual. We often say "Raiders" or "PvPers" rather than listing off the thousands of Joes and Sallys those groups are made of. Most of us know a thing or two about demand, too - you sell lots of gems and enchants and stuff right after a patch hits, and again as new wings of LFR open. We understand that gear enhancements sell in greater quantities when there's more gear being acquired.

But there are less mundane markets than our usual end-user commodities that behave, well - differently. What about inks? Dusts? Essences? Uncut Rare Gems? On their own, these items are all equally useless to the player (an exception for uncut rares would be research cooldowns). They must be brought to a toon with the appropriate profession to create something useful.
The fundamental question that drove me to talk about this was more straightforward: "Why would I undercut the lowest auction if it's only a stack of 3 dust that some random dude DE'd from a failgreen dungeon drop, if most of my buyers are stocking up on 100 dust at a time?" Indeed - why would you? I mean - why not undercut the auction representing the 50th dust and snag some extra copper, silver, or heck, maybe even gold?

If you've ever messed around in the bottlenecks created by profession levelling paths in older content, you know that prices can vary pretty widely at the bottom. You also have an idea of how many Vision Dust it might take to push through Enchanting. In those markets, it's easy enough to buy out the low-priced stuff and reset the prices, a lot of times. But how about current tier enchanting mats or inks or uncut gems? There are frequently a lot of folks selling in those markets, particularly in enchanting mats, who just want to get rid of the stuff for whatever they can get.

The are the folks who undercut shards at 48.975g down to 40g - because, hey - it'll sell faster. Does that mean you should post your 20 shards at 39.99g? Or what about dust in a similar scenario? One of the interesting phenomena of the current expasion is that most MoP scrolls are universally profitable over the cost of mats on vitrually every server. Go check out your server's Enchanting page on - you'll see what I mean. This makes the scroll market pretty accessible for the casual Enchanter - someone who probably buys a solid stock of dust and essence - and maybe even shards - in a single go.

As my buddy used to love telling me in high school though - "You can't prove that!" No, I can't - and that's actually half the point of this post / exercise. It sounds great to yak about, but we've virtually zero analytical power / evidence to back this up. Websites like TUJ and WoWuction amalgamate sales data, but there's no way for them to know who bought an auction, much less identify any clustering - which would give us the ability to know how many were bought at a time. Even our Addons fall short - BeanCounter, MySales, and TSM_Accounting will all try to record the name of the person buying your materials, with inconsistent results. But none of them are able to record the time when the auction was actually purchased - only the time when you looted the gold from your mailbox - which for some folks is 4x a day, but for others might be 2x a week.

Now this may strike you as an overly cerebral exercise, and maybe that's not far from the truth. But in the above example I gave for shards, there was an 18%+ drop in the amount of profit because of a random, transient player on the AH. I don't think that's something that an established shuffler would really want to ignore.

But, hey - what the heck can we do about it? There's not an addon out that will find and undercut the auction representing the 50th lowest-priced dust on the AH right now, that I know of - and I certainly don't expect you guys to dig out your calculators every time you post this stuff. Maybe if you post with less automated addons, like Auctionator, you already handle this somehow - if even in some rough manner. In fact - that's probably one of the better ways to keep a close eye n those bottleneck markets I talked about earlier. But, until a developer incorporates this functionality into an add-on, I think we're stuck - yakking about it. Maybe if we yak enough, though, one of them will give it a shot.

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