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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

You're a Goldmaker, You're a Goldmaker, EVERYBODY is a Goldmaker!!!

If you're reading, you know about the WoW Gametime Token.  You may have even bought one... or bought one.  It's the latest buzzworthy WoW feature that's been implemented and I had a hankering to jump on the blogging bandwagon and share some thoughts on it.  My disdain for proper SEO and how it affects the titles I give my posts will, sadly, have to wait for another post when I'm feeling more meta.

You've probably heard enough opinions on this to make your ears ring.  This is almost like flying in Draenor except it actually happened.  I was kinda happy to see that the token started out dead center of the range of 25-35k that I expected it to debut at.  But, please, please, let me finish before the golfclaps rob me of my hearing.  

While, I guess it's neat to know that my thinking wasn't wrong, there's plenty to learn from being wrong.  And that's a lot of what I'll get to today.  Being wrong and learning from it.  Because to a goldmaker there is no right or wrong. Only feedback.

I was wrong about thinking the price for tokens would spike to 50k by the end of the week.  And I should've known better.  When everyone first saw the results of the MMO-C poll that demonstrated there were more folks hoping to buy Gametime for gold rather than Gold for cash - by a ratio of nearly 2:1 - I had no hesitation in suspecting reporting bias.  That is, MMO-C readers really aren't representative of most players.

Remember the heirloom vendors in 6.1 and how many folks asked in trade where they were?  That was on the MMO-C frontpage at least twice in the days leading up to the patch.  But the arguments for a spike seemed good.  Those with hoardes (sic) of idle cash were primed, hungry, & vocal.  In retrospect, I imagine the implicit stigma of vocalizing excitement and plans to "legitimately buy gold" probably did more to skew my perception going into the debut of tokens than anything else.

But that wasn't the only thing. I also hadn't realized that Blizzard would of course create the pricing algorithm in a way that would prioritize the speed of sales.  They get an extra $5 over the most expensive sub price for each token sold.  Not only that, each sale off the AH is another month they can count at their quarterly earnings calls. It only makes sense they'd want to sell as many as possible.  Quick sales enhance the buyer experience for those buying gold - and make them more likely to buy again - often immediately.

Because if I had to wait more than half an hour to get my goods after Blizzard had my money, I'd certainly be less likely to buy a lot at once. As with anything new, folks like to try something before going all in.  Even when I bought 11 tokens on launch day, I amassed 80 new screenshots and used each token in sequence - waiting for the confirmation email each time before going to the next.

Blizzard already eats time on the clock after charging you to ensure the charge is legit.  Additional delay is something they'd want to minimize.  The point is, as any seasoned Goblin knows - if you want to sell something quick, you have to be willing to price it aggressively.  But of course, we don't get to price tokens ourselves.  Blizzard's Black Box (Triple-B!) does that for us.

Triple-B isn't new.  It was used for commodities on Diablo 3's AH for over a year.  It got put through its paces, and so Blizzard was able to refine an existing process rather than create one from whole cloth for the token system.  Knowing that time was their most critical variable, it only seems prudent that Blizzard would tweak Triple-B to minimize it.  The result? A Triple-B algorithm that responds with resale price decreases more readily than increases.

Succinctly, tokens are able to drop in price more easily than spike.  Because $5.

So combine the intrinsic nature and mission of Triple-B with a severely underestimated number of folks hankering to buy some gold, and you've got a 25% decrease in token prices from their initial value in less than 24 hours.

And not for lack of trying to keep the price higher.  Blizzard relaxed the restriction on those buying the Gametime for gold from 10 every 30 days to over 20.  And still we have a precipitous drop in prices.  Interestingly enough - you'll notice they opted to raise the limit on time buyers rather than drop the limit on gold buyers.

Because $5.

And I mention that without malice.  Because to a goldmaker, there is no right or wrong - only feedback.  We understand Triple-B now, but it's interesting to think about where all the time buyers went.  After all, raising the limit from 10 to 20 only really opened more market to those with more than 300k in disposable gold.  Thats not a lot of people.  But weren't most people supposed to have enough to buy one? They may not have had enough for 3 or 4 but they got 1, man? (s/o to Murphy Lee - keep stompin yo).

If you were on Twitter you'd have thought we'd see that big spike, too.  Given all the casual goldmakers proclaiming the universal ease with which gold can be made from the comfort of your own farmvi - I mean Garrison.  What virulent turd poisoned that punchbowl & prevented the masses from claiming their rightfully due free subscriptions?

What if I told you they got bored?  Because while running all the old Cataclysm raids on 25H solo will pay for your sub if you do it on 1 toon every week, for a lot of folks, that gets old.  It also takes more time than the ~2 hours worth of flipping burgers that a subscription would cost to clear those raids.  But surely folks can find some enjoyable way of making 25-30k a month?

Of course they can.  And hell - maybe they do but just spend a lot of it on other things.  At the end of the day I think most folks still see WoW as a regular game.  They spend their gold on shinies rather than hoarding it across more bankers and stashes than Bernie Madoff like some of us do >.>

And that's legit.  So is buying gold now, too.  The flip side of the lack of demand for Gametime is the overwhelming demand for legitimately buying gold.  And while I have no moral bearing on the matter, in my deepest of hearts, I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.

For a lot of folks, they aren't goldmaking savants.  In the time it takes them to make 10k, they could have earned the now real money equivalent of 150k gold.  And if goldmaking isn't something they enjoy, but having gold is - well then, the decision is obvious if they have the funds available for it.  And most do - because WoW offers a lot of bang for your buck at $15/month.  We may not always make use of it, but it’s there.  We spend a lot more per hour of entertainment on other things like movies, cable, and even bowling leagues.

So that’s an understandable, and perfectly legitimate decision through and through.  And while a lot of folks have likely wanted to buy gold, a sizeable fraction have not done so prior to the token simply because they didn’t want to risk their account.

On an individual level, none of this is surprising or bothersome.  But on the overall scale with which we see it happening, it makes me nauseous.  To see tokens crater so hard, so quickly, means that the demand for buying gold is much, much larger than the demand to offload gold for Gametime.  Gold buyers were limited to 10 per person, while time buyers can buy nearly 30 per person now.

It’s isolating - realizing that, despite the relative ease of making gold, so many folks prefer to simply buy it - pixel wealth.  And while the third party black market is something I’ve been quite familiar with for many years (know thy customer; know thy business; know thyself), and I’ve long known the cash value of things typically valued only in-game with gold - on a personal level, all this is just a bit beyond me.  

Do I care that the Swift Spectral Tiger I bought as a new goldmaker many years ago can now be had by those with deep enough pockets?  Well, no - that’s not exactly new information to me.  It bugs me knowing that so many would empty their pockets to shortcut their way to it.  It doesn’t cheapen mine - my favorite pet will always be the Thundering Serpent Hatchling I named “Klack” - regardless of how many folks bought or joined a guild for free to snag it.  Myself, I lead a group that spent several weeks grinding it out for my guild, and I’m insanely proud of that but don’t hold it against others.

But imagine, that the greatest joys in the game, are the things you get to experience and share with others.  The MoP CM runs with Megallo, Poly, Raph, & Damaind - those are things I can share with others who grinded for that achievement.  But the folks who levelled a fresh toon in a guild on a different server for it?  I can’t connect with you on the same level and share that pride because you simply weren’t there.  

And that’s a somber thought for me.  I understand the decision to buy gold.  I respect it.  I have more than enough money of my own to join the chorus, I just choose not to.  But, all this just gets me down - that no matter what, the thrill of bidding up items in GDKP runs to 150k+, or dropping 350k on a mount that I earned the old fashioned way, or dropping 100k on mats in a day that I will absolutely burn through before it ends - that is now the ephemeral hallmark of an Old Guard now long past its zenith.

And while I can appreciate the grand-scale reward the token offers - that it is a free sub offered fairly to those of us who've been the grease, cogs, and powerplants of the economy for one of the largest MMORPGs ever made - it somehow just manages to make me feel old. It'll pass, I'm sure - sometime in the next 11 months of Gametime I nabbed for gold :)

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