Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The next step in WoW profiteering

Ok, so this post will be a bit off-the-wall, and I'm hoping more to generate comments than anything else. The gold blog community is awash in amazing posts right now with detailed lists on items to stockpile, items to dump, items to flip, and items to avoid. I can't say it enough, that's awesome. I would not describe my forte as being able to track down or even analyze item-related trends. I don't have the time or focus.

However, something that I've been mulling for a while and has been recently quasi-confirmed, is how the future of true WoW profit will arise. To somewhat cartoon it a bit, I think there are three main levels within the WoW economy:

Commodities or "origination"
This is the bread and butter of trade in WoW. Ore, leather, etc. Ok, we all get that. You originate the materials.

Value add items
This is the second tier of production, where a commodity is modified to add value. Cutting a raw gem is a fine example, or crafting blacksmithing items. If the commodity business is the bread and butter, this is the meat and potatoes (geesh, sorry, I'm writing this while Horde is finishing another lopsided loss in Wintergrasp). No explanation needed, really.

Derivative profiteering
Most auctioneers fall into this category, on a small scale. Identify disequilibrium, profit, etc. No lecture needed for this part. HOWEVER, here's where it gets interesting. For a few months now, I've wondered when someone would string it all together and try to run an actual business in WoW. This is a truly derivative activity, and I'm not aware of it being done yet. It could take the form of insurance/annuities, or even basic savings/investment management (i.e., some poor soul who doesn't like to farm and is afraid of the AH gives you his hard earned 1k gold and you agree to pay interest on it or invest it and take a cut of the profit). The issues of collateral and counterparty risk are significant enough that I can see why this isn't common. I have read a few blurbs about it existing in another online game, but again I don't have time to research it and I'm not sure if it's an apples to apples comparison.

When I saw a post on another blog highlighting a new pay-based "remote auction house bot" that allows you to use the remote AH to buy/flip items, I thought two things: "uh oh" and "oh boy." I do not use this addon, nor can I see myself doing so. However, I think this is a watershed event. The program itself turns AHers into, essentially, day traders. Granted, the 200/day post limit is still hard-wired by Blizz, but I hope the significance of this is apparent...

Anyhow, I don't have any answers, and as stated originally I view this post as one long question. The comments I've received on this blog so far have been insightful and intelligent, so how do YOU feel about these developments? Where is WoW heading re: finance? Are there any true banks in WoW that you know of, and if not how long will it be?


  1. Interesting idea in theory, but in reality most ppl will just do a bunk with your hard earned 1k gold, unless blizz get on the bandwagon and puts in some safeguards which i dont see happening.

  2. Creating a real business in WoW is a nice idea but since you can't enforce someone to pay you back for example, that's never gonna work. Besides, you would rely on a real good name for people to trust you with their money. Then someone pissed pops up saying you steal and your business is over...

    Regarding "Remote AH": I don't want to use it but I increasingly feel the urge to do so, just to keep up with competition. That sucks. One of the worst ideas Blizz had ever :(


  3. There are three fundamental problems moving past commodities and basic industry:
    1) lack of safeguards
    2) little benefit to financial services
    3) increasing scale makes you less efficient

    You could get past the lack of safeguards by doing this in a guild of trusted friends. In fact, a lot of guilds (assuming a well run guild bank, which is rare) probably could meet a loose definition of derivative profiteering. I run my guild bank and, if I didn't have gold of my own, could probably use the guild bank gold to make more gold. Even so, you'll always have a pretty limited clientele.

    So assume you have some clients that are willing to hand you gold. It's still not likely that they will store their gold with you because having an interest earning savings account or an insurance policy doesn't really benefit them. Characters don't grow old, lose earning potential, get sick, or retire (little benefit from savings). Catastrophic events (getting hacked?) can't really be mitigated via insurance because most items can't be bought back with gold. And there aren't serious consequences to losing all your gold. Repairs and basic consumables cost a fraction of what food and shelter would.

    But the most fundamental problem is scale. IRL there are transactional barriers to investing a single dollar, but with millions of dollars you can reliably get decent returns. In WoW, the main barrier isn't capital (gold), it's time. If I roll a lvl 1 on a new server, I can spend a few hours sniping auctions for low level mats and go from 5g to 100g in a day or two. With 100g, I can double my gold nearly every day. With 1000g, my return has plummeted to 20% and I'm spending a lot more time scanning for deals. At 10k there's almost no way I'm putting all of that gold back into the AH every day. It just takes too much time. And 10k is not a lot of gold on hand. Above 10k, you might as well just let your guildies' gold sit in their own banks - it's not doing anyone any good languishing in yours.

  4. Good points, all, and again this was mostly a thought exercise.

    Charlie, I really appreciated your well thought out criticism. I suppose the clientele for something like this would mostly be the players too lazy or scared to bother with AH. I base this mainly on the number of players that always tend to hover around 2-3k gold, which I suspect constitutes a majority of WoW.

    And, to be very clear, this is not something I'm is, from what I understand, viable in other games and I was wondering when it might cross over.

  5. It was a good thought experiment. =) And your original post didn't sound like you were considering selling derivatives, it just sounded like you were wondering why no one's ever started that kind of business. I think the lack of scaling really hamstrings that model. It's unfortunate, because it'd really be interesting.

    It occurred to me that I've actually done something like this once: when 6 of my friends and I rolled level 1's on a new server. They sent me gold and mats and I multiplied them until everyone had ~1k. It was pretty fun playing the AH with other people's money.

    Right now, I've got several guildies that are either hate or are afraid of the AH - if they like farming, I offer to buy their stuff COD. If they don't like the AH, OR farming OR questing, chances are they're complaining about gold a lot. I haven't figured out a good way to help them afford fancy mounts that isn't just giving away gold (eww).

  6. Wouldn't buying mats COD and running a volume business straddle your categories 2 and 3? No, you're not handling other people's cash, but you are getting paid, in volume, for eliminating their risk.

    Along different lines, I just posted on trying to put together two lists of items: those that require constant AH care, and those that can reliably produce results without babysitting. See

    As for the remote auction feature, I brought my authenticator with me on this trip, but so far have held off. It's not the extra $2.95 per month, but the fact that I'm not sure I want to be checking the AH with any kind of frequency when I'm away from game.

  7. Thought about this a couple days, but basically, here's what I come up with. Charlie touched on it slightly, but it boils down to the fact that gold isn't the limiting factor for most goblins. It's time and bank space that limit us. In other words, I see no benefit to me as a goblin to take my guildies' 1K and try to make them a profit (interest). I already have more gold then I can invest (wisely)! So what's the benefit to me?

    Even now, in preparation the for the inflation of Cataclysm, I'm trying to spend as much gold as I can. I have 24 guild bank tabs with literally no available space. I'm buying as many materials as possible (under my already low snatch threshold), while still selling the stuff that's profitable today, and my liquid gold levels increase more than they decrease. I thought about creating or buying another guild bank, but I'm already stretched pretty far, in terms of organizing and managing what I have already.

    So yeah, time and bank space limit me, not available gold. So there's no incentive for me to operate as a bank to others, even if the other issues weren't already there (safeguards, reputation, etc).

    As for the remote AH, I can't imagine ever using it unless the 200 post limit was lifted, and more mods were developed that allow me to mass post like I do in game. I know there's money to be made, but too much micro management takes the fun away for me. I doubt I'll ever use it. If for no other reason than because I'm already wealthy without it.