Of gold and the auction house

Blizz recently told us they are going to increase the gold cap in Legion to 9,999,999g, well 10 million almost — up from 1 million (999,999) currently. I suppose it’s a good step, it may be a quality of life improvement for some, but for most people it will go unnoticed. I don’t care much one way or the other, can’t imagine myself bumping up against it any time soon if at all. I admit I am at the current gold cap in my bank alt guild,  so I guess the new cap will allow me to keep more of my gold there rather than scattered around on various alts, but it’s not really a big thing.

The interesting thing to me about this move is that it was pretty much inevitable, given the gold giveaway in WoD and the consequent inflation most servers have experienced. Sudden and significant monetary inflation, even if it is just pretend money, is never a good thing for an economy, virtual or otherwise. Blizz knows this, of course, and frequently tries to keep a lid on it by introducing so-called “gold sinks” to remove some of the gold from the game. Examples are expensive pets or mounts (sometimes crafted but with mats that cost a huge amount from a vendor, like the chopper), or the Black Market Auction House, or more recently the game play token.

All of these inflation fighters work to one degree or another, but over the course of years inflation still happens. WoD was an especially fast track for it because of the relatively vast amounts of gold players could earn for very little time investment. I am not sure why Blizz decided to make this happen, but I suspect it had something to do with a desperate attempt to give players some reason to keep playing an otherwise widely-despised expansion.

This point resonated with me lately as I was trying to gear up my rogue. As I have a fair amount of gold to spend, I thought I might pick up a couple of leather BoE epics for him from the auction house. I wanted to stay with high level ones because for most anything under level 710 I might as well use Baleful gear. So I started looking.

I got an education in economics as well as in lottery-type thinking. On my server, the only BoEs available at  the level I wanted are boots and belts. This is mainly due to Blizz not making much else BoE at that level. Also, there are usually at most 1 or 2 of each available in the AH. This is due probably to a combination of the items being a low drop rate and the fact that fewer and fewer people are doing the raids that drop them. Thus, in terms of supply and demand economics, goods are scarce and there is a small supply.

The absolute lowest price I saw for any item was 50,000 gold, and usually the prices were more in the 80,000 range, with level 725 items always in the 100,000+ range. I was dumbfounded. Of course I can afford to buy these items at these prices, but I absolutely refuse to do so, not because I am stingy (well, I am, but that is not relevant here) but because to me no piece of gear is worth that at this stage in an expansion. Put into other terms, 100,000 gold is over two months of game time in North America. Taking this analogy one step further, that one piece of gear has an equivalent real cost of between $20 (for low end 50k items) and $40+ (at $20 each for game time tokens from the Blizz store).

(Did a late edit on that last bit because my original math was flaky, sorry.)

Just not worth it to me. And I expect many players, even those with a lot of gold, feel the same way. Yet the same sellers keep trying to sell what I presume are the same pieces of gear (no one can be that legitimately lucky with drops to get multiples of these drops, right?) for weeks and weeks. And a look at WoWuction indicates very few of them are in fact selling. So once again in terms of supply and demand economics, demand — while not flat — is falling. This is the education I got in lottery type thinking — people still think they can make their fortune by selling that one piece of gear, oblivious to the changing situation of demand. Now of course only one spendthrift or raid-desperate buyer needs to bite in order for one seller to get lucky, but it is in fact just that — getting lucky. It has nothing to do with sound merchant principles.

Anyhow, I have not bought any gear for my rogue, and I seriously doubt if I will do so. But in looking for it, I realized another interesting phenomenon in the auction house, at least from my experience. As I was looking for gear, I would from time to time stumble on what seemed to be a really good deal on some other item or mat I am always on the lookout for, the kicker being that the good deal was not in the buyout price but in the bid price for the item. So I would put in a bid.

Hahahahahahaha!

Has anyone out there ever actually won an auction house bid? Not talking about “winning a bid” if you do a buyout, but an honest-to-goodness bid on an item? I know I haven’t. I don’t often try this route to buying things — maybe because it never works — but over the years I have made maybe 40-50 item bids. Some of them are minimum bids, some of them just a few silver short of the buyout price, some on rare items, some on items the auction house is slammed with. But I have never won one. Not. One. Single. Time. Ever. I am always outbid, usually within minutes of submitting, even if I keep upping my bid.

A couple of years back I dabbled a bit in the Black Market auction house. At the time, the big seller was that invitation to start Brawler’s Guild, can’t remember its name now. There were always dozens for sale on the BMAH. I actually finally submitted a ticket to Blizz, because strangely every time I put in a bid on one, within minutes “someone” would outbid me, regardless of the time of the day or night, even though there were still dozens of invitations in the BMAH with minimum bids less than the one this “someone” had outbid me on. I found this to be bot logic, not human logic, so I submitted the ticket to Blizz — they seemed to agree with me on my reasoning, but of course I never heard back from them beyond their initial “We are looking into it” response.

I can’t shake the feeling that bots are more or less rampant in the regular auction house, too, and so few people actually use the bid system that Blizz can’t be bothered to track down the botters because no one really notices or cares.

Why do we even still maintain the facade of the auction house as a place to “bid” on things? Why not get rid of that entire mechanic and just list things for sale? Rename it to something like the Azeroth Flea Market. I suppose the answer is that to change it would cost many more resources than it is worth — easier to just let people keep on ignoring the “bid” mechanic.

I have rambled on too long.

Tl;dr — 1.) I am stingy and server inflation brings that out more, and 2.) I am not good at AH transactions.

About Fiannor
I have a day job but escape by playing WoW. I love playing a hunter, and my Lake Wobegonian goal is to become "above average" at it.

5 Responses to Of gold and the auction house

  1. The only thing I have been comfortable posting on the AH are gathered mats, undercutting according to an addon.
    I thought that the big amounts of gold that we got from WoD was to defeat the gold sellers. What I don’t understand is where are ALL of these TCG pets and mounts coming from? We have people on our server who will not post them on the Auction House and spam the trade channel until sold. Who are these guys?

  2. Jarnow says:

    If they are not posted on the AH but are instead barked in trade, most likely they are dupes. Don’t buy ’em.

  3. Fiannor says:

    I think you have to look at the overall behavior of people who sell in trade. I typically prefer to sell my JC mounts and choppers in trade, but then I only have like one every few months to sell. And I price them a bit lower than current AH price for them, but not ridiculously low. I think if someone is selling them very frequently or at an especially low price, you have to be very careful as they may certainly be dupes.

    I have a fair amount of success selling some sought-after transmogs in the AH, along with raw mats and consumables like the xp and rep tokens, barrels of oil, the conquest badges, and so forth. Other than that, I don’t sell much.

  4. Grumsta says:

    I have had some luck selling items at an inflated price on Friday and Saturday nights; not because of lottery type thinking, but because of the “drunken eBay” phenomenon. Mounts are great for this because they only cost 1 silver to put up regardless of their value. It’s so reliable that I could buy up Springstrider mounts when they were 5000 gold or less, and sell them the following weekend for anywhere between 10000 and 15000 gold, despite there being plenty up for around 7000 gold when I put the auction on.

    Weird, but it works.

    • Fiannor says:

      “Drunken eBay phenomenon” — hehe, I love it. I have kept fairly close track of my AH sales over the last couple of years, and on my server I am not seeing a very significant uptick on weekends in terms of items sold or their prices. I do try to make sure I repost everything on Friday afternoon because I keep reading that weekends are the most profitable AH times, but it does not seem to work for me. But it may be that I am not selling the items returning party-goers lust after — I am not really very astute in matters of retail sales either IRL or in WoW. Or maybe we are a server full of teetotalers.

      I have finally learned, however, to be smart about undercutting. Especially with bulk items, I usually price them to slightly undersell whoever is also selling them by large stack, even though that is almost always a higher price than the people selling, say, 100 stacks of 1. I find they sell just as well that way. With non-stackable items, I use WoWuction to get a sense of how many usually sell per day or week on my server, and price the item to ride the expected number sold, operating on the assumption that if 10 sell per day, and there are 20 for sale, I can sell mine if I price it to undercut the 8th or 9th lowest listed. Doesn’t always work, but it works often enough to be a viable strategy for me.

      In both Cata and Mists I was able to find one or two things that reliably made me a lot of gold, but I just have not found that in WoD. I think the main reason is garrisons. Not only do many people need fewer mats because of them, but I am making so much gold from missions and such that I am not really driven to find good-selling items.

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