Friday tin-foil hat time

As we move into Blizzcon 2017, yesterday Activision-Blizzard held its Third Quarter Earnings Call, releasing the made-for investors summary of its performance from July 1 through Sep 30 of this year. I sped through the call transcript, but did not really find anything more than is in the short MMO-C summary:

The quarterly Activision Blizzard earnings call was today:

  • Activision Blizzard had 384 million Monthly Active Users in this quarter.
  • Blizzard had the biggest third quarter online player community in its history, with a record 42 million Monthly Active Users.
  • Overwatch and Hearthstone Monthly Active Users grew year-over-year.
  • The Overwatch community rose to over 35 million registered players.
  • The company achieved a new milestone with players spending over 50 minutes per day in Activision Blizzard games.
  • Hearthstone: Knights of the Frozen Throne expansion led to double-digit percentage growth in time spent year-over-year for the franchise.
  • World of Warcraft released a new content update in the quarter, leading to stable Monthly Active Users for the franchise quarter-over-quarter and continued participation in value added services.
  • Activision Blizzard delivered a Q3 record of over $1 billion of in-game revenues, with record performance year-to-date.

Like a lot of WoW players, I get annoyed with those who continually predict the imminent end of the game. It is still a robust leisure experience, it still has a lot of players, and Blizz is still pumping considerable resources into it. But this quarterly report did give me pause, in particular:

  • Blizzard is doing very well overall, but most of its success is due to franchises other than WoW.
  • When it suits their purposes, Blizz is perfectly willing to publish numbers of players, rather than strictly MAU — for example, they said that Overwatch has 35 million “registered users”.
  • The best they could say about WoW is that the game had “stable” MAUs for the quarter, and that Blizz was successfully marketing “value added services” to the player base. I do not find this to be an optimistic statement.
  • And the most interesting statement of all, because it perfectly encapsulates the entire Blizz approach now: The company achieved a new milestone with players spending over 50 minutes per day in Activision Blizzard games. If we needed any more insight into what WoW will look like in the next expansion, this is it: Every possible aspect of it will involve endless grinds.

As a little thought experiment, I tried to apply a fascinating technique first devised several decades ago by J. Richard Gott, a Princeton University astrophysicist. (Check out my source on this, a Washington Post article from a few weeks ago. You can also find Gott’s technique written up in scholarly papers. It forms the basis for his Doomsday Argument, a fun springboard for some lively debates.)

You have to bear with me on this, because it takes a bit of setting up, but here we go:

Gott visited the Berlin Wall in 1969, and he began to wonder how long the wall dividing that beautiful city would last. Some people thought it was just a transient political aberration that would be gone in short order, others thought it could last hundreds of years. So Gott laid out a rudimentary timeline, marking 1961 as the beginning point and “unknown” as the end point. He divided the line into equal quarters, though of course he could not say how long each quarter represented.

He reasoned that his 1969 visit fell somewhere on that timeline, and statistically there was a 50% chance that his visit occurred in the second or third quarters of the wall’s existence (the middle half, if you will). He had no way to tell if his visit occurred at the beginning of that middle half or at the end.

Source: Washington Post

However, if it fell at the beginning of the 2nd quarter, that would mean that each quarter was eight years long, in which case the total life of the wall would be 32 years, thus it would come down in 1993.

On the other hand, if his 1969 visit occurred at the end of the third quarter, that would mean each quarter was a bit less than 2.7 years long, and the wall could come down as early as 1971. Thus, he calculated there was a 50% chance that the wall would come down between 1971 and 1993. In reality, it came down in 1989.

The beauty of this technique was that it relied on statistics only, not on any political calculations or predictions of human behavior. Now, of course, a 50-50 chance is not always the odds we want if we are trying to predict something of huge importance — we would like somewhat better odds in those cases.

The technique allows for this, although you lose some precision in the process. You simply extend the part of the line any given point of time is. For example, instead of assuming a 50% chance that his visit occurred during the middle 50% of the timeline, Gott could have assumed there was a 95% chance his visit occurred during the middle 95% of the timeline. This was almost a sure bet, but it meant the calculations would have predicted the Berlin Wall would last somewhere between .2 and 320 years. Even taking into account it had already lasted 8 years at the time of Gott’s visit, the most he could have said about it with 95% certainty is that it would come down sometime between 1969 and 2281. Not all that helpful.

Still, I find the technique fascinating. So I decided to apply it to the question of how long the game of WoW will last.

Using 2004 as the start point and an unknown as the end point of the game, we are now at point 2017. Applying Gott’s technique, there is a 50% chance that WoW will end sometime between 2021 and 2056. I am pulling for the latter, but if I add in some non-statistical analysis, I am forced to admit the possibility that an earlier date is more likely:

  • The game is already technologically ancient, and this kind of classic MMORPG is a dying genre.
  • The game does not really lend itself to ATVI’s strategic vision of mass esports events, mobile apps, and fast-paced arena-type contests.
  • The game accounts for less and less of Blizz’s revenue each quarter, and it is only a matter of time before they decide they can no longer devote the resources necessary to maintain it.
  • The kinds of things Blizz has to do in order to keep the game corporately viable seem to be exactly the kinds of things that drive players away, resulting in a downward spiral. Example: Introducing more and more endless grinds in order to keep MAU “stable”.

If, adding in the analytical points I described, we assume the earliest end date — 2021 — that could mean we will see at most two expansions after Legion before the final demise of the game. And if we do not get the next expansion within, oh, say six months, it could mean the expansion after Legion will be the final one.

All wild speculation, of course, but hey it’s kind of fun to indulge in some tin-foil hat theories on a nice Friday fall day.

With that, enjoy your weekend, and let’s hope we have some great new announcements coming out of Blizzcon in the next few hours.

Running in place

If you have a busy day today, you might want to skip reading this post. I guarantee you there is nothing of substance in it, I am writing it as a placeholder, a way to keep my writing rhythm going when there really seems to be absolutely nothing to write about.  Oh, I will natter on about a couple of unrelated subjects, but the truth is, there really is very little to discuss these last few days before the pre-expansion patch goes live.

Which I hope will be next Tuesday, and it probably will be next Tuesday, but that is not a sure thing. All we know is that Tuesday marks the end of the current PvP season, and Blizz has told us that “the Legion pre-expansion patch is nearly here.” Now, I know that in the past the end of the PvP season has coincided with patches going live, and I have no reason to think that will not be the case this time. But Blizz has not told us officially that the patch will go live on Tuesday the 19th.

You would think if they were certain of the status, that they would actually tell us, but either they are continuing their tradition of being saccharinely coy about it, or perhaps they are not absolutely sure it will in fact go live then. Legion itself will launch August 30, so that would be about 6 weeks after a July 19th pre-patch. I don’t have the numbers handy, but 6 weeks seems like a bit longer lead time than we have had in the past (it may not be, may be just my perception), and I can’t help but wonder if Blizz is hedging their bets, frantically finishing up all the worst bugs in 7.0.3 with an ideal target date of Tuesday but a worst case launch of the 26th. Nevertheless, I am planning on next Tuesday.

A couple of nights ago I played around with a Demon Hunter in the beta. I didn’t get too involved with it, just did a few of the intro quests to get it to level 99, then the server crashed. I had fun with it, and I will probably roll one as soon as we are able on live, but I doubt if I will ever do much with one as an alt. I’m sure those of you really interested in them have already devoured some of the more detailed reporting available, so I won’t go into much on specific mechanics. (Plus, I was just kind of passing time so I did not keep much n the way of notes on my experience.)

The class seems lively and engaging, and the visuals are great, like the sprouting of wings when you double jump. Even with only a couple of spells at 98, it seemed a tad OP in the starting area — knowing zero about the class, I had no trouble taking on 4-5 mobs at a time, never getting below about 80% health in the process. Still, it is a melee class, and I am just not all that excited about playing melee in a raid or group setting. Too chaotic in terms of visuals, small movements of the boss require you to reposition yourself constantly, large movements of the boss cause you to lose a ton of damage while you are running after him, etc. It is just not my thing. I expect it will be like the DK I rolled when it became available — it was new and intriguing but ultimately not something I enjoyed playing over the long haul.

The OP factor I noticed made me wonder if Blizz is purposely doing that in order to make the new class more attractive to players. Not that I think it will be necessary — there will be about a jillion Demon Hunters running around all over Azeroth as soon as they become available. Some players will love them and make them their mains, becoming very skilled, and others like me will pick them up and quickly lose interest in them.

The other thought I had as I played it was that Demon Hunters make the whole idea of melee Survival Hunters even more puzzling. I admit I have not rolled a SV hunter (and Hell will freeze over before I do so), so I cannot compare the two specs from personal experience, but everything I read about the two tells me they are similar in play style. SV has a pet, DH does not. SV has traps, DH as far as I took it does not. But other than that, both are quite rogue-like in their play style, at least from a rank amateur’s point of view.

I wonder if down the road Blizz has plans to make SV hunter the third DH spec, maybe giving real hunters a new tanking spec. Even better, what if the reason they included “hunter” in the name for DH is that they plan to remove MM as a spec in the next expansion and merge BM in with the DH class, thereby completing what seems to be the goal of destroying the hunter class as we have known it since the beginning of WoW? All it would take is a shift in the races available for DH, make up some ridiculous lore to explain it, and voila! Yeah, I know that is a really stupid and far out theory, but hey I got nothing better to do these days…

Some day I would love to hear the real reason Blizz reconfigured hunters as they did. Because their insipid “class fantasy” explanations just don’t cut it. It will be interesting to see how the two melee specs fall out for numbers of players, inclusion in top level raid teams, etc. It seems to me that if you want to play a new melee spec, DH has it all over SV in terms of fun and cool effects

As I said at the beginning, I really have nothing much else to write about. I have been spending most of my game time the last few days with housekeeping chores, and I expect come Tuesday (if indeed we have the pre-patch then), the admin grind will start in earnest. I will have to go through a ton of salvage crates and then spend a few hours either vendoring or DE-ing the literally hundreds of pieces of transmog gear I have stashed in void storage and banks. I fully expect that chore to last two days at least. Then I will have to take a full day for each of my characters and set up new action bars, keybinds, talents, glyphs (whatever ones we have remaining), and auras for Weakauras, then run through a few sessions on the target dummies and venture into a random dungeon or two. Yeah, minimum one day per character, maybe longer.

OK, see, I told you. Nothing to see here today. Move along.

PS. Happy Bastille Day.

Crazy release theories

Well, it’s Monday morning, and we are getting down to the real dregs of any semblance of news from Blizz. This at a time when we are at least 5 months away from Legion, and I now believe that to be an optimistic guess. We have sporadic Legion information from the Golden Gamers who have alpha keys, but unless you want to spend hours watching someone make money streaming their experience, this too is very sparse. A couple of bloggers with the key have done a credible job writing about their particular areas of interest (thinking about Delirium, Bendak, Jade over at Jade’s Forest, and Megan O’Neill), but beyond that, about all there is for us in the Great Unwashed is plowing through the Legion class forums, piecing together tiny bits of info about this or that stat being bugged or conflicting with this or that other effect.

No one that I can tell is writing about the overall feel or tone of the Legion experience. Maybe that is because it is still so early in its development that it doesn’t have any kind of feel to it. Which brings me to my first of two crazy theories on release.

(And remember, Blizz, if you were being even the tiniest bit transparent on your Legion development, I would not have to resort to crazy theories.)

Blizz is further behind on Legion than they were on WoD at the same pre-release time point. (And we all know how that turned out for WoD.) How else can you explain that we are, in theory, 5 months from Legion live, and we still do not even have anything Blizz is willing to call beta? I am betting that Blizz has once again bitten off way more than they can chew.

I believe that their original idea of class halls has become much larger and consuming then they first envisioned, that the “fewer followers” they alluded to at Gamescom have become a veritable army with tailored missions and gear, crucial to progressing in the expansion.

I think their inexplicable decision to make artifact weapons unique to every spec has morphed into a nightmare of never-ending separate quest lines, weapon talent trees, skins to assuage every conceivable ego niche (PvP, every level of raid, etc.), and a host of spin-off problems they failed to anticipate. I think their decision to yet again revamp nearly every class and spec, when combined with the crucial talent role of unique artifact weapons, has caused them to be overwhelmed by balance issues.

We also see that professions are getting a complete overhaul, as are some very traditional features such as the glyph system. All these revamps are in addition to creating all the usual new expansion stuff like artwork and zones and raids and dungeons. The result, I am postulating, is a project so vast and complex that there is no way it can be ready by the end of the summer. At least not to Blizz’s pre-WoD release standards. Their options will be to delay release, to release it as a pile of poop like they did WoD, or possibly to do a bit of both and release it slightly later as a slightly smaller pile of poop. (You should prepare for yet another release day server debacle, possibly lasting a week or more, as in WoD and to a somewhat lesser extent Mists. This might mean you should ideally schedule your New Expansion “sick days” from work a week after release, not the day of. Just a suggestion. 😉)

I also think, if they are scrambling as desperately as my theory postulates, that there is other fallout. We are seeing some of this. For example, I think nearly all their WoW resources are working on Legion. They appear to have completely abandoned WoD, except as a stealth test bed for Legion enhancements (like the recent chat changes). We aren’t even getting any quick little fun changes, like the conga line fruit hat from a few months ago or, even, more ridiculous Pepe-like items.

This leads me to a crazy sub-theory that actually Blizz likes it when we are bored with WoW prior to a new expansion. They have said numerous times that the WoW genre is by nature cyclical, that it is to be expected and planned for. What if one of the ways they are “planning for” such cycles now is to embrace the pre-release lull by making sure there is nothing new to engage players, that such boredom will drive a significant number of us to try other Blizz and ATVI games? That WoW ennui is a perfect vehicle for ramping up Heathstone or Overwach participation? Just sayin’.

Another example of the consequences of Blizz being behind the curve on Legion is that they do not have the resources to deal with any kind of player revolt. Which means that they have conveniently not addressed some sensitive issues, such as flying or the promised “accommodations” to artifact weapons for off specs and alts. As far as I can tell, the flying quest line is not in the alpha at all. I take this to mean that Blizz is once again being coquettish on the subject. They said they intended to follow the “WoD model” for flying in Legion, which of course many people took to mean there would be a quest and achievement line for it. But to me, the other part of the WoD model is that it was delayed until the second major patch, and I am 99% certain that is the part of the model most important to Blizz. So I fully expect the flying quest and achievement line will be gated to ensure no one can get it prior to at least the second major patch. I would not even be surprised to see one of the achievements be full completion of the artifact weapon tree. You read it here first.

Disclosure of the flying gate would undoubtedly cause a great deal of public rage (both for and against), and as I said, I do not believe Blizz has the resources to deal with such a reaction now. Much easier to just not say anything and let people believe what they want to based on some early vague pronouncements.

My second crazy release theory is that my worst nightmare will come true, and Blizz will go live with the Legion pre-event as well as with the 7.0 class changes shortly after or even just prior to the movie release. Think about this for a minute. If you are Blizz, and you believe that the movie will bring many new and returning players to the game, heck you are even offering movie tie-in incentives to do so, then the last thing you want is for most of the new players to quit the game after a couple of weeks out of frustration.

The game is obscure enough to a new player — or even to one who has been gone a couple of years — in terms of leveling, questing, professions, raid and dungeon complexities, travel, you name it. To bring them in, have them finally become somewhat comfortable with their new characters after a few weeks, then to completely revamp everything they know about playing their class, is to invite mass quitting. We diehard veteran players put up with such massive changes every couple of years, but I think new players will not. There are just too many other gaming options for them now.

So I think Blizz will want to start new players out on the class and spec play style that will exist in Legion. This means — given what I said about how they are scrambling to need a late September release date — that we will be stuck with Legion class changes in a WoD world for at least three months, maybe more.

Think about that. Remember that Legion specs require the talents from the artifact weapon to realize their full play potential, remember that secondary stats are changing significantly, remember that in theory the Legion raids and dungeons are tuned for this but the WoD ones are not, and you start to realize how very painful this might be. And no matter how much Blizz might vow that they will make “accommodations” in WoD for the class and spec changes, go back to crazy theory number one and ask yourself how many resources they will be willing or even able to devote to something that will likely resolve itself as soon as Legion goes live. If you were Blizz, would you spend the resources on a dead horse (WoD), or would you delude yourself into thinking that by devoting all resources to Legion you can deploy it even earlier than late September?

That’s it for Monday crazy theories. Oh, and please make your comments very quietly, as I am pretty sure that the Worldwide Consortium of Evil is listening through my microwave.

 

 

Of grammar and tinfoil hats

Before I start this post, I have to share this one with you. Sometimes Blizz makes me break out in gales of laughter. I was reading through the latest blue post on the newest Patch 6.2 build, and came across this:

Item – Warlock T18 Destruction 4P Bonus Your Chaos Bolt has a 9% chance to not consume an Ember. a Ember.

This was the only change noted for destro lock new tier gear. Yeah, Blizz, way to go, nice job replacing correct grammar with incorrect grammar. Because, well, clearly tooltip grammar is the only problem with destro locks in this expansion.

Actually, if you think about it, this stupid incorrect change is emblematic of Blizz’s whole dev approach these days. First, they are focused on tiny details but completely oblivious to the big pictures. There are TONS of HUGE problems with destro locks, but here is some staffer going over tooltip grammar with a fine tooth comb.

Second, this staffer apparently has absolutely no idea how to correctly use English indefinite articles, but firmly believes that whatever way (s)he uses them is the correct way. No research, no cross checking, just “that’s not how I say it, so I’ll change it.” Sound familiar? Kind of like “That’s not how I like to play the game, so I’ll change it to make sure it is played my way.”

And third, where is the adult supervision? Someone who obviously has very little grasp of English is given the task of correcting tooltip grammar? What supervisor made that assignment? Makes you wonder about all the other “tweaks” we see in the patch notes, doesn’t it? Do the people making “class balance adjustments” have any idea what they are doing, and who if anyone is supervising their decisions?

Anyway, on to today’s real topic, which is, several of the bloggers I follow, not to mention Yours Truly, have posted tinfoil hat theories in the last few days. Check out The Grumpy Elf, Marathal at Rambling thoughts about WoW, alt:ernative chat. (Plus some large number of forum contributors, which come to think of it given the nature of forum “discussions” these days maybe we should just not acknowledge, as most of them are probably wearing theirs as they write about them.)

It could just be coincidence that far-out but maybe not so far-fetched theories are appearing seemingly at the same time. But I think there is a better, more obvious explanation: Blizz has given us so little to write about in this expansion and is so uncommunicative that about all anyone can do is speculate. And the more time you have to speculate, the wilder your theories get.

Except I am not sure these theories are so wild.

Put together the links I listed, add a dash of alt:ernative chat’s latest timeline speculation and some wacky guesses, and you could come up with this picture:

Blizz is in the process of slowly winding down the 10-year-old World of Warcraft, possibly as soon as 2017, but certainly by 2018. The widely-perceived failure of WoD highlighted some of the compelling reasons to do this — the complexity of maintaining aging code that grows vastly larger every year, the stress load on what is likely an outdated server and network structure, a story line that makes less and less sense with every expansion, and player base expectations that this technologically old game conform to modern game models. It just is becoming impossible to even maintain this structure, much less add to it.

Having decided on a timeline to shut the game down, Blizz is taking steps to maintain its cash flow while it creates the WoW replacement. And it needs to do so with a bare minimum of resources, because they are transitioning as many as possible to the new game.

One of the ways to maintain player base and thus cash flow is to roll out patches and a couple of expansions on the cheap. WoD is the first of these xpacs. There will likely be one more, but don’t expect it to be any better quality than WoD. Similarly, the patches are more cosmetic than engaging, featuring a few major bug fixes and some fluff toys, maybe some raid and instance reruns.

Another way to maintain cash flow is to increase the subscription price, but Blizz knows that to do so for the regular subscription would probably be a net revenue loss, due to people unsubbing. Enter the brilliant idea of the token — and for once I am not being sarcastic when I say that. It really was a stroke of genius. Blizz now gets a significant number of players to pay 33% more for a month’s worth of service, and by doing so using the auction house shuffle, they may actually not only increase the number of active players but also extend the timeline for keeping players.

The key to this cash cow, however, is making it attractive enough for the players who provide the hard cash, those who spend the real world currency to buy the tokens to put up for sale in the auction house. So Blizz does not let pure supply and demand dictate the gold value of tokens, because sooner or later the market would reach a state of equilibrium — most people who want to purchase “free” game time would have done so to the extent they want, and the gold value of the token would have gone so low that very few would think it worth the cash outlay. (Or the usual cash-payers would have sufficient gold to start buying game time tokens, compounding the problem!)

To stop this from happening, Blizz sets the prices for tokens in the auction house by using their own formula for maximizing their cash accrual. They tell everyone it is “based on” supply and demand to some extent, but that factor is in reality very minor.

Another way they prevent the equilibrium state from occurring is by enticing their cash buyers to immediately spend their newly-bought gold, not save it. (This is where Grumpy’s post fits in.)  If people only buy a couple of tokens and figure they are set for gold until the next expansion, Blizz’s new cash source dwindles to a mere trickle. Heck, there are probably also players out there who feel like they have no need to buy gold at all, since any BoEs or other shinies they might want are outrageously expensive. Enter Blizz’s enticement program, and suddenly if they only had about another 20k they could get That One Thing They Have Been Hankering For But Has Been Out of Reach Until Now, and for only $20 they could now have it.

You heard it here first, folks. By 2017 we will be talking seriously about the follow on to WoW. Meanwhile, get used to bargain-basement patches and expansions and to more Blizz schemes designed to part you from more and more of your cash.

My latest tinfoil hat theory

Since I usually write about my experiences in game, and since these days most of those experiences consist of garrison chores, out of boredom (or maybe the haze induced by my allergy meds) I decided to indulge my inner conspiracy theorist today. And anyway, since Blizz refuses to communicate with us in any meaningful way, wacko theories are about all we have to go on as explanations for most of their actions lately.

So here’s my latest tinfoil hat theory. It is about the WoW token and the secret Blizz machinations that they so blithely attribute to “supply and demand.” Mmmmmhmmm.

Take a look at the token’s value on each of the three regions it sells on. If you convert all the real money values into dollars, what you see is that North Americans buy tokens for $20, Europeans for $22, and Chinese for $5 (exchange rates at time of this writing, rounded off to nearest dollar). The Chinese model is not a subscription, rather a time card arrangement that allows — I think — 2700 minutes of game play, and the minutes last until they are used up, whether that is in one week or 6 months. At any rate, the amount and/or method of game play is irrelevant to my theory.

What we will look at is Blizz’s role as a gold seller. That is, how much gold will your dollars buy you? One glance at the regional graphs shows you there are vast differences. For example, just now the real world dollars spent on a token will buy North Americans 26,000 gold, Europeans 42,00 gold, and Chinese 66,000 gold. This works out to the rate of one dollar buying North Americans 1300 gold, Europeans 1900 gold, and Chinese 13,200 gold.

(On the flip side, of course, if you are buying game time with gold, it costs NA and Euro players much less than it does Chinese players. Coincidence? I think not!)

Well, you might say, that is because the Chinese demand for game time paid with in-game gold is far higher than in NA. And after all, Blizz has explained that they will set the rate based on supply and demand. I will counter with the observation that — absent any hard data from Blizz, what a surprise — one good way to gauge relative levels of supply and demand is by the wait time to sell a token. If Chinese demand for them is so vastly higher — on the order of a magnitude of 10 — than in NA or Europe, then they should sell roughly 10 times faster. Certainly the sell times for Chinese tokens should always be 30 minutes or less if the demand is so great relative to supply.

But no, what we see most often in the graphs is that the Chinese sell times are usually in line with the NA and European sell times.

If you have read any of the admittedly sparse studies on WoW gold (here’s one example), you know that since many gold farmers are Chinese, there is likely a huge amount of player gold sitting in that region. I suspect most of it is legitimate, too, as basically gold farmers are the sweatshop workers for gold sellers, making gold in game us what they do for a living. Even those who do not use illegal hacks or bots have learned how to grind out gold in the most efficient way.

The point is, there is almost certainly much, much more player gold sitting in China than in NA or Europe.

Similarly, although I do not have any scholarly sources to back this up, there is anecdotal support for the claim that European players average more gold than do NA players.

Now to the theory: Blizz pegs the cost of in-game tokens to an estimate of total player gold within the region. Supply and demand may be a factor, but if so it is a very minor one, affecting the token price (and thus the price of gold for the initial buyer) only within already-established upper and lower limits. That is, Blizz first establishes maximum and minimum allowable auction house prices for tokens for each region, then allows some fluctuations within those established limits, that it attributes to supply and demand forces. I suspect, for example, no matter how much demand there ever is for tokens in NA auction houses, they will never go above 35,000 gold. My wild-ass guess is that Blizz has established the NA token prices to be within 15k-35k. And they have established similar bounds for Europe and China, based on their estimate of how much player gold exists in those regions.

Any articles I have seen about player gold reserves — and there have been very few especially lately —  do not break anything down by region. Also, most of them rely on self-reporting by players who voluntarily respond to surveys. I have serious doubts about the validity of any survey thus conducted, especially if players are asked something like “What is the size of your gold stash?” No chance of exaggeration there, right? But what that means is that only Blizz has any idea what the amount of player gold is by region. We will likely never know.

And for that reason — complete ignorance of the facts — I stand by my conspiracy theory, indeed will defend it to the death, because that’s the tradition in these kinds of theories and who am I to change tradition?

OK, that’s it for today. If I have introduced a little more paranoia and wackiness into the world, then my work here is done.