Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Cornering the market

On my World of Warcraft server there is a guy making a fortune on the auction house by selling ores and herbs from Outland. Whenever somebody else is selling these cheap, he buys them up, and then puts them back on the auction house for his chosen high price, thus keeping the prices for resources up. I assume that when he isn't camping the AH, he is gathering herbs and ores himself. At some times all the herbs and ores of some types in the auction house are sold by this one guy.

That is insofar annoying that I need ores to skill up jewelcrafting, and herbs to skill up alchemy. But with me having a job I can only play at times when everybody else is playing, and at those times gathering stuff is hard, because so many people are doing it too. I wish there was a dynamic spawn system not only for mobs, but also for resource nodes. Even if I happen to be with a group in a dungeon, and there are adamantite ore nodes, there aren't more than 2 in the whole place, and I might not be the only miner in the group.

I'm not paying 60 gold for a stack of ore! But apparently other people are paying that much, otherway that guy cornering the market on resources wouldn't be able to do so. Now somebody is going to blame the chinese gold farmers for this, but I have a suspicion that this is simply a combination of cash saved up for the expansion, plus the fact that earning money is so much easier in Outland than it was before.

So the current plan is to put jewelcrafting on hold until I'm level 70, and then using the flying mount to gather the adamantium I need. Gathering is so much easier if you don't have to deal with mobs on the way. Alchemy I was able to get quite far by making tons of Greater Fire Protection potions, using materials from the old world. And I ended up skilling up herbalism in places like Azshara, which are totally deserted right now. But of course that only nets me the old type of herbs, which aren't worth much any more.
On release my server had one character (Ajaxx) who cornered the market on rare items. He posted any BOE blues for such absurd prices that the majority of people thought it was laughable. He obviously sold some though, as he turned what gold he had around and bought up every blue that hit the market below "his" price and reposted it. He apparently had what he had decided were the correct going rates for every rare in the game, and any attempt to sell one under his price resulted in him buying it and reposting it.

You've never seen somebody generate so much hate in public chat. I don't know if he was foreign or not, but I personally always kind of enjoyed his persistence. The fact of the matter is, this kind of market domination can only exist (like you mention) if somebody is paying those prices. That means it's worth it to somebody to pay that much for the ore, and just because it's not worth it to me doesn't make it incorrect. It makes it enterprising.
We don't have any Donald Trump style chars that I know of on our server, but my friend and I often laugh at the AH prices for new ores and herbs.

I think you hit the nail on the head when you mentioned how easy it is to generate money in Outlands. Last night I played for 2 hours and made 75 gold. That is a huge increase vs farming the Burning Steepes for 10g per hour praying that a rare item will drop.
Question as a fellow alchemist and herbalist - have you gotten a discovery potion yet? After making dozens of assorted potions, such as hunter crack Agility, I've yet to see one. It's somewhat disappointing.
I will admit to being a AH shark. Every once in awhile I will pick and itei see as lucrative and farm for several days straight to gather. Last time I did this it was Savory Deviate Delights. I fished for 3 days to amass 320 fish then spent 30 mins cooking. Posted them for about 4.5g per stack of 5 cooked fish. They all sold in a matter of minutes to various peoples. I made almost 300g in 1 hour. Since i needed to skill up fishing this is what i did. Made some seriuos cash. this got me my first mount at 40. I had to keep from using all that money for 5 levels until i could train and buy. I have done the same thing when the BC hit. I farmed for 2 weeks for copper ore and 3 months for the higher gems. Placed them (a few at a time) on the ah the weekend after the BC. I made enough cash to but my epic....twice. Once i set my mind on "money Makin" i got nuts and do nothin but for at least a week. Pre-BC i could knock out 450g in one week not even breakig a sweat. I know i could double that in the outlands with out even trying.
Actually, you mentioned BC mistakes (below), and I didn't have anything major to 'fess up. My blacksmithing decisions in Azeroth are another matter...

I should have used my Thorium to skill-up my Blacksmithing skill to at least 275, but instead I turned a lot of Thorium in for patterns / Thorium Brotherhood rep. Seemed like an ok decision at the time, but now Blacksmithing is stalled at 272 Armorsmith. In the Outland I haven't seen any ore less than Fel, and I have more than two stacks of Fel Iron bars already and mining up to about 335 skill as a level 62 questing in Hellfire Peninsula. I must say that as a warrior in Outland I miss getting stone that can be turned into sharpening stones, too. I do like the Mining bag (and that ore stacking was upped to 20) though it seems odd that jewels and motes received from mining can't go into the mining bag.

It's a matter of time, which there is never enough of. I could go back and farm Thorium with my main, but right now that sounds rather tedious, especially since it would take a *lot* of Thorium to progress and the ore nodes typically yield only 2-4 each. Though I will have to contrast the possibility of 'farming gold' in Outland and buying blacksmithing mats on the AH versus straight-out 'farming Thorium'.
Bottom line: Blacksmithing is on hold, for now...

I have done one thing that's worked out well. I have a bank character, and when I start running across "white" drops that I don't know what to do with, rather than vendoring them I send them to the bank character (I've tired of looking up every single thing in Thottbot). Many times I've later discovered that the item was a mat for crafting or a quest turn-in and was very glad to have a stack or two socked away already. It works great, too, when you can supply mats you can't use to a buddy, they get skill-ups, and you get their appreciation, plus in many cases some mats or other consumables or items in return.
I've never done this for an extended period of time, but I have done it several times over the course of an evening, cornering the market in Stonescale Eels, etc.

I personally don't think there is anything wrong with this guy's behavior, he's just being an opportunist. And keeping in mind that he will absolutely 100% buy your items if you undercut him, you can use this to your advantage to make a small fortune of your own, by undercutting him by a little (but by just enough) and watching him Buyout all your items ;)
Easy economics. Go farm ores and herbs and post them for what this guy sells them for minus 1s.

Either he leaves them and everyone buys *your* inflated prices, because they're a little bit cheaper. Or he buys them to maintain the monopoly. Either way, guaranteed sale and you can print money.

If you're really quick on the draw you can do it without farming. Try to buy stuff before he does and repost it with the (his price - 1s) strategy. Even if you catch half of it before he does, it's free money.
You really dont even need proffesions to play WoW. It is a way to get more out of your subscription. I usually vender everything I pickup that I dont wear, now im sure I could make some big $ on the AH with the stuff I sell . . . for the way I play WoW however its worth every ounce of my time to avoid standing around in IF AH jumping around bored. I have a better time playing the market in the type channels offering items that people are looking for. If ther is a demand for items I come by, sure ill hold them and CoD them when i get a chance.
I have a sneaking admiration for that guy. While I was playing Wow the AH was probably my favourite part of the game for the very reason that stuff like this could happen. Every other part of WOW has artificial limits so that for example a level 10 character could never ever consider besting a level 60. In the AH however a level 1 with a nose for business can become the wealthiest player on the server. If this guy's business interests are genuinely interfering with your enjoyment of the game you should probably get a few guild mates to help you take him down. I imagine a few days of concentrated farming followed by a bit of market manipulation of your own should burst his bubble. Mind you the longer you leave him at it the more cash he will amass to enable him to ride out a market crash.

Has he also cornered the market on the Alliance AH? If not then that is a big exposure for him and a profit making opportunity for you if you can find a friend on the alliance side.
I agree with ten mohican - I vendor everything I find, and never bother with the AH (either buying or selling)unless it's a Blue BoE or I need items for a quest that I can't make myself.
Sure I could be making a lot more money on the AH if I put items there instead, but I'm the only one in my guild who is never crying that they have no money. I currently have 1500 gold to my name, and the only thing I am saving up for now is my elite flying mount.
I think Blizzard should add more low-level ingredients to recipes. The only point in collecting herbs like Peacebloom, for example, is to level up either Herbalism or Alchemy. Once you have done that, you need never pick another Peacebloom in your life. The low level stuff becomes redundant, and everyone needs to collect the rarer stuff. Why not make some high -level Alchemy recipes require Briarthorn and Silverleaf?
I think I understand where the previous poster is coming from about low-level ingredients for higher recipes. However, Blizz probably wants to avoid a situation of high levels on mounts being compelled to farm low-level areas, thereby blocking the progression of the starting players (my main can farm low-end ore for my alts with great speed, riding between ore spawns and walking past the mobs). And players would probably rather not have return to farm lower-level areas to progress in their profession, since travel time is a recurring topic of MMO discussion.

Another thing was discussed in the comments above that is very true - the AH can be fun, but it can be time-consuming too. I use the AH to sell, but just about my only buying is to sometimes upgrade a weapon. I used to have somewhat of a corner on a particular crafted blacksmithing item, and have on occasion chanced on opportunities to buy-low-sell-high. I've see people post about equipping their twink though AH wrangling -- I found it to be refreshing that a person with a 40-ish main could round up the money to twink via the AH rather than farming with a 60. But if you have several toons / guildies across several classes and professions and level-ranges, and you're using a bank character and an enchanter, there often isn't much left for the AH.

An aside... Tobold mentioned game design in a recent post, and I couldn't help but wonder about the amount work that went into the design and implementation of Silvermoon City, because in spending time there over the last week it is a veritable ghost town. Seems like a waste.
Hi Tobold,

I spent 2 months before TBC accumulating all of the gems and metals I could get my hands on. I dropped Leatherworking 300 to skill up to Mining 300 on my main. I created 9 alts for storage space, and loaded them all with 14-slot bags (best bang for buck, IMO) and 2 bank bag slots. Then I went to work on the AH buying out all the ores, bars, and gems at pre-determined prices. I worked out those prices with an Excel spreadsheet model to forecast my profits (depending on stack size and profit per unit).

Now 3 weeks post-TBC, I have about 9k gold. I've sold almost all of my thorium and gems. The thorium market is still strong (I bought at 15s per, and now it sells for 1.2g per), but gem prices are back to their pre-TBC levels. The high-end Azeroth gems were a bad buy because the AH deposits ate into profits. I also overbought on iron and bronze, with hundreds of stacks in my inventory now. I also bought up other JC mats like Flasks of Mojo for 10s, and ended up selling them for 50s each. Unfortunately the total profit on those was a lot less because the volumes were low: not that many on the AH at once.

Your site, especially your entries during the TBC beta, were invaluable in helping me come up with my market profiteering strategy. Thanks, Tobold!
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