Wednesday, March 11, 2009
While I don't like his philosophy, I do have to admit that the Greedy Goblin is often entertaining, bringing new ideas to an old game. His latest adventure is goblin raiding, buying a raid spot for 4k gold from a hardcore guild, plus paying 1k each for the 7 epics that farm run netted him. So one evening and 11k gold later Gevlon now has better gear than my priest, who is raiding for months now. Of course the lessons him and me draw from that are radically different.
Gevlon thinks he has found the most efficient way to play WoW, or as he says "the fastest and most cost effective way of reaching content". Well, he thinks that "anyone" can make the "pitiful" amount of 2k gold per hour, which obviously isn't true. Gevlon is making money by what is called arbitration, and the profits of that depend on how many people do it. The more good businessmen are on a server, the less the amount of money you can make simply by using the auction house. But even if you make only 300 gold an hour with farming or doing dailies, paying 11K for a 7 Naxx25 bop epics is probably still faster than raiding for months until your less-than-hardcore guild starts getting Naxx25 loot.
But that assumes that "reaching content" and getting the best epics is the ultimate goal of World of Warcraft. So how about the following, completely hypothetical, offer from Blizzard: For just $200 you can make a special account with a single character of your choice, in God mode, for a single day. As you are invincible, you will be able to solo all the raid dungeons you want during that day, and come out with all the best epics in the game. At the end of the day you get a nice screenshot of your character, and a .pdf file listing all your epics, but the character itself is deleted and the account cancelled. So for the cost of just about 1 year of WoW, you'll reach the highest level of content and epics in a day that some other people have spent 4 years and on average $800 on. Good deal, or isn't it?
No, it isn't. I don't think many people would take that deal and pay those $200. Because reaching content and getting epics by itself is worth nothing. We play for various reasons, but one reason is simply to spend time having fun. Pressing the "I win" button and bypassing all the game means you'd lose out on thousands of hours of entertainment, which are far more valuable than some purple pixels. And where the value of the purple pixels comes in is them being the reward for a challenge you have overcome. Even Gevlon was proud that he didn't place that badly on the healing meter in spite of having had bad gear at the start, being just 0.4% of total healing behind the other healing druid, and ahead of the best healing priest. But fact is that there was no challenge, and if Gevlon had done absolutely nothing, the raid would still have succeeded, and he would still have gotten the same epics. The only challenge he had to overcome was finding a bored hardcore guild willing to sell raid slots and epics. And, although Gevlon doesn't believe in it, there is also value in social contacts. Finally beating that boss in a group of guild mates and friends is a lot more satisfying for most of us than beating that boss with the help of 24 strangers you paid for the service. Even strutting around in those epics in front of the bank trying to impress lesser geared players is a social function. Ultimately those epics are useless to Gevlon, because the only game function of those epics is to allow you access to harder raid content. By using the "goblin raiding" method he can probably get into Ulduar dressed in greens, as long as he is paying enough.
Being entertained, playing with friends, overcoming challenges, and through the rewards opening up avenues to new challenges, that is what raiding is about for most people. "Goblin raiding" is an interesting parody of that, but it wouldn't fulfill most of our needs. In economic speak, goblin raiding doesn't maximize utility. Or at least it wouldn't for people who aren't sociopaths.