Tuesday, July 06, 2010
Glyph selling strategies
Advice on selling glyphs has been one of the staples of World of Warcraft economics blogs for the whole of Wrath of the Lich King. With typical prices for a Northrend herb around 1 gold, the cost to make any glyph in the game is less than 2 gold. But looking at the auction house will probably show some glyphs sold for 60 gold, a profit margin of over 3000%. Seems like a good business to be in. Or is it?
Digging a bit deeper shows signs of trouble: Using auctioneer it is easy to find out how many auctions there are in total, and how many glyph auctions there are, and the percentage of glyph auctions of the total market is astounding: On many servers more than a quarter of all auctions are for glyphs. On my server this weekend of 15,000 auctions in total, a whopping 5,000 were for glyphs. As an auction lasts a maximum of 48 hours, it is obvious that far over 90% of these auctions fail to sell. And the prices you see are those of the *unsold* glyphs. The prices of the sold glyphs are lower, and the market is a lot smaller. The average player simply doesn't switch around his glyphs all that often.
Thus while yes, you can potentially sell a glyph which did cost you 2 gold to make for 60 gold, this only happens if at the moment somebody needs that particular glyph (and doesn't mind the price) you happen to be the lowest seller. But as those thousands of glyph auctions suggest, there are plenty of other glyph sellers. And if you just posted several hundred glyphs and somebody else posts his same glyphs 5 minutes later, it is likely that you'll just get "auction expired" messages in your mailbox instead of mountains of gold. Your profits depend a lot more on the other glyph sellers than on demand, which is probably pretty similar on different servers. But as the number of glyph sellers on each server is different, the profit potential differs a lot as well.
That explains why the WoW economic blogs proclaiming to have found the absolutely best glyph selling strategy that is sure to make you rich quick all have a *different* strategy. They all simply tested their strategy only on *their* particular server market. The same strategy which makes you thousands of gold on one particular server might be a complete washout on another server. I tried various of these "get rich quick" strategies on my server, but with there being so much competition, nothing really worked convincingly. I made gold, sure, but at the cost of spending an hour per day emptying my mailbox and relisting all the glyph, with over 90% of them coming back unsold again and again. Regardless of whether I undercut the competition by 5 copper, or did radical undercutting to as low as was just marginally still profitable, somebody else always undercut me. And while other glyph sellers argue that they automated the mailbox emptying and glyph relisting to a point where it needs very little input and they can watch TV on the side, I still count that as one hour of lost time which prevents me from doing something which is actually fun.
I also think that Blizzard designed the glyph economy badly. The glyph undercutting wars clearly show up the weakness of the World of Warcraft auction house system: A blind auction system where you don't see the prices at which the competition listed their wares, like the one used in Final Fantasy XI, would work a lot better here. When Blizzard introduced a limit of 200 transactions per day for the new remote auction house system, I couldn't help but think that it would have been a good idea to also limit the players in the game to that number. 200 auctions per account per day is more than enough for the vast majority of players, and prevents a lot of abuses of the AH system.
So, what is the absolutely best and surest method to get rich through selling glyphs? It is simple: You produce all possible glyphs and undercut the current lowest seller by 1 copper. Then you constantly watch the auction house 24/7, and whenever somebody undercuts you, you cancel your auction and undercut him by another copper, repeatedly if necessary until he gives up. That way you are guaranteed to be always the lowest seller, capture a 100% market share, and will make thousands of gold per week. At least until you break down from exhaustion, because with that strategy you will never be able to leave the computer or actually play anything. Hmmm, sounds like a job for 3 Chinese guys working in shifts in a WoW sweat shop in Guangdong. Oh, you wanted a "get a lot of gold for just 1 hour per day" strategy? Well, I'd recommend fishing, gathering herbs or mining. Unless on your server there are particularly few glyph sellers, there is no glyph selling strategy which gives thousands of gold per week and where you need to log on only once per day for 1 hour.