Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Killing the glyph market
It is safe to say that the market for glyphs in World of Warcraft isn't working as intended. Far from being a fun tradeskill which players find useful, sometimes make a bit of gold with, and which supplies other players with needed items at stable prices, the glyph market turned into something semi-industrial, which only a few players participate in, and that only works through the massive use of addons automating it. Prices fluctuate wildly from 1 gold to 60 gold, and on many auction houses over a quarter of all auctions are for glyphs. So, what went wrong?
I suspect the chain of events started with alchemy. Players need flasks for raiding, which creates a demand for frost lotus. Frost lotus is found when gathering high-end herbs, not all of which are then used for making flasks. People farming herbs for frost lotus create an oversupply of herbs, keeping prices for them low. Thus inscribers can buy relatively cheap herbs, and with the help of the ink seller transform them into any glyph, at a cost of under 2 gold per glyph.
On the other side of the equation is demand. Demand is fluctuating, but buyers are not very price sensitive. If you respec correctly, you are going to spend a lot of gold on the respec, the gear needed for the new role, enchantments, and gems, all of which will cost you hundreds of gold. A glyph costing 50 gold isn't going to stop you there.
So we have glyph being supplied at a production cost of under 2 gold, and buyers willing to pay 50 gold, so everything should be rosy, shouldn't it? Not so fast. Easy profit attracts everybody out to make money. And the auction house running with rules that are far from supportive to creating an efficient market, what we get is wild undercutting and prices all over the place. One aggravating factor in the case of glyphs is that it costs basically nothing to post a lot of them. Many glyph sellers have over a thousand glyphs on auction. Sure, over 90% of them return unsold, but the few that do sell make enough profit to make it worth their while.
That this isn't working as intended should be clear from the fact that it can't be done without addons. Imagine posting a thousand glyphs manually, then emptying your mailbox 48 hours later, and reposting all the glyphs that didn't sell, each time manually checking the current lowest price. Only addons like Auctioneer and Postal make that business even possible.
But if that doesn't convince you that this isn't intended, then maybe the fact that Blizzard announced to kill the glyph market will: In Cataclysm apparently you only need to buy every glyph just once, write it into your spellbook, and if you ever need it again due to repeated respecs, you can get it from the spellbook instead of buying a new one. Which means a few months after Cataclysm comes out, everybody will have all the glyphs they ever need, and except for a small market for alts and new players, demand will be pretty dead. I would have preferred other means, like a 1 gold auctioning fee for glyphs to stop the current excesses. But killing demand sure will work to kill the glyph market. Good riddance!