Tobold's Blog
Friday, April 10, 2015
Going infinite

In Magic the Gathering Online there is a special format of quick tournament called a draft where you cannot use the cards in your collection but need to play with expensive fresh packs of unopened cards (called boosters). You need 3 boosters to participate, but if you win the tournament you get more boosters than that as prize. So if you win sufficiently often you can "go infinite", that is keep playing without having to buy those expensive boosters. The WoW Token has opened up the possibility of "going infinite" in World of Warcraft, paying for your subscription with the gold you make in game. It is hard to say where the gold value of a token will settle (currently going up again to 26,500 g), but for the purpose of this post I'll consider you need to make 30,000 gold per month, or 1,000 gold per day every day, to go infinite. The discussion here and elsewhere reveals one interesting fact: Opinions differ widely whether 30,000 gold is "a lot" or "very little". And I would like to discuss why that is so.

I currently have 4 characters above level 90 with garrisons in World of Warcraft. Thus let us examine a very basic strategy to go infinite for me: I could log on every day and do the same thing with every one of my 4 characters: Gather the resources in my garrisons, and use them to start work orders in my crafting buildings. For example the daily ore I can get from a level 3 mine is sufficient to run a forge and a jewelcrafting building. Even if I don't have the professions myself and just use the work orders from two buildings and the daily recipes from the NPC to make 16 advanced crafting resources per profession and character per day, I end up with nearly 4,000 of those resources per month. So I can make 40 crafting epics. I can easily sell them in the current market for over 1,000 gold, so that is 40,000 gold and enough to go infinite.

And that is just the most basic plan, I think I could do much better than that with a more complicated version where I also use a level 3 barn to farm savage blood and make "essences" and similar upgrades which sell for a lot more. So this is why anybody who is used to trying to make gold in World of Warcraft will consider making 30,000 gold per month to be trivially easy, as I barely even need to leave my garrisons for that. Thus the utter incomprehension of the players who consider making gold to be easy for the other side, the people who would be tempted to buy 30,000 gold for $20. So let's have a look at the other side, by considering the "cost" of my plan to go infinite.

First of all my plan requires 3 to 4 alts with garrisons of at least level 2. For veterans like me (6,500 hours of /played time in WoW) that is not really a problem. But if you were to start as a new player today, it would take you hundreds of hours and thousands of gold to get just to this point. Second just logging on my 4 characters and running through all the daily stuff in my garrisons already takes me about 1 hour. And that is 1 hour of boring repetitive chores. If virtual economies and making gold wouldn't fascinate me, that would become tedious pretty quickly. What if you have only 1 hour per day to play? Would you want to spend that hour doing chores to pay for your subscription, or would you rather go out and have some fun?

Which brings us to the financial argument: Yes, I can easily pay for my subscription with gold playing one hour per day making that gold. But that means I paid with 30 hours of "work" instead of $15. I basically worked in World of Warcraft for 50 cents an hour. Financially I would be far better off if I worked a minimum wage job elsewhere and paid for the subscription with dollars. I earn $50 per hour in my day job, so why would I want to work for $0.50 in World of Warcraft?

When the WoW tokens come out I will buy some with my accumulated gold out of pride. I am as proud of my skills to make X gold per hour in World of Warcraft as somebody else might be to have the skills to deal X damage per second. Paying for a subscription with gold is a way to express my virtual economic skills, just like running around in raid epics in a city is a way to express your virtual warrior skills. But I'm pretty sure that this pride won't last forever. I have no interest in doing daily chores just so that I can save the trivial sum of $15 per month. When I am tired of making money in this expansion I'm not going to continue doing so just to pay for my subscription. Going infinite may be trivial in World of Warcraft, but paying for my subscription with real money is trival too.

Thinking about the relative value of 30k gold to a veteran and a newbie adds a new wrinkle to my prediction about in game inflation. Regardless of whether or not tokens result in an overall increase in gold supply (I think they will) they should certainly result in a shift of gold from veteran players (who are likely to sell excess gold for tokens) to novice and casual players (who are more likely to buy gold). Therefore I guess that inflationary pressure will first become evident among items that appeal to novice/casual players.

Of course if tokens merely supplant the illegal gold farming that was already happening there won't be an impact but I think the availability of a safe legal way to buy gold is almost certain to increase sales.
30 hours of labor a month isn't trivial as you said. It's actually $1500 worth of your time. Over a year, going infinite and playing for 'free' would cost as much as a pretty nice mortgage.

Which leads into the huge waste of precious time argument I've been making for years, but I'll spare you from reading it again, except to say that WoW is supposed to be an entertainment product.

I went and checked gold prices again, since my argument hinged on the tokens value being capped at around what you could buy from third party sellers. I don't know if I read the other website wrong or if the market changed, but $20 of gold now gets you around 25k gold, which is where the token is hovering. So, there you go. 10000 was too low, 25000 is more like it.
As far as gold sellers, I think they will survive this. In a way it might even make them more popular. Sure, there's a legal way to do it, but all the moral stigma associated with gold buying (when I played you were a cheating piece of shit if you bought gold, now it's just part of the game) is gone, and people will be used to fantastic convenience of skipping the grind. It is possible that Blizz removing the stigma and increasing the customer base will increase demand for their services, since you can save a few bucks by going through them.

My other thought is to wonder what this will do to the player base. Being able to buy your way out of a good weeks worth of work every month is very nice, but WoW does rely on inducing a sense of importance to the world (cf. Gevlon shocked that people don't want to play his favorite activities, hardcore raiders shocked that people don't care about raiding). Being able to buy you way out of all that will undermine the sense of living in a second world. Once that is undermined you have to treat WoW as just another (expensive) game, and you're left with a a game that is deeply mediocre to awful when it comes to actually being fun. I wouldn't be surprised if this move ends up being the thing that induces burnout in a lot of players, since it undermines the basic premise of the game.
I wouldn't be surprised if this move ends up being the thing that induces burnout in a lot of players, since it undermines the basic premise of the game.

I'm not quite sure it does, because collecting gold never was the basic premise of World of Warcraft. If I compare it to Diablo 3, where collecting loot *is* the basic premise of the game and the real money auction house destroyed that premise, I find the WoW Token comparatively harmless. For many people buying 25k gold will not fundamentally change the way they play WoW, because you can't buy all gear with gold, and you still need to do quests to level etc.
I agree with most of your analysis there, Tobold. It always seems to me that anyone who can afford a pc and the isp cost to connect it to the internet is unlikely to balk at the cost of a subscription for an mmo they really want to play.

On the other hand, let's say you really, really like doing your garrison dailies. Let's say you'd do them for fun even if there was no reward attached. In that case the "working for 50 cents an hour" thing doesn't apply.

I do dailies in GW2 every day on three accounts just for the fun of it. I neither need nor want most of the rewards, which go in my bank and just stay there.

In theory, someone behaving like that in WoW really would be able to go infinite. I feel it would still take some of the pleasure out of it, even so.
Hardcore raiders need $$ to pay for all their enchants and shit. Granted I've been out of the game long enough that might have changed, but your 30 hours a month to have cash is a lot to put on top of arenas, raiding, bgs, etc.

And the point is that there may be a point where releasing them from the grind is the most dangerous think you can do, as far as them staying around.

Peasants don't revolt. Disaffected middle classes revolt. Is what I'm trying to say.
Honestly, it surprises me that people are questioning whether this is possible. I played the market, sold essences, enchants, and various crafting materials, pulled in gold from follower missions, plus all the gold you wind up with from various questing and playing. All told, I made about 300k gold per month.

I don't even feel like I was doing anything special. We'll put playing the market aside, I know most people don't do that. But essences are just clicking in your garrison, you can create 1 per week per profession, and you make 10k profit each. Even if we say your server is half as profitable (5k profit per essence), and you only have one profession, that is STILL 20k per month.

And that is on top of your "passive" income. I don't see how it is possible (outside of raiding) to play the game for a few hours and not come out at least 1k richer.

So seriously, how? How can people play this game for a month and somehow avoid getting well over 30k gold? I'm shaking my head just thinking about it.

Maybe they do, and half the players are now "going infinite." Maybe we have just drastically underestimated the demand for legally purchased gold.
The irony of 8f559 talking about how people are shocked that others don't play the same way as them and then going on to making sweeping generalization about what the enjoyment in WoW revolves around or what this token might do to the aforementioned enjoyment of the game is just...incredible. Puts a smile on my face.

I guess my situation isn't that common, but the token doesn't seem to affect me in any way, shape, or form, good or bad. And BOTH sides, buyers and sellers, don't really describe me. I play WoW 38 hours a month, so a bit over an hour a day averaged, not that I actually play an hour a day. Rather, I raid 4.5 hours a day for two days a week over the weekend. I have about 38k gold to my name total.

So I don't really make much gold at all, I certainly can't afford to be buying the token, a single month would wipe out the vast majority of my gold. At the same time, selling them has no real interest to me either. Gold...doesn't do anything for me. Guild covers gems, enchants, food, potions, and flasks. As well as most, but not all, repairs. As far as I know, outside of the BMAH I couldn't get any gear upgrades either, I need ilvl 700 gear at a minimum. What else could I even be buying with gold?
Well Sine, fair point.

I would respond by asking what the game would look like if you could press a button and get the full rewards for whatever activity you want by just pressing one button.

Spend 240 hours leveling my character, or press a button?

Get all the gear, xp, complete all my quests for that dungeon with a button, or actually do it?

Grind for gold, or press a button.

Raid, or press a button and get my raid gear.

Dailies or button?

It's true that there are people out there who seem to actually like this stuff, but I also think there aren't enough of the Sines and the Bhagpusses to keep the genre alive. The large chunks of hardcore players are not playing the game for the love of the game. Most people, casual and hardcore, would be slamming that button to skip as much of the game as possible. And that's my problem with WoW in a nutshell. For an entertainment product, the amount of stuff you have to do to get to the stuff you want to do is absurd. For most people, that button would be an irresistible temptation because they aren't playing because of how much fun they're having. It's a sweeping generalization, but I think it's a true generalization. I'd also say, as a generalization, that WoW is pretty crap at whatever that one or two things any given player likes compared to the alternatives.
Do you have a basis for that belief though? I mean, I can't contradict you because all I have is my own experience and the experiences from people I know totaling, what, a couple hundred people tops? I just have no basis for judging overall trends like what people do or don't enjoy. Do you have a better source?
Well Sine, we have the overall trend of the game. Blizzard sure has been putting a lot of effort in over the past 7 or 8 years to make the game easier.

LFG, LFR, which was unthinkable when I was in! Much less "veteran accounts", letting you level friends up really fast, and wow tokens. Every step from the people who know the most about WoW and what works has been to alleviate and ameliorate the burdens of the game while adding flash to the gameplay. I can honestly say that the state of the game today would have been considered an abomination by the players of 2005. Those guys spent 10 days to get to level 60, they didn't get instal-boosted to 90. Those guys thought having 400 gold was being rich, and they got 40 people together to raid AQ40. Their light raids for some easy gear were twice the size of todays raids, and anybody who has ever been a guild officer can tell you that managing people is the hardest part of raiding.

Not to pull the "it was uphill both ways back in my day" bullshit on you, but the trend in WoW has been universally, and since the very first expansion, has been to make this easier and easier, and easier. It's been two or three expansions since tanking became a joke, but that's too much detail.

So Blizz has been keeping people by lightening the load for most of the game's life. I take that as proof that people don't really like the basic gameplay all that much.

That's not an all-inclusive trend though. Raiding is exponentially more difficult than it was back then. Take Death and Taxes during Naxx days and throw them into the current mythic level raid environment with no in-between and they would be brick-walling like a semi-casual guild and it doesn't matter how well their raid leaders would be at herding cats. Raiding has continuously improved in depth and difficulty, whatever may be happening outside the raid environment.

As near as I can tell it isn't the case that blizzard is "making the game easier" as it is blizzard dividing the game into parts and minimaxing the traits of those parts towards their intended audience. There is WAY more easy content, but there is also harder content as well. If you want the easy stuff you can do it, and if you want the hard stuff you can do it.

I mean, I've been playing since beta too. I remember what the game was like. I have a lot of nostalgia for those days as well. But I am not the same person as I was back then either. I enjoyed leveling to 60 back then, but that doesn't mean I would enjoy it the same amount if it was available the same way now. I enjoyed the epic scope of 40 man raids, but I definitely wouldn't want to return to those days.

I do disagree with you close to 100% about tanking though, and tanking has been my thing since classic (Minus TBC, I tanked relatively little in TBC)
That how I felt when running planetary interaction in EVE online to play my monthly PLEX.

Living in nullsec, I had access to very good planets, allowing my the makes enough money by during "chores" once a week with my characters, but it quickly become too much. Even if it was only like 10mn of click once a week (+ 15mn of hauling every month), I HATE repeating task. Daily quests and daily heroic was part of what made my stop WoW in the past ; the time needed has no importance, I don't want to do that, and as it's a game I'm not forced to... except if I really want what this task offer me. Meaning when I'm tired of doing this shit, it's the time I consider the game too much boring to continue playing.
In EVE it was a bit different, as I had others way to make money, and anyway, I still have years worth of PLEX on my hangar from my hardcore time mode, years ago.
The argument "20$ is just an hours work for most people" (probably two because of taxes etc) misses one thing: I really don't want to spend another hour at work.

Personally I'm on fixed salary anyway but even if paid hourly I wouldn't work an hour more just to buy some gold. Overtime for a new big ass TV or whatever, sure. But not for wow gold.
$50 the hour? That is at least 200.000€ a year before taxes. .. And you still have time for family and wow?
Nils, your math is off. How do you get from $50 an hour to €200,000 a year?
Well Brkysom, you can work in WoW for .50 cents an hour or work at your real job.

Either way you are doing something you don't really want to do in order to get money. It's just that one method is an order of magnitude better at getting money. The other one is a video game so it doesn't feel like you are working, but you really are.
50 $/h x 40 h/week x 52 weeks = $104.000 a year AFTER taxes and social deductions.

With taxes and social stuff this is about $200.000 in most European countries.
I never said I earned $50 AFTER taxes.
But wouldn't that be the relevant number to use for your comparison?

(Sorry, I'm derailing the threat like in the good old days :)
I don't know in how far any number after taxes is relevant in Europe. It depends too much on where you live and how big your family is. The children's book author Astrid Lindgren at one point in her life had a tax rate of 102%, what does her income after taxes mean then? Just imagine I have a dozen handicapped children and don't pay any taxes!
I think it is relevant because you use your hourly income to determine the worth of 50 cent.

" I earn $50 per hour in my day job, so why would I want to work for $0.50 in World of Warcraft?"

Imagine you earned $1mio a year but payed 99,9% taxes. In that case you made $83 a month, and after paying for food and rent, 50 cent would be worth a hell of a lot for you.
Technically if I make money in a game I would still be required to pay taxes on that too.
Why would it be relevant to the discussed point that you might have to pay taxes on money earned in games?

The undisputed fact is that you don't pay these taxes, isn't it?
I'm just saying that it is a fair comparison of two pre-tax incomes: $50 from work vs. $0.50 from work in game. That the tax regime for the two is different doesn't make the comparison invalid.
On topic of infinite: I tracked gold income from garrison missions for 14 days now. One char with 3 treasure hunters made 10k gold, another with 4 treasure hunters made 12k. Two other max level chars with less hunters made 6k and 5k. So I can expect more than 60k gold per month from missions alone for logging through these chars 4-5 times a day.

That is only gonna increase because I'll take a couple more treasure hunters via Inn.
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