Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, February 05, 2020
Black Market

World of Tanks today had the first of seven "black market" sales. At exactly 5 pm CET every day for a week a limited number of one rare tank go on sale, some for gold, some for credits. For example today you could buy a Lansen C for 8.5 million credits. If you were there at exactly 5 pm, because at 5:02 the 12,000 copies were sold out. And I don't think this is a good idea.

Obviously some of the demand for black market tanks comes from their rarity, so the very limited number of copies sold is part of the appeal. But if they are sold out in under 2 minutes, the demand obviously far exceeded the supply. Wargaming could easily have sold two times or five times more, without exhausting demand. And even if they would have sold an unlimited quantity the whole day long, but just that one day, it wouldn't have affected the "rarity" much. So it seems to me they left a lot of money on the table.

I didn't buy the Lansen C, although I easily could have. For a Free2Play player who doesn't want to spend any real money, the offer was interesting, because there aren't many ways to get premium tanks without money. And the Lansen C is a decent enough tier 8 premium, which makes good credits, because the shells are cheap and deal good alpha damage. But as somebody who regularly spends money on World of Tanks, I already had better tier 8 premium medium tanks. In fact there aren't many premium tanks left in World of Tanks which I really would want to buy. The E25 maybe, but what are the chances that I will get one?

This brings me to the point which I really dislike about the black market: People were complaining about the luck involved when buying lootboxes for Christmas (World of Tanks doesn't have lootboxes during the rest of the year). But the lootbox event went on for a month, and the rarest tanks had an about 1% drop chance. So the largest available bundle of 75 lootboxes for €100 was far more likely than not to contain all the rare tanks. Seeing how the average content of those lootboxes was worth easily twice the cost, I didn't even consider this "gambling". It's more like buying a raffle ticket at the church fete with a guaranteed prize; the prize might be not exactly the one you were after, but you don't go home empty-handed. Getting a tank from the black market to me seems far more luck-based than the lootboxes. It was lucky that I was actually home at 5 pm, often I would still be at work at that time. And quite a lot of people who wanted that tank ended up not getting one, because of either technical problems, or being short of credits and the offer gone before they could sell another tank to get the money. It seems to me that a lot more people are coming out empty-handed from the black market event than from the lootbox event. If by chance Wargaming sold the exact same rare tanks from the lootbox event in the black market, the average player's chance to get one from the black market would be far lower than from the lootboxes.

Combined with the uncertainty of which tank will be sold when, my chances of getting the tank that I want are pretty slim. Maybe it won't be on offer at all. And if it was, I would need to be there at 5 pm, and then everything would need to go exactly right for me to be one of the lucky few who could buy it. That to me seems to be a pretty shitty way to sell virtual goods.


It's called an event. Events exist for those who are there when they happen. For everyone else all that exists is the account of an event.

This is exactly the thing I want to see more of in my online, real-time games. I am one hundred per cent happy to miss out because I can't be there - the account of the event, if it's a good one, is compensation enough.

Their goal isnt to sell the tank though. Their goal is to create FOMO so people feel like they have to log on or they miss out on stuff.

And it obviously works so most games as a service do it now.
I can see how this fits into the mindset of the younger generations, always connected, where FOMO is actually a thing. I'm not so sure that this works for World of Tanks, for several reasons:

A very practical one is that you can't participate in the black market event on your smartphone or tablet, it only works on a PC, and a reasonably powerful one at that if you use it to play World of Tanks, not a cheap notebook.

And then the demographics of World of Tanks isn't really all that young, it's primarily a shooter game for middle-aged men who appreciate that faster reflexes don't make you tank turn any faster. I don't think that this demographic appreciates events in which you need fast reflexes to get a tank. I certainly don't.
It is clearly not gambling, as you know exactly what you are going to get at the point where you hand over your cash. Unlike with lootboxes, where you pay up without knowing what you will get when you part with your money.
It turns out that for some technical reason the Black Market has to be at the same time on the Russian servers and on the European ones. So they choose a time convenient for Moscow, 7 am and 7 pm, and that translates to 5 am and 5 pm in central Europe, 4 am and 4 pm in the UK.

They probably noticed that not many people got up at 4 am to buy a tank, so today they changed the format to a blind auction: You have 8 hours to put in a bid for a Chrysler GF, and the top 23,400 bids get the tank. I like that format a lot more.
The point of developers creating limited time events and offers is to drive up engagement with their product.

Things like 2x XP weekends or in game sales or special events all create FOMO and make players feel like they have to play or else they are missing out.

This affects any age group.

Mechwarrior online has probably an even older demographic then WoT and uses all of the aforementioned strategies to create engagement.
"Things like 2x XP weekends or in game sales or special events all create FOMO and make players feel like they have to play or else they are missing out."

"Be there this weekend or you miss out" is a good event, because the large majority of people who actually care about it will manage to log on at some time during that weekend. The black market event this morning was over in under 3 seconds, I literally couldn't click fast enough to get a tank. 35,000 players were online at 5 am to get a tank, and only a handful of them actually got one. *Fear* of missing out is a marketing tool. Making most players actually miss out is marketing stupidity.
Well, if 35000 players got up at 5 am to fight for a tank, that was an event. Not a great event, but certainly an event. Some day you will tell your grandchildren about it.
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