Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
How to get rich in World of Warcraft

So you want to get rich in World of Warcraft, maybe even reach the gold cap? There are hundreds of tips how to make gold in WoW, but the one way which has been shown to most reliably result in you making thousands of gold per week, every week, is inscription. The basic premise of that method is that on most servers a stack of a Northrend herb, like Adder's Tongue, costs 20 gold or less. Buy 200+ stacks, mill them into pigments, transform the pigments into inks, sell the rare inks or transform them into Darkmoon cards which you sell. Do the calculation of what you did spend minus what the rare inks got you back, and you'll see that you now have about a thousand Ink of the Sea which did cost you about 2 gold each. As you can trade in Ink of the Sea for every other ink in the game in Dalaran, you can now make any glyph you have the recipe for. And on average the cost for making a glyph, including parchments and auction house fees, is about 3 gold. On most servers glyphs sell for much more than that. So now you flood the market, ruthlessly undercutting the competition until they give up, trying to achieve a 100% market share. Even if you just make little profit per glyph, the fact that you'll sell a lot of them will result in a large income.

This has been proven to work pretty much on every server, as you can see in the interviews with players who reached the gold cap, although of course the absolute possible profit per week depends on how many players are playing on that side and server. And your market share depends on you being more perseverant and ruthless than your competitors, even willing to accept selling glyphs at a loss for some time until the other glyph sellers give up. Making several thousand gold per week is possible this way on nearly every server. But of course there is a catch: The reason not everybody is getting rich with inscription is that it isn't all that easy as the short description might make you think.

The first problem is that getting into the inscription business requires a lot of time and gold in advance for preparation. Assuming you do have a level 80 character, it will still take several thousand gold for him to learn and max out his inscription skill, and to learn all the recipes. The faster you want to do this, the more it will cost you, as buying large quantities of low-level herbs or Books of Glyph Mastery for the recipes will drive the prices up. Apart from that you will also have to set up at least one alt loaded with inscription bags, who will do all the glyph selling. There are around 300 different glyphs in the game, so you need hundreds of inventory slots to handle them efficiently.

The second problem is time. Just imagine buying 200 stacks of herbs, doing 800 times milling, turning the resulting pigments into over a thousand inks, creating a thousand glyphs, and putting all those glyphs on the auction house. And that not once, but regularly. Of course you will use various macros and addons, so many of these activities can be automated. But even then you will have to be logged in, in front of your computer for the occasional input, and unable to do any adventuring during that time, for at least an hour per day. The simple act of getting hundreds of glyphs back unsold, having to empty your mailbox several times because it can only hold 50 mails at a time, and then turning around and putting the glyphs back on the auction house after an auctioneer scan, will already consume a lot of your time. Especially if you log on during prime time and have mailbox and AH lag.

This brings us to the third problem, unpredictability of sales. To get a 100% market share you will want to have every single glyph in the game for sale. But some of them sell fast, some of them sell very slow, and it will take you quite some time and addons like Beancounter to find out which glyphs sell how many per day. Unless you sit in front of the computer all day long, you'll need to flood the market with enough glyphs of every kind to be sure that they don't sell out before you come back. This means having usually over a thousand glyphs on the AH for sale, and thus thousands of gold locked up in your glyph inventory.

After all the time and gold spent or tied up in your inventory, you'll find that you biggest long-term obstacle is the competition from other players. Glyph selling is a consumer business, that is you are selling to individuals who each just make a small purchase. Customers have no problem paying 10 gold or more, in extreme cases even 100 gold for a single glyph which did cost you 3 gold to make. But if you post all your glyphs for 10 gold, you'll find somebody else posting the same glyphs for 9.95 an hour later, preventing you from selling anything. Then you either have to cancel a thousand auctions and repost them all, or you need to wait until the glyphs come back unsold. In general if you want to keep a high market share, you'll need to aggressively undercut and post glyphs at prices where you barely make a profit, or even at a loss for some time, until the competition gives up. Then you can slowly raise prices, trying to find the point where you still make a good profit, but the other players with inscription aren't tempted to make glyphs and sell them for less than you do.

Failure in the inscription business is usually due to not trying hard enough. Just making a handful of glyphs from time to time and posting them at high prices is likely to not net you much, as more determined business men will constantly undercut you. Note that if on your server herbs are very expensive, and glyphs are very cheap, that is an indication that there are already several players battling over the glyph market. If, for example, you find that Northrend herbs cost 50 gold a stack, while glyphs sell for less than 3 gold, breaking into the glyph market will be extremely hard. You might be better off learning herbalism and farming herbs at these prices.

You can see that inscription isn't a "get rich quick" method. You'll need several thousand gold to launch the business, and then keep it up for many weeks before you make a steady good profit every week. And you'll need to log on every day and spend several hours per week just to keep your glyph business up and running. In the end, getting rich in World of Warcraft works exactly like getting rich in the real world: You need a venture capital to start up a business, hard work, and perseverance. And this is exactly why getting rich with inscription works so reliably in World of Warcraft: It is hard work, there isn't all that much you can actually do with an income of thousands of gold per week, and thus the large majority of players simply can't be bothered doing it. But if you enjoy this sort of gameplay, and you are determined to reach the level cap, trying to build an inscription monopoly is the way to go.
I used to do this for a while and it made me some nice gold. I stopped at around 65k gold as there's little use for all the gold. But it is mostly as you say.

You do need a small starting capital of a few thousand gold. This shouldn't be hard to get. I already had that so I just levelled my inscription in one evening. After which it comes down to researching new glyphs every x days.

Once that's done it's time to buy tons of herbs, mill tons of herbs, get the right inks and craft five of each glyph. Create an alt and send all that stuff to him. Put them all on the AH and pick your prices. Either a fixed price for each glyph or auto undercutting with an addon. Wait until all glyphs return, recraft those who sold and put them on the AH again.

It's not the simplest of ways to make gold but it's not very hard either. You do need quite a few things though:
-A level 80 char with inscription
-At least an hour each two days
-A small starting capital of a few thousand gold
-A glyph alt
-Not many competitors
-Tons of addons:
--Something to clear your mailbox faster
--Something to check the prices of mats + glyphs
--Something to make it easier to craft glyphs
--Something that checks which glyphs your alt has
--Something to check your banks items

It does take quite an investment and continued effort. And the reward isn't all that great as the gold is rather useless. So the only way to do it is because you enjoy doing it. If you don't you're better of picking a profession which gives you 50g for your cooldown every two days. Maximum profit for minimum time.
The biggest cave-at here is that there really is room for only 1 person on each server/faction. You can't pull this off with 2 people trying to pull the same scheme at the same time.

The others have to wait till current owner off the glyph market reachs the goldcap an moves on to do other things.
How to make seroius money in WoW? Be like John D. Rockefeller and create a monopoly! I simply love the reflection of real world practices into this game at times.

As you mention though, that route to monetary "success", requires huge dedication and I'm sure many players will look at the time and effort you've described and will simply decide it isn't for them.

I do wonder at the impact of market efficiency on this method and the how the transmission of information will effect the ability to make money out of this profession. As both you in your post and Carra in the comments have pointed out, the key element in this tactic is "Not many competitors" and the ability to completely dominate and manipulate the market over time.

Call me cynical of human nature, but I can already imagine a number of players reading all this information and deciding to go this method... only to be faced with two of three players who are similarly trying the same thing. Then I suppose it simply becomes a matter of attrition of your starting capital and patience. Who has the ability to take the highest competitive gold loss until the competition drops out (which may, in these gold flooded times be very high indeed) and the patience to, day after day, keep at it until you win.

Auction House PvP indeed!

Personally I have neither the patience, or importantly, time, to try this on my server. Though I can see why many people would be tempted.
I've always felt Inscription looked too much like hard work.

These days, I'm making about 3000 gold a week from disenchanting. Top-end enchanting goods are commodity items, so you don't need to worry about being the lowest-priced, just near the lowest. And you're only selling about 5 different items, so it's a lot easier to keep track. (I tried selling enchanting scrolls, but as you say, the keeping track of which ones sold was far too much hard work).

Inscription might make a lot of gold, but for most players, I'd question the time/benefit ratio.
I know this isn't exactly on topic, but is this type of game play even necessary if you want an epic mount? I mean, aside from that, what else is there to buy that you couldn't get from just regular adventuring?

If a newbie took mining and skinning, could they make enough to support their adventuring, plus buy an epic mount when they hit 60th level?

Here's what you need:

Milling macro:
/cast Milling
/use Icethorn
/use Lichbloom
/use Adder's Tongue

LilSparky's Workshop
- Shows the current AH prices in your trade skill window; use it to select the glyphs you want to craft.

- Used by LilSparky's Workshop; use it to search for "glyph" on the buy tab, to get the current prices.

Quick Auctions 2
- Allows you to automate auction posting and cancelling, based on several parameters; use it to *very* quickly post or cancel your glyphs. Very nice for the "AH camper" style.

OR Auctioneer
- Same as Quick Auctions 2, but gives you a ton more options. Unfortunately it's not very fast at posting auctions, and it doesn't let you mass-cancel your auctions. So this is more for the "heavy undercutting and don't bother for 48 hours" style.

- Shows the amount of glyphs you have (be it on your alt, in the bank, your bags, or posted on the AH); use it to keep track of your inventory

- Used by whohas, Armory keeps the required information up to date.

Good luck :)
I know this isn't exactly on topic, but is this type of game play even necessary if you want an epic mount? I mean, aside from that, what else is there to buy that you couldn't get from just regular adventuring?

If a newbie took mining and skinning, could they make enough to support their adventuring, plus buy an epic mount when they hit 60th level?

This type of gameplay certainly isn't necessary, or even useful, to get an epic mount, as you need to spend about as much as the epic mount costs just to get started.

A newbie with mining and skinning, and maybe the auctioneer addon to tell him what his loot is worth so he puts it up for gold on the AH instead of vendoring it for silver, will certainly make enough gold for an epic mount without making a single glyph.
The more you make this whole process automatic, the more you turn yourself into Goldman Sachs, btw.

The analogies between WoW and the real life never stop to make me smile :)
One thing I can't seem to understand, despite all my (and team's) gold making strategizing and pontificating, is why Inscripion results (that is, glyphs) sell so well. I mean, you need them initially, when you hit 80 you need one more, maybe a few for a secondary spec, and in the rare moments of a respec. Why do they continue to sell with such a low expected rate of turnover? One would think that gems, enchanted vellums, or even consumables would be better business given higher turnover rate. Perhaps it is just the significantly lower cost of investment that makes the profit margins so attrative? I dunno.
While it is tempting to try and do this, I'm more then happy with my current method of gold farming. I run icecrown dailys with my DK, collect ore in the process. I normally spend about 1-2 hours with this and leave with about 300g, and a bag full of saronite and titanium. I craft one titansteel bar, and as many titanium bars as I can. I sell these on the AH and send the Saronite ore to my jewelcrafting alt who prospects the ore, and turns them into gems, and one epic gem from alcemcy. Gems then go on the AH as well. I net about 1000g per day doing this. So I could potentinally make 7k. So as you can see hard work pays off no matter what form you use.

I don't make 7k per week however. I don't actually do this every day, it is too much work. I normally only do this on days when I can't find a dungeon run, or the weekend. So I really end up with about 2k per week. The big difference between what I do, and what a mass incription sell does is time. Once you set up your inscription buisness you are basically setting and forgetting. This takes a lot of time, but from that point all you do is log on every 3 days, run some macros, repeat.

Both ways make gold, I'd consider mine to be a lot more work, but a more consistent pay out if you put the work into it. I'd say inscription has the potential to make a lot more gold, and a lot easier. It is also riskier, and server specific. So just like the real economy it pays to take risks, if you sucseed.
I thought about that as well and actually wondered why nobody bloggs about it :).

My reasoning is that inscription is very complex, because of the amount of glyphs you can produce and sell. It's much more work to be a glphy trader than to be a gem trader. That's why the market is quite imperfect.

1) It's a lot of work.
2) Therefore most players don't care.
3) Therefore only those who want to invest a lot of time care about it.
4) These people are generally better and more vocal at/about making money and because they are only a few per server they make a lot of profit.
It's the only explanation I have right now.
Why do they continue to sell with such a low expected rate of turnover? One would think that gems, enchanted vellums, or even consumables would be better business given higher turnover rate.

One possible answer to that question are alts: People will always fill all their available glyph slots, because the cost of a single glyph is relatively minor, the effect is relatively good for the cost, and you can already do so at relatively low levels. Gems are completely useless at lower levels, and the amount of gems slots you'll get by soloing is limited even after level 60, it is only at the level cap where you'll get gear with more slots. Enchants have a different problem, high turnover of gear during leveling makes enchanting that gear relatively expensive.
Orcstar you are completely wrong in assuming that the glyph market has only room for 1 inscriptionist. There are currently 4-5 big glyph makers all pushing each other around in the market on my server, which I am currently one of them. I make my 1kg a day and am happy with it. I could put in more work and push a couple of these people out of the market, but really there is no need.

I actually tried to push their prices hard the first couple weeks and was successful in dropping prices on my server by about 3-10g per glyph to try and weed out some of the part time glyph makers and was successful in doing so. Prices are now much higher then when I started and all of the glyph makers that stuck with it are happier.

In the end there is always room for more then 1 inscriptionist because there will be room to fill in the gaps that the major inscriptionist leaves because there is no way in the game to take 100% of the total market and they can't be logged in 24/7.
As Tobold mentions if you just want an epic mount, don't bother. It'll cost you an easy 2000 à 3000g just to get started. And a few hours each week to do your business.

The only reason to do it is because you enjoy auctioneering and playing the economic mini game. Or if you want to buy an epic mount for your five alts.
@Nils: it may seem complex, but I can assure you it's not, if you are able to learn to understand how to use the tools correctly.
It doesn't cost a lot of time and work either. I think I spend about 15 minutes a day on average and am making a lot of gold.
The only thing which could be an obstacle to do it, is that it does indeed require quite some investment to get your business running, since you won't be making a lot of profit with the trainable glyphs.
@anonymous: agreed, there's enough room for competition in the inscription market. On my server I have about 5 big competitors and a couple small ones. I assume we're all making gold, since none of us have quit the business yet.
I've been doing this on my server for a few months now. My scribe has about 150k on her, and has financed epic flying and dual spec on a couple of other characters, as well as a tundra mammoth and mechanohog for my main (so about 30-40k spent on non-glyph things). My best week so far was about 25k profit (worst was probably about 7k). I spend about an hour a day maintaining this business.
This is why playing the economy in WoW is the kiddie pool compared to EVE. Basically what you just described here is that the more time you have, the more money you will make. It's not about market savvy, it's not about long term strategy, it's not about partnerships or supply lines; it's just pure more time = more money. Mods do all the 'thinking' for you in WoW, you just be there to click a few (thousand) times.

In contrast, someone in EVE can very successfully run a multi-region mega-business spending on average an hour a week, once established. That hour can be make/break depending on the choices you make and how sound your market strategy is, but no UI mod is going to help you with that.
I am getting close to the gold cap now sitting at 180k. You can make tons of money, but you have to be persistent and you have to spend time on it. Replenishing glyphs is the time consuming part. Like you said, buying, milling, making ink, trading ink, making glyphs and posting.

I usually have somwhere between 850-1000 auctions up at a time. When the market is really good I can make upwards of 7k in a day. When it is tanking because of other competition, I make 1.5-2k a day.

Whatever way you look at it, this is the only way to go for hitting the gold cap. You can make money other ways, but not as fast.

The biggest time saving addon I use is QuickAuctions2. I can set up parameters and just auto post everything to undercut the lowest price by 1 silver. I have it set to never post under 3 gold and repost at 30 gold if none are on the AH. Posting takes me 5 minutes. The rest can take an hour or more depending on how much you need to do.
All the time and effort -- I think the money work rate for glyph selling ends up being at 75 cents an hour.

Purchasing WoW gold has come way down in price. I take real money I make in a day and buy gold. I can log off WoW and spend time with the family.

I have more money than time.

It's all a matter of perspective. I do this stuff myself on a small scale right now. I produce all the glyps that cost more than 10G on average over the last week and put them in the AH at -2.5% compared to the lowest supplier. I do make some money with this, but since my server is rather small no more than 2000G a week.

Compared to gems or enchanting this requires much more addons and most players just don't want to bother. That's what I meant when I called it complex.
Why do they continue to sell with such a low expected rate of turnover?

Because glyph prices are (relatively) low, many players are now treating them as consumables. It doesn't cost much to reglyph in the middle of the raid - the flask and feast cost more. PvP players may reglyph between battlegrounds and arenas. As more and more gold enters the economy, the more affordable reglyphing becomes, and the more repeat sales we get.
^I am really beginning to hate this glyph stuff, it totally ruined the Auction House on my server. Glyphet market is as dead as as a rotting rat next to a highway. Everyone reads instructions like this, everyone wants a share of the cake and as a result about 10 people are trying it on my server. However, none of them has the time and patience to do it right. Instead of monitoring the situation and undercutting early and by small margins, they simply undercut by huge margins and log off for the next 10 hours. As a result most glyphs sell for LESS than 1 gold and even glyphs you learn from glyph mastery books never go higher than 5 gold. The market is so flooded that you can get any given glyph at any time for low cost and can choose between at least 20 listed glyphs.
And its not only glyphs.. the first idiots already noticed that glyph market is dead and are coming over to gems, orbs and other parts of the market.
Selling even the most simple things has become a nearly impossible task, up to the point where I simply sold everything thats not really valuable to a vendor, disenchanted most of the rare stuff and stockpile the rest for better times. Thank goodness that I have every tradeskill myself so I don't need to use the Auction House.
i leveled inscriptions just for my own use since professions are one of the main reason i play,that and alts :) i just find it more fun than raiding or what ever people do at lvl 80 lol.

but my point on my server most glyphs only sell from 15s-3g i only see some sell for maybe 10g or so anything higher than that i just see tons of them in the ah not selling. so is there any suggestions on something i can do to make some gold? i have 7 high level toons and dont make enough gold to support all of them :(
I hit the gold cap in October before WotLK, through mostly epic gems. I attributed a large part of my success to having a near-monopoly, as there were few serious players (raiders or PvP'ers) left during those boring months. But there are always a lot of casuals on, who don't have access to recipes or knowledge on to get them.
I'm currently raising Inscription. I'm also raising, Enchanting and Jewelcraft. Mrs Bhagpuss is raising Leathercrafting. All of those are over 300 or thereabouts. We are also both raising Engineering and Tailoring, and Mrs B is doing Alchemy and duplicating me at a lower level on all the ones I am leading on.

We also gather all our own ingredients, pretty much. I'd say all the professions at least break even, mostly make a small profit. Mostly I don't even bother selling what I make on the AH , I just vendor what I don't disenchant. Is WoW designed for Professions to break even on reselling to vendors, assuming you farm your own Mats? EQ2 is and I always did it that way there, and I have been assuming, without keeping track, that it works the same way in WoW.

If I'm in the mood I throw some of my skill-ups on the AH. Some of it sells. I tend to price it around half the current lowest price, and quite a lot won't even sell for that.

Crafting is more fun than adventuring, which is why I do it. I certainly couldn't be bothered to do it to make money. Gathering is also fun and much simpler to make gold on. (Frankly, just about any MMO activity in any MMO is more fun than adventuring, but I digress).

Making money on the AH is also fun, but I can't imagine having the self-discipline to do more than dabble at it. As several people point out, there's not really much to spend the money on anyway.

Also, I don't use Add-Ons. I really enjoy tabbing in and out to look up a price history on Allakhazam for every item I want to sell. Add-Ons seem to try to automate all the things I actually enjoy doing - if there was a legal Add-On to do all my combat for me, I might use that - that's the bit I don't much look forward to.
Tobold, your article is mostly correct, however the 100% market share comment is dead wrong.

Now most blogs (gevlon's in particular) is also wrong on this. Here's the simple fact of the matter. Selling fewer glyphs at higher prices is more profitable than massive undercutting and 100% market share.

The massive undercut/market share strategy has you selling (and therefore making) hundreds and hundreds of glyphs every 48 hours. If instead you concentrate on the glyphs that have a high volume of sales to low post count ratio and post them higher than the <5g undercutters you will make a killing for 1/10th or less the effort.

Ex: gevlon lists 9 glyphs at 5g each and I list one at 50g. If he sells out entirely he's looking at ~27g profit. If I sell my one glyph i'm looking at ~47g profit.

I've tried both his strat and mine on two separate servers I play on. I've hit the gold cap on both servers and found through tracking that my method generated revenue over twice as fast as his. (This is all assuming of course that you get mods for automating as much as the EULA allows.)
The best way of thinking about this whole process is like this:

**You can "flip" an item on the AH by buying it for X and re-listing it for X + Markup%. The issue is that 1) your markup has to be low due to competition and 2) you take a lot of risk from market fluctuations.

**Alternately, you can "convert" an item bought on the AH to something else and list the new item. Your markup % is going to be better because not everyone can "convert" the item. However, the issue here is that it takes TIME to convert items particularly if there are a lot of them.

***The highest profits can be realized by doing a series of conversions. For example, buying Saronite Ore and Prospecting it. Then cutting the blue gems to the cuts that trade the most volume. In addition, buy Eternal Earths and use those in combination with the leftover green gems to make green items. These items are then disenchanted and sold as mats.

Because there are several layers of conversions with the raw materials being Saronite Ore and Eternal Earth, a player stands to make a considerable profit.

In the simplest terms, the more times you can "convert" and item into something else, the more profit you are going to make.

However, as you point out, this profit comes at the cost of the player spending significant time converting and selling mats.

In the end, how much different is that then spending an hour or two running around on an epic flyer looking for mining nodes.

****Which is why my favorite way to make money are the patch notes. In fact, my most profitable investments have always been patch related.
I just run lots of dailies (because I enjoy them, I'm crazy that way) and mail all my sellable junk to an AH mule. And in the last couple months I got Insane (which meant buying 80+ Librams amongst other things) and bought a Traveler's Mammoth (the 16000 one) and then a motorcycle (another 16000ish) and just today dropped 6000 for the new crafter bracers that take 4 Crusader Orbs. That's with NOT trying especially hard to make money.

So you really, really don't need to go to such lengths to be quite rich.
I know this isn't exactly on topic, but is this type of game play even necessary if you want an epic mount? I mean, aside from that, what else is there to buy that you couldn't get from just regular adventuring?

Its not needed for a epic flying mount etc at all, On the other hand if your going for mountain of mounts with multiple large 12k+ mammoths, perhaps a card game based mount where if you can buy with wow gold its 20k as a minimum.

Jederus, some people use glpyhs as consumables, changing them based on the fight. when a flask is approaching 40g per hour,swapping a glpyh in and out at 10g is pretty small.
I agree that the economic minigame takes effort, but having done the end-game raiding stuff in vanilla and each of the expansions, and having run a progression guild, there is little left to interest me now apart from playing the market.

And it takes less time and attention than those other things.
@Nuff: I doubt your strategy will work on my realm due to the amount of 24/7 AH-bots, but I'm going to give it a shot anyway.
@Nuff: As I expected it's all realm dependant. So far I haven't sold a single glyph using your strategy, due to the AH-campers on my realm. Together they have the time to constantly keep the entire market covered and supplied.
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