Tobold's Blog
Monday, December 07, 2009
Making 500 gold per hour in WoW

I always suspected that some of the claims of Gevlon on how easily he was making thousands of gold were exaggerated. But being a man of science, I set out to test it. I followed his instructions on how to get filthy rich in WoW by selling glyphs for several weeks now, and here are the results:

On the positive side I made a lot of gold, my total wealth is up from 30k before to 70k after, and in addition to that plus of 40k gold wealth, I also spent about 10k on various things, like tradeskills for alts. So I'm counting 50k gold made with glyphs.

On the negative side, making those 50k gold took longer than you'd have expected from Gevlon's description. For example my glyph selling alt alone, who does nothing but empty his mailbox, scans the AH, and then posts the glyphs using Gevlon's undercutting strategy, has already 70 hours of /played time, and is still level 1. I don't have an exact count of how many hours my inscription toon spent, but I'd say it was at least another 30 hours.

So that is it, I made 50k gold in about 100 hours, a rate of 500 gold per hour. That isn't counting the time and money I needed to get the inscription skill to maximum and learn every single glyph recipe in the game. Now many of the hours spent lets say scanning the AH or posting hundreds of glyphs were semi-afk. But doing that still prevented me from using those hours for other activities, like leveling alts, or doing heroics and raids.

Now 500 gold per hour is not a bad wage in WoW. But inscription isn't the only activity that nets you that much. For example farming mats, that is either gathering herbs or ore, in Northrend can easily also make you 500 gold per hour. You might have some bad days, where you find very little frost lotus or titanium ore, but on average 500 gold per hour from farming is quite doable.

Now Gevlon despises farming, but I'd say it has its charms. Flying around and gathering materials is somewhat more active than standing in front of the AH or mailbox. And it is more sustainable: You will make less if other players are gathering at exactly the same time as you, but demand is high enough to support a large number of farmers gathering materials at different times. The glyph market is far more sensitive to competition, it only takes 2 or 3 greedy goblins to drive down the prices. MMO-Champion having published a glyph-selling guide while my experiment was running certainly didn't help my profits.

I am currently winding down my ink and glyph inventory. I found the experiment fun, but only as long I was figuring out all the details and tricks of the inscription business and AH "PvP". But I'm not really motivated to spend another 100 hours making another 50k gold the same way. What would I want that gold for? There is nothing I could spend it on. Ultimately I gain more if I spend those 100 hours on lets say leveling one of my alts to level 80. If I see glyph prices going up a lot, I might just jump back into the market again. But right now, with 5,000 out of 15,000 auctions on my server being glyphs, there is too much supply and too little demand.
The 100 hours were spent by your character and not you. While farming, you must spend the time. While listing glyphs and emptying mailbox you can go semi-AFK, by doing some busywork at home or Alt-tab out to read or write something. YOUR time counts, not the characters
Gevlon's gold/hr is vastly exaggerated because he doesn't factor the semi-afk times in his calculations.

I remember one of his posts about (Auctioneer vs QA2) where he claims that QA2 users are "automated noobs" who "auction house camp". In reality, QA2 can be set up (with the aid of the MailOpener addon) to auction house camp while afk.

But of course he ignores all of this because it is not "Gevlon method" which in his mind is the one-and-only correct way.
You can boost your gold/hr actually played by having enough bag space to make ink in huge quantities. I have keybinds set up to mill different herbs, which I can then mindlessly press while reading, not even watching the screen. Then I can set up hundreds of ink at once and go afk. In this way much of it is free time.

However the posting can end up being very time-consuming. It's more afkable to make and post large amounts of vellum rather than glyphs. More profitable too considering there seems to be next to no competition.
I know his name is mud around here just now but that's one of the reasons why Marcko is more interesting.

He shows a wide variety of different ways to make money and isn't afraid to allow comments that explain why an idea is sub-optimal.
Boggles my mind that anyone would do any of this. The only possible reason I could see would be to sell the gold on for real-life money.

Why would anyone pay a subscription fee to run automated programs while "semi-afk", so as to get a virtual currency in quantities far in excess of reasonable need?

I like gathering and mining. It's fun. I do it in all games that allow it, regardless of whether the items are valuable or not. I can only imagine that for other people running Add-Ons is, in itself, fun. Hard to imagine that, but what other explanation can there be?
Why would anyone pay a subscription fee to run automated programs while "semi-afk", so as to get a virtual currency in quantities far in excess of reasonable need?

Why would anyone pay a subscription fee to do grey quests for hundreds of hours, so as to get the Loremaster achievement that has no reasonable need?

The answer is always the same: Different people enjoy striving for different goals in a MMORPG. There is no ONE single victory condition, everybody has his own goals. Reaching for example the gold cap is considered quite an achievement by many people.

I do however agree with you, and disagree with Gevlon, on the value of semi-afk time. Semi-afk WoW time is time which I otherwise would have used to actively play, which would have a higher entertainment value. So time spent semi-afk making gold has an opportunity cost.
When selling farms I was at about 500 à 1000 gold/hour. 1000 gold an hour is far from bad but nowhere near the 10k gold Gevlon claims to make. And I also stopped doing it once I hit the 65k gold line. What use is there to get even more?

And I used to mill during the dead times in raids. Waiting for everyone to walk back after a wipe? Good time to mill some herbs. Of course, this drove some member crazy so discuss it in your guild ;)

Posting your auctions can also be completely automated. Just start the addon and go AFK for fifteen minutes. Sadly I haven't found a way to empty my entire mailbox of the hundreds of items that did not sell. You can only retrieve the last 50 items...
But still, semi-afk is not the same as full attention playing.

In EvE Online, I spend quite a bit of time in semi-AFK mode. Whenever I'm mining in high-sec or whenever it's time to clean up my inventories and go on a selling spree (which will include flying stuff around to where the best price is), I'm highly AFK.

And that is time that has a lower opportunity cost than active playing. I can't play on another toon and do missions, that's true, I have just one subscription. But I can do something else, which has ranged from writing comments on Tobolds blog over reading books, watching DVDs, surfing the net in general to even playing AoC in parallel.

Now the thing is, I'd rather not have many of these semi-afk activities and I will never ever be a full-time miner in EvE for sure, but sometimes it's good to just quietly make some ISK in the background whilst my foreground is something else.
Sadly I haven't found a way to empty my entire mailbox of the hundreds of items that did not sell. You can only retrieve the last 50 items.

You can speed mailbox retrieval considerably by making a /reload macro and pressing that hotkey after each 50 mails recovered. That will reset the timer, so you don't need to wait 61 seconds for the next 50 mails.
To retrieve mails while you afk, download the addon called MailOpener. The addon functions with another called Postal so you'll need both.
Given that this all sounds brainless in terms of actual selling strategy (other than 'sell below lowest value'), how is there not a mod pack out yet that does ALL of this for you? Especially with something like an auto-clicker or a G15, it must be possible given the route from the AH to the mailbox never changes, there is no collision detection to throw it off, and the items/strategy never changes.
There are lots of ways to make gold. Inscription is just the flavor of the month. Let's just look at my name. My blog is all about earning Gold WITH OUT using inscription.

Right now there are too many Inscription "get-rich-quickers". The problem is that there is way too much competition, and not enough demand. That's why I started my blog, but I just started it so there isn't a lot there.
I never understood how there could be a sustained demand for glyphs. My main has had the same 6 glyphs per spec since the feature was introduced. Other things like gemming and enchants require constants upgrades, but not glyphs.

As for earning money, I like doing dailies. I can easily make 150-200gp per hour. (burst mode, lol). It may not be the highest earning over time, but for me, it maximizes reward and fun with time spent.

If you are farming mats, mid-range mats are good right now since many alts are leveled quickly via heirlooms then crafting mats are purchased en masse at cap. I earn more from primals, mageweave, thorium etc than northrend mats due to the faster drop/kill rates.
Ya speaking of EVE if I ever go back I will be semi-AFK mining with 3 accounts. 1 Orca + 2 Mining Barges.
Given that this all sounds brainless in terms of actual selling strategy (other than 'sell below lowest value'), how is there not a mod pack out yet that does ALL of this for you? Especially with something like an auto-clicker or a G15, it must be possible given the route from the AH to the mailbox never changes, there is no collision detection to throw it off, and the items/strategy never changes.

If there was such a program, using it would be a bannable offense. You are allowed to do a lot of things semi-afk, but Blizzard draws a line at anything which automates character movement.

I would say using a macro and a G15 keyboard to automate milling would still be legal though. Another commenter listed the addons needed to automate emptying the mailbox. And Auctioneer or QA2 automate the selling. So the "work" you'd have to do manually is minimal.

That doesn't change the fact that if I sit in front of a MMORPG, I usually want to DO something. Watching your character automatically empty his mailbox in WoW or mining in EVE doesn't have a high enough entertainment value for me personally.
It is surprising that there is such a need for glyphs. Like Shawno, I've never changed my glyphs since dual-spec was introduced. It seems that with a handful of people doing this on a realm, the market would be saturated pretty quickly?

Personally, I can get by with selling just the side-effects of questing/raiding/crafting (ores, the odd gem, cloths, random crap). I'm not rich, surely can't afford things like the Hopper, but as of now, I can't really be motived to get more money, since you really don't need that much to 'survive'. Still, I must admit that a certain amount of admiration/jealousy/curiosity (strike where appropriate) creeps in when reading about how 'easy' (but time-consuming) it is to get silly rich.
How many hours would you have to work IRL to buy 50k gold? :P

A lot less I'd imagine.
Thanks for the mail opener hints, I'll try them if I get a chance.

Postal sure was useful to open 50 mails but the wait times after loading the first 50 was too much.
I've made this point for a long time:

It's a myth that making a lot of gold playing the Auction House only takes 10-15 minutes a day.

Like everything else in WoW, your output is a function of time.

This is another reason why "Gold Guides" are bogus. They promise you a "quick and easy" way to make gold. The guide just makes it "easy" -- nothing makes it "quick".

And for me at least, I also agree with Gevlon that spending a passive 100 hours watching TV or a movie while I idly make gold is far preferable to farming.

The closest I ever came to the 10-15 minutes a day myth was with Leatherworking. And that's because I was only posting a dozen items or so and selling two to three for profit each day. Even then, that 10-15 minutes only netted me maybe 350 gold per day.
I can sympathize with the concept of semi-afk grinding being superior to full time grinding. Especially since WoW is so alt-tab friendly or can be played in a window, it's very appealing to semi-afk something in WoW while your attention is focus somewhere else: reading a book, browsing the net, playing another game on a console.
I suspect there will be a response post on Gevlon's blog about how amazingly wrong he thinks your logic is. The proposition that semi-AFK time cannot be fully ignored in a gold per hour calculation undermines a very large portion of Gevlon's "goblin method" and his gph calculations.

To add some corroborating evidence, I have done similar calculations on the inscription business on my server. I tried several different pricing strategies (48 hour cycle, 24 hour, 12 hour and 6 hour cycles, along with an unbearable test of "AH camping"), and recorded the actual gold per hour of each strategy. Note that I was very picky about accounting for ALL time, none of which was ignored for being semi-AFK. My results were:

48 hour - 450gph
24 hour - 580gph
12 hour - 600gph
6 hour - 570gph
AH camping - 480gph

If you ignore semi-AFK time as gevlon counts it, the values of all strategies skyrocket, as I could count about 90% of that time as semi-AFK. So yes, it is possible to get 6,000 gold per hour. However, this figure rests entirely on the shaky assumption of not counting semi-AFK time.

Tobold hit it on the head that time semi-afk is time he could have been enjoying other parts of the game, and hence cannot be ignored.
how is there not a mod pack out yet that does ALL of this for you

Several reasons. The first is that in order for these strategies to work, you need to establish firm control of the market. These players gain a lot of visibility in the community and a certain amount of notoriety. The last thing anyone who automates or bots wants is to draw attention. For a 'botter' there are much safer and obscure ways to make gold.

The second is that while the strategy is simple, being good at the strategy requires a certain finesse in the execution. You would be surprised how many people can't make money even following these guides. That's why there only ends up being two or three "Gevlons" on the server. Most "Gevlons" don't have the programming knowledge.

This is why addons like Auctioneer work like crap. I was really tempted to write an addon that "made sense" rather than the silly logic that Auctioneer uses. However, ultimately I had a moral dilemma about writing such an addon.

Which brings me to the last reason. Those "Gevlons" like myself who do have the knowledge to do it, don't have the inclination to create such a thing.
If your goal is to get the most gold possible during your playing time and both farming and glyph making nets you 500g/hr.. simply pick the one you enjoy more.

I enjoy reading articles/watching youtube videos while making 500g/hr than flying on my mount looking for dots on my mini map screen. However if looking at dots made me a significant amount more gold/hr I would do that as my ultimate goal is to maximize my gold income.

I set my "rate" at 1,000g/hour.. I set glyph prices to 3g each (1g 50s profit per) and they get undercut.. but every couple days I make sales and I top up my inventory levels every 2 or 3 days. I spend my other time doing higher gold/hour activities.

If I notice competition is leaving the market I raise my price and also time commitment, but now I'm getting 1,500g/hr..

Problem here is the "opportunity cost" of having your profession taken up by something that may only net you 500g/day where you could be using that profession slot for something else for 3k/day (same amount of effort/time spent crafting of course)

Always prioritize your time to the highest gold/hour activities first until supply is maxed then continue if you have more time.

The best opportunities are where the supply is not meeting the demand, spend your time in the most undersupplied highest demand markets and you'll achieve the highest gold/hr.
The difference between semi-AFK time and grinding time is this. i can read blogs like Tobold's whilest semi-AFK. I can't when grinding.
If you want to be brainless about it, 500g/h should be attainable through not only mining or herbalism, but fishing, which is more reliable since other people won't jack "your" nodes. Let's assume 2g per fish, which is a pretty safe assumption (fish in WG). You'd need to catch 250 fish per hour, which is well within reach.

On a sidenote, I don't remember seeing Gevlon criticize gathering professions. In fact, he has presented them as viable moneymaking techniques:

The thing Gevlon scorns, and rightfully so, is grinding mobs or doing worthless dailies.
The problem here is how you define 'semi-afk time'.

The way Gevlon uses it is time doing stuff in WoW when he is doing non-WoW activities that would stop him from playing WoW anyway.

So if he is cleaning his bathroom, he is not playing WoW. Since he has to clean his bathroom no matter what, that time can never be spent on WoW playing. So by setting up automated tasks like AH posting or mail retrieval he is turning non-WoW time into semi-WoW time.

Tobold in turn is turning his WoW time into semi-WoW time and as such cannot discount the semi-afk time.

When I am doing long flights I will often start the flight and then go cook diner, watch TV, take a shower or any number of activities I would have to do anyway. So in terms of WoW-time my character is in one city one moment and the next moment he is in a different city. I paused my own personal WoW-time while doing non-WoW things while the game was running in on its own.
Not that I want to be seen condoning the purchasing of gold but 500 gold per hour isn't a very good rate considering that (just checked) $12 will buy you 1,500 gold.

So, for $12 you get the equivalent of 3 hours worth of grinding in WoW. Assuming someone has a half-decent wage and earns $20 an hour... well, it's not that to see that it's a lot more cost effective to buy gold than it is to grind it. About 5 times more efficient in fact.

Again, don't want to see as condoning the buying of gold but it does kinda put things into perspective doesn't it?

Ultimately then, wouldn't the most globinish thing to be go out and get a good RL job and use it to pay for all the gold you need in-game? :)

-Gordon @ We Fly Spitfires
The question whether 'semi-afk' time counts is to my understanding largely defined by the value of YOUR time.

If someone can spend 'unlimited' time in WoW, he can do his auctioning 'semi-afk' while doing house work, and still 'play' WoW at other times, without experiencing a net 'loss' on possible WoW activities (grouping, raiding, levelling, etc.). Having a job and other responsibilities that limit your WoW time to 2-4 hours a day, on the other side, increases the opportunity cost for being 'semi-afk'. If you like 'playing' WoW that is, of course. If you are whole-heartedly a trader, then this does probably not apply.

So, whether 'semi-afk' time counts or not, very much depends on YOUR individual and relative value of RL- and WoW-time.
The problem with not counting semi-AFK time is that it is not completely AFK. Auction batch posting is mostly AFK, it will run for a long time without any interruption or requirements for you input, but it does take a few seconds to load everything into the batch, and you can only auction what fits into your bags in one shot.

Mail retrieval is semi-afk, but you do have to go back to your computer for each batch of 50 mails and make a couple clicks. This does take some time away from whatever other task you have. Also note that many studies show that interruptions tend to have a base cost beyond the actual time spent. That cost is low for interrupting simple rote activities like housecleaning, but very high for interrupting more complex activities. Cleaning the bathroom or reading random wow blogs works pretty well, but you sure as heck can't program, write anything of consequence, or read deeper things (personal, scientific, interesting political etc.) without those interruptions costing a lot.

I definitely don't think it's reasonable to count semi-afk time the *same* as grinding time, but it's also unreasonable to not count it at all. Personally I try to make a fair estimation of how much of my actual time gets sucked into my semi-afk time and count that.

My determination was that I should count around 20-25% of my semi-afk time as time. If I tightened up my workflow and used a few more addons, I could probably get it down around 10%.
Oh for the hey days of 10K nobles decks, 5K cards, and 30-50 gold glyphs. I've made about 100-150k with a pretty casual glyph industry in the last 3-4 months. The last month though I had to industrialize to maintain the 500-1K/day rate.

It's getting to be tedious. I think I'll go enjoy the new heroics for a while.
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