Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, March 04, 2015
How much is WoW gold worth?

The announcement of the WoW token with which you can exchange a month of game time to WoW gold has started the speculation for how much these tokens will go for. It is not a free market, Blizzard is both selling and buying the tokens for gold, and it is unclear to what degree they will regulate the price or adjust it to supply and demand. But as reader "8F55..." remarked in a comment yesterday, you can today buy a thousand gold for a dollar from various illicit gold trading websites. Apparently $10 pets from the Blizzard store also sell for around 10,000 gold. So even if players value legit gold slightly more, a WoW token can't go for less than 10,000 gold.

I am less worried about the lower limit than about the upper limit. I don't think Blizzard is planning to give you that little gold for a WoW token, or rather they won't sell you a month of subscription for that little gold. Gevlon was talking about his million gold pieces, I counted over 200,000 on my account, and I'm sure a number of people who were a bit interested in the economy of WoW have hundreds of thousands of gold pieces. I really doubt that Blizzard is willing to give me over a year of free subscription to World of Warcraft in exchange for the gold I accumulated. Especially since I could easily "go infinite" by making more than 10k gold per month and playing without paying forever. During my two months of WoD subscription I made more than 10k gold per month just by selling crafted epics from my garrison crafting buildings.

10,000 gold for a WoW token would also not be all that interesting for the potential gold buyers. Yesterday bryksom posted a list of bind on equip gear that would bring you up to iLvl 668+, enough for the "mythic" level of dungeon/raid content, but estimated the price for that at around 1 million gold pieces. At 10,000 gold per WoW token that would be 100 tokens or $1,500. I doubt there will be all that many people who would be interested at buying gear for real money if every single item is a hundred bucks or more.

GaelicVigil was thinking a WoW token would go for 100k to 150k. I think that is too high. The idea that somebody without a clue would like to spend money on high-level epics and go raiding at mythic level is probably just a strawman anyway. Raiding isn't really an attractive activity for the supposedly time-poor, money-rich player anyway, as it requires too much time and commitment. And you don't need those iLvl 668+ epics for the kind of content a more casual player might be interested in. Apart from buying rare mounts and pets on the auction house, there isn't really much you can spend that gold on at the moment. A fully built-up garrison might cost you 30,000 gold, but you'll make that sort of money in the time it takes you to get there.

So I was thinking that Blizzard will set the gold price for WoW tokens to between 30,000 and 50,000 gold. That is significantly more gold per dollar than the gold farmers offer at the moment, and thus likely to put a lot of gold selling companies out of business. It is an attractive enough price for people who have accumulated some gold to exchange it for game time, and an attractive enough price for the gold buyer as well.

The long-term effect on the economy and price evolution depends on factors we aren't really sure about. Is Blizzard only an intermediary in this trade, selling only as many WoW tokens for gold as other players are selling for gold? In that case the total quantity of gold in the economy would remain unchanged. If a player buys gold for WoW tokens and then buys things on the auction house with that gold, most of the gold remains in the hands of other players. The only gold sink would be the AH fees. But Blizzard could also decide to sell WoW tokens for gold even if there are no players putting up those tokens for sale, in which case they would create a real gold sink and remove gold from the economy. Which would have a significant long-term effect on prices.

There are multiple wrong assumptions in this post.
- An EVE titan goes for 100B "gold" and you can buy 0.8B for $15 using "EVE-token". That's $1875 for a ship. People spend that money on pixels.
- EVE Titans usually end up being inactive for looong periods of time because of the huge risks. People spend money on pixels despite never "raid".
- WoW raiders have multiple characters to funnel gear to mains. Top raiders go long way to stay on top. If a good item comes from the Black Market AH, they will buy them.

I would say 100-200K/token.
I can almost guarantee that the gold farmers aren't going to be undercut by Blizzard, so Blizzard would have to have someone constantly keeping track of all of the gold farmers out there to keep their pricing "competitive".

I'm now starting to wonder if this is going to be more trouble than it's worth for Blizzard.
EVE titan
Top raiders go long way to stay on top.

I don't think Blizzard will price WoW tokens targeting exclusively what elsewhere would be known as the "whales". They exist. They spend a lot of money. But you're not going to design a system which only serves them and pretty much excludes the other 99% of your players. How many people on a server with 10,000 players can trade a WoW token for 200k gold? Not more than a handful!

Blizzard would have to have someone constantly keeping track of all of the gold farmers

Why would they have to constantly keep track? If you sell gold at least three times cheaper than the cheapest gold farmer, you don't need to worry about keeping track. You can just assume that this will drive a large majority of them out of business. Blizzard lived for a decade with a huge number of gold selling sites. They'd be perfectly happy to kill 9 out of 10 of them and let the rest sink into insignificance. They aren't going to think they failed because a few might survive and start monitoring them.
You wouldn't be playing infinitely for free if you constantly bought WoW tokens with gold. You'd be playing for the same price you always have (maybe more depending on the $$ value of a token). The cost would just be shouldered by someone else.

From Blizzard's perspective, they stand zero chance of losing money from subscriptions. They'll make the same as they do now; just the distribution of who's paying will change.
"I really doubt that Blizzard is willing to give me over a year of free subscription to World of Warcraft in exchange for the gold I accumulated. "

The beauty of this (and all PLEX-like schemes) from Blizzard's perspective is that they never have to. They give the subscription to the initial buyer of the WoW token, in exchange for earthly riches. So your subscription is being paid for, just not by you. Blizzard end up with the same amount of cash, either way.

By the way, I calculated some ballpark prices last December, at How Much is a WoWPLEX worth?.
@Tobold: Blizzard doesn't care if no one has 200K gold to buy a token. They want to sell tokens, not buy them.

Everyone who has $15 for subscription has $15. So they want everyone to pay $15 for 200K gold.
Blizzard doesn't care if no one has 200K gold to buy a token. They want to sell tokens, not buy them.

If I read Blizzard's clarification correctly they are not going to give the buyer gold for a token unless there is a seller at the other end. And they don't even want to take a commission.

As Lykaon and Dàchéng said, the WoW token system allows one kind of player to pay for the subscription of another kind of player, which overall increases the number of subscriptions. That only works for Blizzard if there are gold sellers, not just gold buyers.
The problem I see with the 50000 gold price is this:

1) they did mention getting a set price regardless of market price, which indicates supply and demand will be factors (and it really has to be this way due to the very heavy inflation that is always going on) and

2) 50000 gold is worth $50. 30 days of playtime is worth $15. Gold sellers could turn a 300%+ profit by buying the token at 15 and selling the gold. The third party sellers will arbitrage the price down, or the system will fail due to Blizz putting too many restrictions on it. It has to make sense to use the system, and the token's cash price is established at $15.

Also, they wouldn't care if you went infinite since someone else is basically stepping in and paying for your subscription. Makes no difference to them who pays your tab.
Tobold, you're assuming that the gold farmers can't go cheaper, when I've no doubt that if they got into a competition for the bottom with Blizzard they'd win.

Why? Because they're not constrained by things such as legality.

Blizzard may own the game, but never underestimate the ability of the black market to adapt and survive.
50000 gold is worth $50.

No, it isn't. 50000 gold *today* has a going market rate of $50. The moment that Blizzard sells you 50000 gold for $15 (or $20), the going market rate for gold is the Blizzard one. Why would anybody go to a third party site to buy 50000 gold for $50 if he can get 50000 for $15 from Blizzard? Gold sellers can buy gold from Blizzard and sell it as a profit, as they won't have customers at the old rate.

Why? Because they're not constrained by things such as legality.

Stealing gold by account hacking and selling that might still be profitable, but less so, as even hacking needs time. Farming gold means exchanging time for gold, and even at Chinese salaries that time might cost more than the gold at some point.
If I read Blizzard's clarification correctly they are not going to give the buyer gold for a token unless there is a seller at the other end. And they don't even want to take a commission.

About the commission: they said the seller will eventually get the amount of gold promised when s/he puts the token up for auction. They also said that buy price may be different then sell.

Said it before, I think the buy price will be considerably higher than sell so gold will leave the system if they keep their word about every sell needs a buyer. I can totally see Blizzard secretly regulating the gold system by not requiring that.

As for the actual prices... I can only guess. Third party gold seller prices are what they are because that's what their customers pay. I'm sure they undercut Blizzard the very minute prices are set.

Well, I guess something like 30k sell, 50k buy. Buy price might even be twice as high as sell.
Blizz knows they can sell 50000 for $50 because the third party sellers are doing it. If it were legal and the whole cheating thing was removed by official sanction... the sky is the limit on demand due to the inherently garbage nature of Wow gameplay.

I don't seem them giving up $35 a sale, do you? They're milking the cow until it finally dies, no way are they letting that much cash walk away.

They also have to think through the ramifications to the game's economy. If people no longer have to work then the whole addiction to a constantly moving set of goals thing doesn't really happen anymore, so people quit.

This has to be a feature, but not enough of a feature that you can live a life of leisure for $45 the whole expansion. It renders too much content obsolete.

brkysom-- It's difficult to undercut Blizz, since blizz can just make as much gold as it wants with 0 effort. Price war with a guy with no cost to produce is a bad idea.
I don't seem them giving up $35 a sale, do you?

Huh? Blizzard isn't selling you anything except for the initial WoW token, which will cost between $15 and $20 for one month of subscription. Whether Player A gets 10,000 gold or 50,000 gold for his token from Player B makes no difference at all to Blizzard's profit. Blizzard's profit comes from Player A having effectively sponsored one month of subscription of Player B.

blizz can just make as much gold as it wants with 0 effort

While this is true in theory, this isn't part of what they said they would do. You buy gold from another player, with Blizzard as intermediary. In specific situations of price fluctuations it can happen that Blizzard creates gold to give the seller the amount of gold they initially promised him. But they might also destroy gold that way, if prices have gone up.

About the commission: they said the seller will eventually get the amount of gold promised when s/he puts the token up for auction. They also said that buy price may be different then sell.

The buy price may be different from the sell price if there are a lot of tokens on the market and prices have changed between the time the seller has put his token on the market and the time that token becomes the oldest token in the queue and is now sold. The seller always gets the market price of the moment where he put up his token for sale, while the buyer always pays the market price of right now. The difference between the two prices can be positive or negative. As long as the market moves quickly the difference should be small.
Sure it does! They could have sold you three tokens instead of one!

That assumes an unlimited demand for gold, which I don't think exists. I think if Blizzard would price the WoW token to gold exchange rate at the current gold seller market rate, there would be far too many people wanting to sell their gold for tokens, and far too few people wanting to buy gold for tokens. If they priced the WoW token at 200k, it would be the other way around.

For the system to work, Blizzard needs to adjust prices so as to match supply with demand.
I think your prices are pretty reasonable. This puts them comparable to PLEX when you look at respective in-game income levels. How many PLEX worth of ISK can you make in a week? How many tokens worth of gold can you make in a week? I see no reason it shouldn't be about the same.

On the other hand, on multiple occasions Blizzard has demonstrated themselves absolutely INCOMPETENT when it comes to player economy issues. It would not surprise me in the least if they priced it something crazy like 5k or 500k, with one-sided demand making half the players being completely unable to buy/sell tokens. Blizzard has also shown they will go months without fixing these glaring imbalances.
If Blizzard wanted players to trade, they'd just let them trade. The whole "special AH" and "Blizzard decided prices" are for one thing: THERE IS NO REAL TRADE.

They set the price high, for example 100K gold. On this price there will be much more gold buyers than sellers. The difference will come from Blizzard. This is the whole point. It's not a PLEX-trade, it's a simple gold-from-shop.

There is more or less unlimited demand for gold. Enchants, mounts, enchants for my alts, enchants for my twinks, mounts for them, crafting for everyone, blah blah.

But you're right, it does need to be matched. 100000 gold for $15 is a bad price. If you can make 10000 gold an hour, that's 10 hours of labor for 15 bucks. $1.50 an hour. No point to that trade except for a few people who just have too much gold. Might as well just give it away really. It would be totally irrelevant to most players. You could sell the gold at 50% off market price and be better off. Just don't see how you could have a thriving market there. The point of the market is to sell your labor (time spent getting gold) in exchange for game time (cash equivalent) for the buyer, or to turn cash into saved labor for the seller.

100000 gold for $15 bucks is a fantastic deal for the seller and a shit deal for the buyer. The sellers would be lined up around the block while buyers will be rarer than hens teeth. Same thing at 50000. The balance would be around 10000, IMO. The AH expert can spend an hour or two to make something close to minimum wage, the buyer (presumably not interested in playing the AH) gets to save however much labor it would actually take to make that money. At that price it's win win for both sides, and engaging in the legal market makes a reasonable amount of sense rather than going to the black market.

So I got one reader who is absolutely certain that the price will be 10k and another reader who is absolutely certain that the price will be 100+k. Guess one of you has to be wrong.
Well, yeah, one of us is.

I'll just say you could sell that 100k to somebody at half market price and get three or four months of gametime out of it. Or you can probably make less than a dollar an hour for hustling at the AH for 10-30 hours. Just not seeing a lot of incentive to sell your labor so cheaply. It'd be better not to work at all or just give it to your guild bank or something.

Blizz wants to make money middlemanning the transaction, and have the incentive to make people want to do it a lot. So a decent amount of gold is needed, but not so much you never need to do it again, or need to do it once an expansion. I mean the token sellers would be making out like a bandit, to the point where you'd be a fool to actually engage in any gathering or AH activity since you can just buy a ludicrous amount of gold for almost nothing.

Not to mention the third party sellers. What would stop them from just buying all the tokens and hovering all the excess gold for resale at $15 for 100000 gold?

I stick by the 10000 or so prediction once the market evens out. There will be a lot of pent up demand at first, but then there's a lot of pent up gold as well.
"If you can make 10000 gold an hour, that's 10 hours of labor for 15 bucks. $1.50 an hour."

That is roughly in line with other games like EVE. You don't make $15 an hour ratting. You don't even make $1.50 an hour. But players do it, and the price is what it is.

I also have to point out that WoW, far more than EVE, has a lot of players who have accumulated a large stockpile of gold because just playing the game generates gold (whereas in EVE, it often costs you ISK to play). I would expect most level capped players have incomes well over 10k a month simply through normal play. So is everyone playing for free? Who is buying all these tokens with real money?
When I was playing I was usually on the verge of being broke. Enchants, respecs for raiding and PVP, also hating all the activities you did to make money. I was living paycheck to paycheck basically. So if this had been in place I'm sure I would have been very happy to do it so I could skip all the bullshit activities. There will be demand. That's how theres a dozen gold vendors who have been around forever. The demand is certainly there, because it's actually a far smarter move to buy gold than it is to earn it (in view of time expended to earn the money vs. time saved buying gold it's a bargain).
Also, EVE isn't WoW. I don't understand the attraction of Star Wars: Attack of the Spreadsheet myself, but it's also not a good exemplar of WoW. If WoW only had five times as many players as Eve we'd be talking about it being on it's deathbead. I don't claim to understand how EVE players think, but I can say there's a lot less of them than WoW players.
I'm still thinking it will start somewhere around the 20K price level (+/- 10k).
Other than the starting price (which will just be black-market rate + a little extra) Blizzard aren't setting the prices, the market is doing it. There will be some sort of formula that looks something like total gold paid in the last week by the number of tokens listed. (At least that would be the simplest, non-stupid method)
Blizzard aren't setting the prices, the market is doing it

I think so too. I believe that Blizzard put in all those disclaimers and a system which is not a completely free market in order to smooth out daily variations, so as to not have prices fluctuate wildly on the weekend like they do in the AH. But overall I think the system is designed to arrive at a true (but averaged) market price that balances the number of buyers with the number of sellers.

Note that this will not necessarily end up with the same market price that we have today. Today the majority of players with excess gold don't sell it for money, only specialized gold farmers do. The Blizzard system will increase the number of gold sellers far more than it will increase the number of buyers, which is why I believe a token will be worth more gold than you can buy for $15-$20 today.
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