Friday, October 23, 2015

World of Warcraft: Deflating the Game's Economy

World of Warcraft, as a MMORPG, is a persistent world subject to many concepts found in real life. One such concept, though simplified in some ways, is an economy based around the currency of gold. From the date of the game's release over time, more and more gold has flowed into the economy with numerous gold sinks, such as mount training, helping to prevent extreme inflation. Thus, while each expansion increased the total amount of gold in the game, the increase was gradual and well-maintained. Only recently, especially in Warlords of Draenor, has there been an observably significant increase in the price of goods and general size of gold-based revenue for players. While my case might not be indicative of the norm, my gold making methods, which make tens of thousands of gold per day now compared to the hundreds of gold per day of the past, resulted in unprecedented wealth.

To put it another way, I have observed the state of the in-game currency of gold over the course of many expansions, developing a keen experience in understanding how the economy of the game works (resources such as this helped immensely too). I found the wild inflation caused in Warlords of Draenor to be shocking to the point that it needs to be dealt with in numerous ways. Blizzard seems to be well aware of the issue as well, given how heirloom prices were heavily reworked in 6.1 (compared to the prices that were set after Justice Points were removed) to make them more of a gold sink and acknowledging issues such as Garrisons being too rewarding. To further expand on this, I will suggest many solutions in an attempt to deflate the price of goods in-game by reducing the amount of in-game gold and gold revenue to more reasonable levels.

The Suggestions List

Much like in the format of some of my other articles, I will quote the suggestion first, then follow it up with an explanation of why I think the suggestion will work. It is worth noting that these suggestions would probably be implemented around the time of Legion's prepatch or release date.
Nerf the gold reward of Garrison missions into the ground. In addition, reduce the gold price of garrison structures and upgrades. 
While the gold earned from missions turns out to not be the most significant source of revenue when it comes to my money making, it's undeniable that it adds a lot of gold to the economy from thin air with minimal time investment. Thus, a reduction of around 50%, if not more, to the gold reward, should prevent players from returning to their Garrison for rewards. Diminishing the rewards further based on player level may also be an ideal approach.

The reduction of Garrison structure and upgrade prices is to make investing into the less prohibitive since they currently can cost as much as thousands of gold, allowing players to benefit from the Garrison while leveling and at level 100 if they choose to opt out of playing Legion. It also allows the Garrison to effectively pay for itself over time, much like it already does at the moment.

Nerfs may need to be more broad than that since Garrisons also provides a flood of reagents that may incentivize people to continue to manage their Garrisons.

Update: Blizzard listened. This change was expected.
Remove Stacked Decks entirely.
Much like how I suggested this in the previous article, Stacked Decks only award gold and thus add more to the game economy. They are surprisingly common since players who finish another Dungeon with a random group they queued with after finishing a previous Dungeon are awarded them much like premade groups are. At the very least, there are better reward options than gold, such as the Valor currency that's being re-added in the next patch.
Remove or reduce gold rewards from Call to Arms bags.
This is similar to the previous two suggestions, all of which are intended to reduce how much gold players gain out of thin air. Also, much like the previous suggestion, there are better reward options than gold.
Replace gold awards from bonus rolls with something else, such as another currency.
The reward everyone happens to complain about when it comes to bonus rolls poses a problem to the in-game economy. Most gold-awarding bonus rolls award roughly 30 gold, which doesn't sound like a lot until one realizes most level capped players in a given week are likely to use at least one bonus roll. This is also in addition to the more understandable bounty bosses give to all players by default to compensate for repair bills and the like.
Consider reducing/squishing the vendor price of many items. Many sell for as much as 10+ gold each and are frequently gotten.
The typical price of a piece of Burning Crusade armor. Weapons generally sell for double or triple this price.
The vendor price of items, especially uncommon ones of nearly all level ranges, are quite high, with weapons generally having the highest vendor prices. By squishing the vendor prices of such items, they would sell for appropriate amounts based largely on item level and generally be reduced by reasonable amounts across the board (meaning the vendor prices shouldn't be reduced to something ridiculous like a few copper). This would most notably reduce the gold gained from Crates of Salvage, which still have decent yields despite nerfs in 6.2.
Increase the number of items that the Black Market Auction House sells during a given day by a significant amount. In addition, increase the chance of rare items that players are likely to spend gold cap on appearing. The pool of items sold in the Black Market Auction House could also be expanded to include items such as rare heirlooms. Finally, advertise the Black Market Auction House aggressively.
The Black Market Auction House, which was added in Mists of Pandaria, was a way for players to purchase rare items for a large amount of gold, creating a gold sink that can erase huge amounts of money from the game's economy daily. I personally think it's a great feature, but unfortunately ineffective at handling the current issue in its current state. Thus, I had to propose a number of suggestions to make the Black Market Auction House an effective gold sink, especially for players with multiple gold caps that would otherwise be affected by mandatory gold sinks like riding training.
There could easy be quadruple the number of items here...
The first suggestion is the most significant, since a larger pool of items means players are more likely to find something they want to bid on, increasing the amount of gold removed from the game economy.

The second suggestion is also significant, since extremely rare items that are generally unobtainable or ultra rare (such as Invincible or the Swift Zulian Tiger) are items that usually receive gold cap bids, removing significant amounts of gold from the game economy. While ideally such items should still be rare enough to warrant high demand, they should show up more often to ensure gold is removed at a faster rate. It is worth noting ultra rare item pool will inevitably increase over time, allowing for further flexibility in terms of allowing items to show up on the Black Market Auction House more frequently, making this suggestion more viable.

Speaking of an increasing size in the ultra rare item pool, the general pool of items increasing is likely but worth mentioning in the form of a suggestion as a gentle reminder that there's a lot of items that were added in Warlords of Draenor that could sell well on the Black Market Auction House, such as unbound toys.

The suggestion to advertise the Black Market Auction House aggressively is to help bring in more bidders and inform players that the place exists, potentially tempting them to purchase items and increase the amount of gold sunk into the Black Market Auction House.

Update: The gold cap increase to ~10 million gold in Legion should be an immense help in terms of allowing the BMAH to do its job. I still think increasing the number of available items in the BMAH may help accelerate the process and make the BMAH more attractive to use but millions of gold should leave the game economy on each day a rare mount or item is posted on the BMAH.
Ensure Legion doesn't cause the same kinds of problems Warlords of Draenor did. There should be ways to make gold still, but they should generally be a trickle by comparison. Also, there's healthier ways to allow players to make money than to heavily tie it to idle content.
This suggestion speaks for itself, though in terms of more specific ideas, bringing back objective-driven content that takes some time to complete for financial gains would have players out in the world, thus breathing life into the game world in addition to curbing the amount of gold players gain.

Update: I should also mention adding an excessive amount of mandatory/nearly mandatory gold sinks (like flight training) to Legion would not be a good solution. That would just heavily punish unwealthy (new, returning, etc) players with minimal effect on players who have stockpiled a ton of gold (like myself).

Final Statements

As I mentioned near the beginning, Blizzard is fully aware of the damaging impact that some content in Warlords of Draenor has wrought onto the game economy. However, I am worried that attempts to fix it will not be heavy-handed enough, which could cause problems such as making new player experiences even more frustrating due to the sheer amount of gold they'd have to earn to make any headway into some aspects of the game. Here's to hoping that Legion brings some greener pastures in terms of handling gold.

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