Guild Wars 2: The Gold Market

By Shamus
on Sep 10, 2012
Filed under:
Game Reviews

splash_guildwars2.jpg

I last visited World of Warcraft about a year ago, and the cities were still flooded with hacked accounts spewing gold farming services into trade spam. This is despite a years-long battle on the part of Blizzard. If they can’t beat this problem, can anyone?

The problem:

“I need 100 gold to get my mount. Hm. But getting that 100g will take a lot of questing. And that questing would go faster if I had my mount while I was doing it! Can’t I just… get the gold now?”

Or perhaps:

“I won’t be able to afford this novelty pet until I’m at the end game. But I want the pet with me while I’m adventuring and leveling! It’s part of my character concept / costume / joke. I won’t be able to get it until I’m done with the character. Isn’t there some way to, you know, get it early?”

If you put goals in the distance, players are going to want to get them early. You can argue that paying for a reward defeats the purpose of having a reward. You can also tell people not to eat greasy food or get large, fad-driven tattoos on obvious parts of their body. You can decry something as a bad idea all you like, but people are going to do it anyway so you might as well put on your engineer hat and work out a system that can tolerate it.

Note: All screenshots here are from Guild Wars 2.

gw2_16.jpg

If the game itself doesn’t sell gold, then a black market of goldfarming will rise up and create problems with spam, hacked accounts, bot usage, and fraud. To add insult to injury, a black market of gold means that players are paying money for game content, but the developer isn’t getting any of it. You’re basically running into the prohibition problem: The public wants X, the system forbids it, and so a black market arises that hurts everyone, whether they partake of X or not. The cure in this case is worse than the disease, so why not just make it legal?

HOWEVER. If you, the developer, are going to sell gold, then the first question you need to answer is, How much should it cost? This is an impossible question to answer because these games usually hand out money on an exponential scale. If you sell a World of Warcraft gold piece for $10, that transaction will look very different depending on which end of the game you’re on. For a new player, that single gold piece will buy them everything they could possibly need for the first few days of play. For the level 85 character, you’re asking him to pay ten dollars for something he could earn in about two minutes.

As the game ages, more and more money enters the economy, making gold worth less.

As you release new expansions, people gain greater earning power through higher levels, which makes gold worth less.

As people hit the end game they run out of things they want or need to buy, which makes gold worth less.

As the average level of the player base goes up, people become willing to buy crafting materials on the auction house, effectively hiring newcomers to do their gathering for them. This means that even low level players have more cash than they should at lower levels. This makes gold worth a lot less.

Worst of all, the more gold you sell, the less gold is worth.

gw2_17.jpg

The less gold is worth, the less people are willing to pay for it. That $10 might look like a good deal near launch, but by the end of six months it’s really pricy and by year two it’s an insult. At such high prices for such little value, you’ve effectively banned it, and you’re back to the black market problem.

Even more difficult: How do you handle foreign markets? People in Elbonia have less disposable income than people in the United States. You can sell the same expansion pack for different prices in different markets because you know where users are from. But money is inherently fungible. If you make gold cheaper in Elbonia than in the USA then you’ll just end up with a different sort of black market where Elbonians sell gold to Americans.

It’s a mess, is what I’m saying. All of this is exacerbated by the fact that we’re tying to conduct commerce in a system that produces goods from thin air, prints money at will, and exists in a system where people “die out” if they become too rich: They get bored and quit.

I know I haven’t even scratched the surface of everything that’s wrong. I’m 600 words into this. Let us agree that a full catalog of economic brokenness would be flogging a dead starter mount. Moving on…

gw2_style.jpg

The Guild Wars 2 approach is really interesting. They sell gems on the gem store. Right now, it’s $10 for 800 gems. These gems can be used to buy novelty and cosmetic items. A chef’s outfit. Boxing gloves. Sunglasses. Non-combat pets. You can also buy boosters to help you earn extra XP, open chests of loot, or have a better chance at finding magic items while playing.

They do not directly sell power, which is good since selling power is generally considered to be a big no-no. Selling power – particularly in a game with PvP content, is sleazy and self-destructive. Players feel strongly that the win should go to the side with the better strategy or skill, not to those who spend the most money.

Gems are not an in-game currency. You can’t spend them in-game, only at the item store. So you can’t buy gold directly. No, if you want to buy gold then you need to trade your gems to other players. This is done through a completely hands-off market. The price of gems and gold can change relative to one another. As of this writing, it’s 1.52 gold for $10 worth of gems. Right now, the vast majority of the population is in the early and mid levels, and starved for coin. Right now, the item store is a little under-stocked. As the population levels, they will have more money. As ArenaNet makes new armors and knicknacks to buy with gems, the value of gems will go up.

gw2_exchange.jpg

I wanted to unlock a character slot, which normally costs $10. But instead of paying real money I just gave up a gold and a half for the gems I needed. Note that ArenaNet didn’t set this price. Somewhere out there was someone who wanted gold so badly they were willing to give up $10 worth of gems for it. That’s really interesting to me. This free exchange between gems and gold means that the price should automatically adjust to reflect what players are willing to pay, without ArneaNet needing to constantly guess at the right values and defend themselves against charges of being “greedy”.

This trade system is streamlined, fair, instant, and secure. With a system like this in place, who would go out of their way to muck about paying a goldfarmer? I’m not saying it won’t happen, but the goldfarmers would have to really undercut the going rate to make it worth the extra hassle and risk. And if they do, then a smart person will come along, buy their gold for cheap, and re-sell it on the open market for a profit.

Unlike the in-game gold, which is poofed into existence when the player gets a quest reward and destroyed when players spend it in-game, gems have a more grounded lifespan. Every gem in the system was, at some point, bought with real money. That gem will eventually exit the system when it’s used to buy a good or service. ArenaNet gets the money from selling gold, without all the complex hassles that come from trying to sell it directly.

Does it work?

gw2_goldfarmer.jpg

Not completely, apparently. To be fair, this is only the second time I’ve seen chat spam in the game. Also, they’re selling leveling service, not gold, which is a slightly different problem. I can’t imagine why anyone would pay to have their character leveled. I mean, if you want to play PvP the game will auto-level you to 80 and deck you out in proper gear. The only reason to level in this game is because you want to. Paying someone to play this game for you is like paying someone to watch a movie or eat ice cream for you. What are you getting out of this?

It will be interesting to see how well this works, long-term.

EDIT: In the comments, some people have said that the gems market isn’t as hands-off as it may seem. I don’t see any way to know how much they control the prices. The only clear thing is that they skim a bit from each transaction, so that if you buy gems and then sell them right away you’ll still take a significant loss.

In any case, I’ve grabbed some gems fr myself, in the hopes that someday they’ll have something on the gem store that I want.

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A Hundred!207There are 127 comments here. I really hope you like reading.

From the Archives:

  1. Michael says:

    To be fair, Champions is already doing something similar, as is Star Trek Online.

    There is a key difference. Both games use a secondary currency, Questionite in CO and Dilithium in STO. Players are limited to how much they can actually gain per day (8k points). (You can actually gain more, but you can only refine that ammount.)

    Questionite and Dilithium both get used to purchase gear. In STO, that’s a lot of the stuff that was tied to the alternate tiered currencies, in CO that’s the old crafted travel powers and new stuff.

    Q&D can be converted into Zen (it used to be C-points before Perfect World ate them), and that conversion is tied to a commodities exchange system.

    Of course, none of this directly deals with the issue of black market currency in the game, but the games themselves have sort of moved to completely devalue the unregulated currency into meaninglessness already…

    • noneofcon says:

      EVE online has had a similar system for the past year or so, where the players can buy time codes from the developers, and then trade them on the in game market for the in game currency.

      Wiki page

      • S. Richmond says:

        PLEX has been around for years in EVE. There is a famous article (one of many) about a group of pirates that scanned and found a trader shipping several hundred $US worth of PLEX in-game. It did not end well for him.

          • James says:

            And he was flying a Kestrel, during a war, in Jita, the people who killed him destroyed the wreck, so Poof, there goes $1200.

            The thing about people buying gold(isk) in Eve, is the market sets the price, atm its about 500million per plex, at one point it was 700millon, and at another it was 300million.

            And finally the Eve market it almost entirely player driven, there are only a few items “seeded” by CCP, these tend to be skill books, so people can advance in the game with a definite price. and T1 Blue Print Originals, ‘cus there is no other way to make them.

            Hell CCP hire a economic adviser to keep an eye on the market.

        • Kevin says:

          PLEX has been around for years, but the new system is Aurum (AUR). Here’s how it works…

          You can buy a time card and split it into two PLEX. The individual PLEX can be bought/sold on the market for ISK (the normal and age-old currency). PLEX can be converted into AUR at a rate of 3500 AUR for 1 PLEX.

          AUR cannot be (at this time, no idea about in the future) converted to anything except in-game attire for your character. The attire is strictly non-game changing for in-space stuff. (I have personal theories about how it may apply once we can actually interact in stations….)

          Oh, you can get ISK back out of the system….by selling the attire on the market. I assume there’s a significant loss doing this though.

          This works to be an ISK sink (converting ISK into PLEX into AUR) and it boosts the revenue stream for CCP (Cash into Game Time Cards into PLEX into AUR).

          Since the price of PLEX is dictated by the in-game market, it’s players deciding how much they want to spend on AUR to get the items.

          CCP has also made huge advances in getting rid of the RMT (Real Money Traders) which has resulted in the price of just about everything going up. I see this as a good thing, even though my ships now cost more. :(

    • CTrees says:

      Runes of Magic also does this. Really, it’s not that uncommon a system, though it usually doesn’t completely eliminate the botters/gold sellers/etc.

    • Dreadjaws says:

      I came down here to talk about Champion’s system too, but I didn’t know they had replaced C-Points with Zen. I suppose it happened after I abandoned the game a few months ago.

      And yes, there is an entirely different currency, the money you earn in-game by questing/battling/selling, used to purchase stuff in the Auction House/Vendors, for which there isn’t a dedicated trade system. I can’t remember for sure, but I think people can’t use their trade windows to exchange between in-game cash and c-points/questionite.

      They can, though, sell boxes of questionite obtained in quests/alerts, which contain a random amount between 200 and 1500 questionite, so it’s a gamble. Well, that’s how things were when I left, I don’t know how they are now.

    • BeardedDork says:

      I was also about to make an STO comment. Their system is pretty much exactly this. I know in my several months of play a few months back at the most recent I have seen Gold Farming spam but so infrequently as to be almost nonexistent.

      • Jeff says:

        They have an extremely aggressive player-run anti-spam system. When enough people toss somebody on ignore/report, that account is silenced for 24 hours. Essentially,a spambot is good for less than a minute a day.

        The system is vulnerable to abuse by a group of malicious players, but is extremely effective at censoring spam.

    • HiEv says:

      Perfect World has been doing this for over four years (the US version of the game just had its 4th anniversary a week from yesterday). To get gold (which is used to buy items from the in-game boutique) you can either buy it with cash or you can go to the auction house and trade coins (which are dropped by mobs and given by NPCs) for gold (PW wiki info). PW keeps 2% of the auction house gold/coin trades.

      That said, many think that the PW economy is broken and there have been problems with gold seller spam on and off for a while now. The blog that used to track the economy and such on various servers (PWInsider) died, in part due to the broken economy.

      Despite letting players control the economy, the fluctuation in value of gold due to various sales has produced frustration in both gold sellers, who think that the price is too low most of the time (compared to the highs), and gold buyers, who think that the price is too high most of the time (compared to the lows). What ends up happening is that they compare the rare fluctuations to the more frequent “normal” state of the economy, and end up waiting in frustration for one of the rare fluctuations to be in their favor. This just ends up making those fluctuations more rare, because their actions when a fluctuation does happen ends up just pushing the economy back to its “normal” state.

      That “normal” state in PW has been a slow but steady trend to make gold more and more valuable, and coins less and less valuable. In an attempt to stabilize things they’ve tried to put in what players just refer to as “coin sinks.” These are quests and NPC abilities that exist merely to eat up coins for relatively little value, and all have been miserable failures (such as the repeatable “Tiger Badge Order” quests given by the Beast Killer NPC, which almost nobody does). They also added untradeable gold as a reward in some events, which was marginally more successful, but it’s too rare to reverse the trend, and untradeable gold can only be used to purchase some of the boutique items. Furthermore it hurts the company’s bottom line.

      They’ve tried other things too, but the problem is that, even when there is an institution controlling the minting of money, inflation happens. So when there aren’t any controls on the creation of one form of money (as described in Shamus’ “The Broken Economy Is Your Fault” article linked above) and it’s traded for a form of money that is controlled, then the uncontrolled form will continuously depreciate in value compared to the controlled form. A player controlled trading system will not prevent or solve this problem.

      To sum up: MMORPGs’ economies are always broken due to this imbalance, though some take longer to show than others. If GW2’s economy is anything like the PW economy, buy as many gems as you can with gold now, and then you can sell those gems later for a LOT more gold.

      (Apologies for the length. I fail at brevity.)

  2. Kira says:

    I’d like to add that behind the gem/gold exchange arenanet has an in-house economist watching it, and changing the hidden service fee if needed to effect a change in the market.

  3. ENC says:

    At least it’s better than D3’s pay to win system.

    Although at level 26 currently I have 50 silver, so 1.5g obviously shows where the majority of players are (most certainly not 80).

    I’ve been informed that 5 days played time is required to get from 1-80, and assuming the average person can just scrape out 2 hours a day, that’s 2 months (i.e. end of October) before the gold price should normalise to a somewhat more stable level.

    • Incunabulum says:

      I must be just horrible at this game then – I’ve been playing one character4-8 hours a day for a week and am just now about to hit lvl 40. Maybe PvP give way more xp then PvE.

      • Ateius says:

        No, it’s just that certain people are finding the most efficient ways possible to powerlevel rather than doing so “naturally” (if I may use the word) through the provided zones and world. For instance, I’ve overheard chat talks about running between two high-reward dynamic events in the Harathi Highlands, or farming the Cadaceus’ Manor dungeon because it’s short and gives a big XP reward at the end.

        Those are the people reaching 80 in five days. Well, them and whoever is paying someone to level their characters for them. As Shamus asks, why would you do this? I think the answer is pretty straightforward: They’re still in the mindset of the old MMOs, where “the game begins at [60/80/100/insert max level]”. Everything between them and max level is just a way to slow them down from accessing the real game content.

        Thing is, Guild Wars 2 isn’t like that. By speeding your way to 80, you are quite literally missing the game. There is no benefit to being level 80 over being level 40 or level 10, other than access to different equipment models (which the powerlevelers are now complaining are too expensive for them to buy right away). You get de-leveled appropriately to whatever zone you’re in, and up-leveled to max (with gear!) for PvP. When I see people boasting about reaching max level so quickly, I just shake my head and sigh. No doubt they’ll return to WoW soon enough full of complaints about GW2 lacking an “endgame” or something.

        • Michael says:

          Yeah, these guys in Secret World really confused me. They’d whine about how there was no endgame, but they still hadn’t actually played most of the content… :\

          To be fair, some of this behavior is encouraged by the subscription model itself. If you’re paying 15 bucks a month, it’s in your best interest to power through the game as fast as possible… and of course, once that mindset is in place, the lack of a subscription doesn’t keep people from powerleveling through GW2…

        • Pickly says:

          That deleveling is actually a very good reason to go for the high levels quickly, it unlocks more options that can be played at a time than someone would get leveling up “naturally”.

          It also opens up the skill points, talent points, and such, and opens up the amount of skills available as well.

  4. Caffiene says:

    Another interesting system is Eve’s method. Very similar to this, except they arent selling customisation or something similar – they sell game time which can be converted into an in-game item to trade with other people.

    So not only are you getting the benefits but you dont even have to introduce an extra currency, since people are already paying for game time. The only question is whether you want to pay for more time than you need, and exchange it for in game gold.

    Of course… it doesnt translate so well in a free-to-play game :P

    • S. Richmond says:

      EVE’s PLEX is also unique in that it is an in-game transferable item. What’s important here is that its fully tradable though any method…such as blowing a hole in your cargo bay and stealing its contents.

  5. Torsten says:

    It is funny how on a blog post about gold selling in Guild Wars 2 the banner ads system on the blog is currently advertising a gold selling site for Guild Wars 2.

  6. Eledriel says:

    I think Dungeons & Dragons Online (DDO) has quite a good solution:

    You cant possess more then – if I remember correct – 4 Million Gold each character. Even with several accounts and/ or characters that gives you a limit. To get them, you need to invest real money or play quite a long while. Besides hacking, but this is always a problem.

    Also you can destroy items to get ingrediants to craft the items you want to have. This cost therefore a huge amount of gold, since you dont sell them anymore since you must train your craftskill. This decreases massively the gold availabilty in the game.

    The must-have and a lot of nice-to-have items are bound to account or bound to character, which means you must farm for them.

    You can buy with real money some items, which arent so important then the things you can farm in the game, but still makes the game easier.

    Therefore, money is ingame actually not important.

    In 2 years play, I bought and sold thingies at an auctioneer around half a dozen time. Else it never was interesting for me.

    Whats important in the game is actually the very high sophisticated possibilities of “Builds” of an character – if u want a planned career.

    And equipment, where you have the only chance to get them is being able to access the questpack (for real money or simple playing for quite a while longer) and farm it, until you found the bound item you want.

    I never experienced gold spammer or cheater in the game in almost 3 years playing.

    The only timed bans I witnessed were due to bad language and misunderstanding (An English player spoke about “fags” = cigarettes, while others (Americans) saw herein the bad word for an homosexual ppl. in it due to cultural differences).

  7. Mephane says:

    This is yet another system of GW2 of which I was very skeptical at first whether it is a good idea, and have eventually changed my mind. Note that I have not yet converted either gems for gold or the other way round, and given the absence of a monthly fee I would certainly willing to spend a bit of money at the gem store if there is stuff I really want (like, eventually, transmutation stones, bank slot expansion, but I would never pay money for XP buffs or black lion keys).

    Just like (video games, music, movies) piracy I think it is impossible to get completely rid of those gold farming and levelling sites and their spam, but the important point is not to hurt the honest customers with your countermeasures while at the same time providing viable legitimate ways for them to get what they want. Which, in my opinion, Arenanet did very gracefully with their dynamic and anonymous gem/gold exchange market.

  8. Jarenth says:

    Wait, you paid one gold and a half for a new character slot? I had to pay two gold ten.

    Laaaaaame.

  9. Sagretti says:

    I usually don’t like gold selling systems, especially since it does very little to deter gold “farmers” (really mostly hackers/account thieves anymore). There are two things Guild Wars does that alleviates my usual concerns, however:

    1. You’re not buying gold to buy power, at least in PVP. Since PVP gives everyone pre-set gear automatically, everyone is on equal footing at all times, and no gold buying will interfere with that situation.

    2. Thanks to the gold market, you can buy items on the cash shop without paying real money. Essentially, the gold cost of cash shop items will match in-game gold inflation, but they will always be available, and hopefully always somewhat reasonable.

  10. Hal says:

    Also of note, WoW dipped their toes into this with their microtransactions. One of the mini-pets you can buy for real money isn’t locked to the account that bought it, so people can trade it for gold or other goods in game. I haven’t played since December, but at that time it was ~4000g for one $10 pet.

    Most of the victims of account theft (and the sources of all that gold the spammers sell) lose their account through more traditional means. I.e. They clicked on a link in spam email, surfed through some unsafe sites, gave their account name and password to some unsavory character, etc. I’m not sure any system on earth will eliminate that sort of account hacking, and that means we’re only looking for a baseline level of blackmarket gold.

    • Mephane says:

      These days, it is mostly the reuse of passwords* across sites and games. If one site gets hacked, it is a given that a certain fraction of the thusly harvested passwords will work on other services, that’s why so many sites get hacked in the first place, even if they contain no directly valuable stuff like credit card information. Just a few thousand email+password combos can net the hacker some profitable access to other services with valuable data (or direct access to money).

      *Mandatory xkcd: http://xkcd.com/792/

  11. Raygereio says:

    Also, they’re selling leveling service, not gold, which is a slightly different problem. I can’t imagine why anyone would pay to have their character leveled.

    That sounds like a scam to get dumb people to give out their account information.

  12. Zukhramm says:

    I normally don’t mine a store that sells cosmetic items for money, but it seems that in Guild Wars 2 that store is the only source. This is a world were you cannot take three steps without stumbling over fifteen pieces of chainmail, yet no one can make a shirt?!

  13. Dreadjaws says:

    Well, I guess for the 1 gold for $10 good-for-low-levels but bad-for-high-levels problem they could easily make it so the game detects your character’s level and gives you an exponentially increasing amount according to it. It wouldn’t solve the expansion problem or anything like that, but it would be a start.

    • Nick says:

      OK, what’s to stop my low level character buying some Gold, then buying high level stuff with it, and sending it through in-game mail to my high-level character? Or if you disallow sending to yourself, you can do it through a friend.

      EDIT: oh wait, you mean make it give more to high level characters? OK, but you can still black market trade your cash to lower level characters – it’ll cost you less to buy their gold for them, generating potentially excess gold

    • Zukhramm says:

      That’d just open a market for high level players to buy gold just to pass it on to lower level characters.

      • Dreadjaws says:

        Yeah, well, I said it would solve a problem, I didn’t say it wouldn’t generate others. Maybe they could have a in which currency purchased in the store would exponentially decrease when transferred to another character.

        I don’t know, this is the reason I play games instead of making them.

  14. swenson says:

    Another “reminds me of” story, but it does remind me a bit of Team Fortress 2, where supply and demand determines prices (as it should!). Everything has a price in metal (scrap metal is gotten through crafting weapons/items together, reclaimed is 3 scrap crafted together, and refined is 3 reclaimed crafted together), so if you want some relatively common item (say, a Postal Pummeler), it’ll be just one scrap, but if you want a rare hat, it’ll be 4 refined (or even more).

    The whole system is player-run, though; Valve has never sold metal and no matter how valuable an item is, it still only produces one scrap if you craft it with something else. So it all sort of self-regulates. There’s no way to get metal without having items to craft, and there’s no way to have items unless you buy them in the store or get random drops in-game, and there’s a cap on drops. Furthermore, metal has no use or value beyond being able to be made into other items (or traded again), and there’s always a limited amount in circulation (because crafting always consumes more metal than it could ever produce). So the system works great for people who play, while not working all that well for anyone trying to game the system.

  15. Athan says:

    “Note that ArenaNet didn’t set this price. Somewhere out there was someone who wanted gold so badly they were willing to give up $10 worth of gems for it. That’s really interesting to me.”

    Actually, no. That’s how the game-gold Trading Post works, not the gem/gold exchange market.

    Whilst the goldgems exchange rates (there’s a difference depending on which direction you’re going, right now 27.73 silver gets you 100 gems, but the same 100 gems only gets you 19.97s) seems to be based on which direction the demand is greatest, that market is NOT set by player buy/sell orders.

    This also calls into question:

    “Every gem in the system was, at some point, bought with real money. ”

    Indeed the exchange rates might be based exactly on how much of an imbalance there is between gems in the system from real money versus those from game gold.

    • Ralph says:

      This is an important point, as it means they may well be selling gold if not enough people are buying gems to meet the demand for gold, as players are unable to determine if the system makes gold/gems out of thin air when it needs to.

      Since it works this way, ignore the whole gem thing and assume someone at Arenanet is sat in front of a big knob labelled ‘Gold Price’, as the gems, like Microsoft points, are there to make you forget you are spending real money.

      This is different from Diablo 3’s real money Gold auction house, as there the player sets the price, and if you set it too high, your gold does not sell. This way the auction house never creates gold that was not dropped in the game, and the price is directly set by players, not mediated by the game as GW2 appears to.

      (D3 does have a minimum price you can sell gold at, and it was at this price until the latest patch where they reduced it to 1/10 previous value. Not sure how low it has sunk since.)

  16. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Blizzard did solve that problem with diablo 3.Real money auction house does offer selling gold as well.Players get to buy gold,gold farmers get to sell gold,and its all enabled by blizzard who get a portion of all the sales.So everybody is happy.

  17. AngryPanda says:

    This system seems nice enough but it should be worth mentioning that NCSoft may at any time close the game and take all the gems and gold away with no refunds if they decide to realign their company priorities or whatnot. Of course any company can do this but with the others it is theory. NCSoft is proving it will do this with City of Heroes right now.
    http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-837330

  18. Merle says:

    My big problem is that I’ve got a grudge against the company for shutting down City of Heroes.

    • Mari says:

      The PUBLISHER, NCSoft, is shutting down CoH. The developers, ArenaNet, have nothing to do with that decision. This is akin to blaming the Library of Congress when your county library takes a book off the shelves.

      • Canthros says:

        NCSoft owns ArenaNet. It’s a bit more like blaming the Library of Congress for a decision by the federal government to shut down (let’s say) FEMA (because your county library doesn’t own the Library of Congress, or even the other way around, really). There’s a relation, but not necessarily one that’s especially relevant.

        If you’re of the mind to punish the publisher for shutting down a game that (apparently) wasn’t making money five years after they purchased it, I suppose that not buying a game developed by one of their subsidiary studios is not irrational. I don’t think it’s pertinent, though. (OTOH, I’m just some guy, so whatever.)

    • Kian says:

      My biggest problem is they’re not selling the game. Now I’m annoyed that I didn’t pick it up right away.

  19. X2Eliah says:

    Random note – it is amazing just how good-looking GW2 is, and how much of that goodlookingness is NOT part of what you normally see while playing. See, a lot of the impressive, stunning vistas are things placed upwards whereas the default and, really, main playing perspective is with the camera pointed downwards a bit. That, plus the HUD elements, somehow leads to the game looking stunning in screenshots but much less so while you’re actually playing. (Because a downwards-angle allows far easier clicking on objects in the 3d space, as ground gives the reference to item depth and dimensions – without it, looking at stuff straight on, you’d have little idea on how “far in the sky” your mouse is pointing at any given time.)

    That’s an interesting dichotomy, to me. Just felt like mentioning it. A lot of games don’t share the same visual imagery between screenshots and playing, but somehow it seems to me that GW2 might be one of the more obvious examples of this, where the difference is not due to the static vs. motion, but rather the approach of photographer vs. player.

    • Paul Spooner says:

      I’ve noticed this as well. I think a good deal of this problem could be solved by placing the camera pivot just a bit higher above the character’s head. That, or allowing a first-person view… or something. I keep trying to look around and take in the scenery, but watching where I’m going takes a good amount of concentration as well. Difficult problem to solve… head tracking displays anyone?

      • Sumanai says:

        Head tracking displays are good, if you like watching vistas, or fighting, while your head is at an awkward angle compared to the monitor. A VR headset could work for this, but designing the game so you can have mouse look on constantly would likely be a lot better.

        Okay, so you could have more expendable income (VR goggles) or better at holding your head still while playing (so you don’t need a big dead area for head tracking), but I don’t really like using hardware solutions for game design problems.

      • Incunabulum says:

        I think what would help is instead of the camera’s center of rotation being inside the character’s head it was at the camera’s POV.

        Right now if I want to look up the camera POV moves down to the ground. Its a bitch trying to get a decent view of anything above you (and I imagine its worse for the Asura) because your POV is on the ground looking at your arse.

  20. TheZoobler says:

    Yeah I’m pretty sure its almost entirely out of player control…

    If you want to buy gems, you put in how much gold you want to spend and the system spits out exactly how many gems that will get you.

    If you want to buy gold, you put in how many gems you want to spend and the system spits out exactly how many gems that will get you.

    Nobody sets prices or makes offers, they just stick their money in the machine and get a set amount of other currency back.

    There is some sort of graph displaying the gold value of 100gems over time, but I have no idea what it is there for. It’s possible that the system is set up in such a way that it lowers/raises the exchange rate for either direction by paying attention to player supply and demand… but it’s just really vague as to whether ArenaNet entirely controls the prices or whether its a system run by economic metrics and automatic adjustment.

    I’m pretty sure that there is no exchange between players whatsoever, just an exchange between yourself and the system. The question is which rules the system operates on.

    I have to say though 1 gold and 50 silver, while a lot to a level 35, is a pretty darn good exchange rate for $10. It really doesn’t feel like it punishes you at all, or that the ability to buy gems with in-game gold is just an elaborate lie, in practice, to get you to trust the developer better.

  21. Dev Null says:

    This is an impossible question to answer because these games usually hand out money on an exponential scale.

    But why?

    I was thinking about this the other day while playing GW, and I’m not sure i get the need for the exponential inflation as you go up levels. Back in the day, I believe that it was the method used by developers to keep level 1 dweebs from buying the Uber Sword of Godslaying on day 1… but that failed so badly and so long ago that I think we can discount it as a reason to keep doing it. The godsmacking stick du jour has had a minimum level requirement on it for what? A decade now? And in GW2 you can’t just jump back to a level 1 zone with your level 80 character to effortlessly farm gold, because it scales you back down to level 3 as soon as you arrive. Its possible that the increasing payoff helps keep people interested in the rewards in the game, but I don’t know many people who are real impressed with currency in these games anyways – its always the toys that count.

    Of course, doing away with level-based inflation still wouldn’t change the problem of real-money inflation, because essentially you have an economy with an endless streaming input with no costs – stuff gets created out of nothing every time a monster pops – and very little value going out of the economy (armour repairs is about all I can think of, off the top of my head.) But it would help.

    • Shamus says:

      I agree with you here, although I will note that GW2 seems to be MUCH better about this than WoW. The scale here is much more gradual. In the newbie zone, i think a quest pays 0.3 silver. At level 30, a quest pays 1 silver. Compare to WoW, where the same jump takes you though more than an order of magnitude.

      I wonder what a quest pays in the endgame?

      • Dev Null says:

        You’ll know before I will – I’ve just hit 30 with my first character, and despite the apalling amount of time I’m losing to this game, I have a tendency to go all “Ooh! shiny!” and roll a new character on a regular basis…

      • Athan says:

        I did think there was some scaling up of lower-area rewards for level 80s, but…

        …if I go complete the Heart “Help defend Caer Astorea from the Nightmare Court” (marked as level 6, but pretty much the first you see in this main part of the zone) in the Sylvari starting zone “Caledon Forest”, I get 60 copper as reward in Mail.

        If I do that same quest on my level 4 Sylvari I get mailed 60 copper as well.

        It’s possible this zone is too low to show any up-scaling of rewards (as the levelling curve changes at level 15).

        • Mephane says:

          Renown hearts do not scale up the money rewarded with the thank-you-letter, otherwise you would technically be punished for finishing them at a lower level (because they are non-repeatable, you might be missing of a tremendous amount of money by not saving each and every renown heart for until you are level 80). Coin drops from mobs and rewards from dynamic events do scale, however.

      • Athan says:

        Oh and end-game wise… I’ve had over 3 silver per Heart quest at level 80, although it varies a bit per zone.

    • Abnaxis says:

      Actually, I think teleporting is a huge sink in GW2. I sat down and cranked some numbers, and on a character that hadn’t spent any other gold whatsoever, found that I had spent more money on teleporting than I actually had in my inventory. Those little tiny transactions really add up after a while, and it is kind of an unavoidable cost: you can either spend money for the waypoint or you can spend time you would be using to make money for the hike–either way it is a consistent drain.

      Also, I have no direct evidence, but my experience tells me that you get rewards scaled to your character’s level, even if you are adventuring in lower-level areas. The XP rewards I get for events is pretty consistent regardless of the level of the event. Also, I was recently traversing a level 3-4 area killing mooks for completion, and getting way more gold than per kill than I ever got when I was actually level 3.

      • daemon23 says:

        Agreed on the rewards scaling with level, regardless of what you kill–if nothing else, I’ve gotten level-appropriate drops from kills in far lower level areas. However, I do think that the magic find scales with what you kill, so yeah, I’m getting level 25 gear killing level 5 critters, but I see nowhere near the number of greens I see killing level 25s.

    • spelley says:

      Gem store, armor repairs, purchasing anything from a vendor, the 15% in fees from using the TP (5% for posting, 10% upon sale if I’m not mistaken), paying for guild upgrades and Waypoint costs (which scale in some way) are the current cash sinks. Video explaining it here:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kx7o7CRoDXc

    • Sumanai says:

      I have been thinking about if a system where the amount you would get from quests would stay roughly the same, and one of the things that occurred to me as I was going through the post was:

      What if you’re only ever paid in services? You do jobs for someone, they’re a friend of the blacksmith, so you get a small discount. You do more, the discount grows. Maybe you can have your equipment improved for the job. In-game house. A month paid for the house. And so on.

      Although I have a feeling there’s a game that has already done this.

      • Dev Null says:

        Thats kind of interesting, actually. Instead of getting paid more, you get paid the same amount but it becomes worth more. I don’t think it’d work in any game with a player-exchange or trading house though. If I can get an item repaired for 1 gold, and it’ll cost you 2, then I’ll happily do it for you for 1.5… And now the old gold farmers instead farm rep and then set up automated repair shop bots, and you lose the incentive to aquire rep.

      • Abnaxis says:

        Hmm…

        The problem I can see with that is, that gold becomes more valuable as people level up, but it’s still universally available. I can see people (not even bots, but people) creating characters just to sell their starting gear, and transferring the funds to a higher level alt.

        Alternatively, one could level a single character to max level, and then use that character to buy everything for other characters. We’d be seeing trade spam for middleman services, where places would charge 5GP to buy 4GP worth of stuff (or $1 real money to buy 4GP worth of stuff), where that 4GP is better than a character could do on their own with their current influence.

        Neither behavior even requires a bot to work. It’s a neat idea, though.

  22. Dragomok says:

    The exactly same system exists in Free-to-Play casual-action-dungeon-crawler-thing Spiral Knights. There is a one big difference, though.

    Nearly everything you do in the game requires Energy, which comes in two variants: free Mist and paid Crystal. You need Energy to use level-choosing elevators, to revive yourself or teammates, to open occasional treasure rooms, to activate friendly NPCs and even for crafting.

    The problem comes from the fact that every player gets only a pool of 100 Mist Energy every 24 hours, while playing a single level (out of twenty eight in a full run) costs 10, crafting a basic item requires 50 and making a higher level equipment (all of which is non-tradeable) sets you back for at least 400.

    So, basically, Spiral Knights is a modern day version of coin-operated arcades.

  23. Dungeons and Dragons Online has a system similar to this (platinum vs. turbine points), but most stuff you buy on the DDO Store cannot be easily swapped for platinum. Almost everything binds to account or character.

    About the only things that don’t are guest passes (used to let someone temporarily access content that’s behind the paywall) and cosmetic pets. I supposed DDO technically sells power just due to the fact that most of the really good gear you get from content that’s behind the paywall. However, if you’re willing to grind *enough*, you can still get to it for free.

  24. Paul Spooner says:

    So, hold on a second. GW2 doesn’t provide a market for gold… but they offer a market for gems that can be traded for gold? This seems like beating around the bush. All this secondary currency business seems to be disguising the core issue. I mean, you can still buy gold, and ArenaNET is selling it. Which is fine. I don’t see any real difference here between straight up “buy gold from us” and what ArenaNET is doing.

    However, the market doesn’t go the other way, does it? A player can’t sell gold for real money, can they? Can players sell gems back to ArenaNET? If there’s no way to convert in-game currency back into real-world currency then this is a step backwards for the gold farmers (since then it becomes difficult to make a living off of playing the game). It’s interesting to compare how Blizzard and ArenaNET have addressed this issue.

    • Kian says:

      That’s kind of the point. You want people to be able to pay for advancement (or at least, you know it’s unavoidable) but you don’t want people to be able to live off the game. Otherwise you’d attract farmers and other unsavory types.

      I do like that the gold to gem exchange allows people to access everything in the game without having to spend extra money on it.

  25. silver Harloe says:

    Kingdom of Loathing has been doing this for years upon years – you donate $10 for a Mr Accessory. It gives a mild stat boost, but it’s tradeable to other players. They already have an in-game auction setup for tradeable items, so you can put a Mr A in there and set the price in in-game currency to whatever you think you can get. Each month they offer a new item which you can buy from them for 1 Mr A. Since you can buy Mr As, you never =have= to donate money to them to get this item (and since each item only lasts a month, early on people could buy several and them auction them years later for 10-100x what they paid for them – but the number of people doing this expanded to the point where that’s no longer as much of a winner’s game, kind of like comic book collecting).

    • xKiv says:

      I think should also add that there’s a firm promise to not reuse these “items of the month”, which contributes towards these investment opportunities for patient players.
      Because collectors gotta collect them all. Collect ALL the IotMs!

      (I had a longer post, but then I noticed that it just restated most of the parent post’s last sentence, which my brain helpfully ignored when pressing Reply)

    • pneuma08 says:

      This. KoL proven to be a very robust system (although I haven’t checked it out in a while). Because of the monthly trades, they have a very nice natural cycle of consumption that prevents inflation problems. Even the introduction of investors into the system to balance out long-term gains is a classic example of free market economics in (near) perfect competition.

    • JAB says:

      Kingdom of Loathing has other things going on, that specifically help the game economy. The main coin is “meat,” which monsters drop, NPCs give you after certain quests, etc etc. There are things that are specifically meatsinks, so that meat isn’t just created by the players’ actions, it’s destroyed too. Also, there are several stores that only accept other “money,” like hobo nickles, lucre, or moon gems, so that even if you wanted to spend thousands of dollars, you couldn’t get everything immediately.

      Plus, with Seasonal Ascension Challenges, one item of the month might be very useful to the game, and then much less so a month or two later, like the current Box of Bear Arms.

    • Primogenitor says:

      KoL also has a “Hardcore” mode where characters can’t use items that were (at some point) purchased with real money, thus allowing different financial backgrounds of players to compete evenly.

  26. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

    My first thought on reading the problem was “We need in-game banks.”

    This would be the solution in the real world. Take a loan from the bank, buy your mount, go collect the money, pay back bank with interest collected from the drops.

    • spelley says:

      I guess at the very least it would help show people just how terrible real loans are. Since we all know that MMO players would make PERFECTLY SENSIBLE economic decisions with the ability to take out loans.

    • Mephane says:

      That would be way too exploitable. For once, that bank would have to operate on the account-level, otherwise you could loan the maximum amount, send it to another char, and delete the char with the gigantic debt. But if the debt is account-wide, would could buy extra accounts (i.e. additional copies of the game) to squeeze every bit of loan money of those accounts and then abandone them, effectively turning real money into ingame money, for which they could have used the goldgems exchange anyway.

      • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

        Just write bankruptcy laws into it. If a character is deleted with outstanding debts, his assets revert to the holder of the loan. Goods above a certain level cannot be transfered without clearing the loan (a lein in real life)…

        I’m not saying it’s the best solution, but it’s immenently doable.

    • Jarenth says:

      If you’re late with interest payments, bank NPCs roll up and apply a permanent Crippled debuff to your character.

  27. Thanakil says:

    “In any case, I’ve grabbed some gems for myself, in the hopes that someday they’ll have something on the gem store that I want.”

    I’ve been doing the same, mostly because I expect we’ll be able to buy the future expansions through the gem store. There’s already a tab that lets us upgrade our accounts to the digital collector edition. It makes sense that, in the future, it’ll also allow players to upgrade their account to gain access to expansion content.

  28. TMC_Sherpa says:

    Other folks have mentioned EvE so I’m late to that party buuut I can post a linky to to the 2012 fan fest vid on the state of the EvE economy

    Or you can go to the Eve site and look up the dev blogs for CCP Dr.EyjoG or CCP Recurve. EvE takes its economy very seriously.

    Fly safe

    Sherpa

  29. Pickly says:

    Reasons for powerleveling/reaching level 80 quickly:

    With downscaling, being level 80 allows access to all of the world at an appropriate level, while being a lower level allows access to less regions at a time.

    Leveling up provides skills points, talent points, and whatever other points are used to create characters, plus possibly unlocks crafting.

  30. Kdansky says:

    If you consider paying to have the game played for you, you might want to look for another game instead, because you’re not having fun. But it’s hard to argue with addicts. I know, I’ve been there (or at least dangerously close).

  31. Zaxares says:

    While I still dislike microtransactions in my games, I have to admit that ANet has done a pretty good job with it in GW2. The only things I really want from the gem store are increased bank/character bag capacity, along with maybe a spare character slot, but I reckon I can either wait until I have the gold to splash on it, or ANet holds a sale and slashes the prices of gems. (Probably around the Thanksgiving/holiday season, if past sales are any indication.)

  32. Athan says:

    “In the comments, some people have said that the gems market isn’t as hands-off as it may seem. I don’t see any way to know how much they control the prices.”

    Well to put it simply. The interface only allows you to say “Here’s 50 silver” and you get given a fixed number of gems, rate varying behind the scenes. You canNOT say “here’s 50 silver, match me up when someone’s willing to give me 300 gems for that”.

    Likewise if you say “Here’s 300 gems”, you get a (in the moment) fixed amount of game gold back, you can’t say “Here’s 300 gems, match me up when someone wants to give me 75 silver or better for it”.

    But indeed the whole thing is a black box and we don’t know how and why the exchange rates vary, we don’t even get to see trading volumes which might give a clue.

    • Shamus says:

      I really need to amend the post. Now that people have pointed this out, I see the market isn’t nearly as player-driven as I’d assumed.

      On the trading post, it has this little feature that just sets prices for you, which you can disable and use whatever prices you like. I think I was assuming this had a similar thing. I mean, I didn’t look for it, but I saw the price graph and I just couldn’t imagine a market where buyers and sellers didn’t set their own prices. I assumed I had glossed over some advanced-mode checkbox somewhere.

      Seems daft now. But the point stands: This is not the free trade I thought it was. A shame, really. I’d love to know how players really value gold vs. gems, and I see no reason to regulate it like this.

      • Mephane says:

        The main reason is probably those people that like to play the markets in MMOs. Buy low, sell high. Push prices on certain goods up to a point where your own total profit is maximized. Basically, leech money out of what was a free market before, and becomes more and more a semi-oligopole of a few ultra-rich* players who do this thing mostly just because they can. The gem<->gold exchange rates would, after only a few weeks or months, be dominated by a handful of people that would instantly buy out every offer that is below the prices they desire to sell for (plus the fees, of course). This price would then not be the result of a healthy balance between supply and demand, but instead entirely based on where the maximum profit is to be had for the people playing the market (i.e. selling cheaper reduces profit margin more than it increases sales, selling higher reduces sales more than it increased profit margin – I know there is a specific term for this price point, but I have forgotten it).

        ——–
        *There was a time in WoW when someone, by this method, hit the physical gold cap on a character, and had to use multiple characters just to park the gold. The cap was later increased (possibly something like using a 64 bit integer instead of 32 bit) and, to my knowledge, not yet hit again.

  33. crossbraindedfool says:

    The ideal you wished for actually reminds me of Magic Online, specifically as it relates to drafting. Each draft each player (of 8) puts in either three booster packs (of whatever you’re drafting) and two event tickets (or tix, worth a dollar) or just 16 tickets (these pan out to be the same cost). A draft pays out 12 (or 11, depending on format) packs in prizes. Even thought the boosters and tickets are freely tradeable with out any tax – but the end result of any draft is that the total number of packs and tickets in circulation goes down. No matter what, they profit of each draft, but without really hindering the playerbase.

  34. Colin Catalyst says:

    ArenaNet ain’t getting any of it….what the heck are you smoking; you can buy Gems and convert them to Gold; ArenaNet are the biggest scammers of their own service.

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