on Sep 12, 2012
I was wrong when I claimed that the Guild Wars 2 gem trade was a real market. Yes, it LOOKS like a market. It feels like a market. But it’s not really a market. The prices are controlled at the top by a single human being and not by players, which means they can become completely un-moored from their true values and go drifting off into irrelevance.
Since the game is in state of economic flux post-launch, this has already happened and will probably continue to get worse.
Here is how I made such a profound blunder:
On the trading post where you can sell items to players for in-game gold, it has this little feature that just sets prices for you, which you can disable and use whatever prices you like. So, it offers just a simple “buy” and “sell” button with some fine-grain controls for those who want to speculate. I assumed the gem exchange worked the same way.
I saw the price graph above and I just couldn’t imagine a market where buyers and sellers didn’t set their own prices. I bought some gems at the offered price, and I assumed I had glossed over some advanced-mode checkbox somewhere.
I mean, what’s that graph for? If buyers and sellers don’t set their own prices, this graph is just a record of what ArenaNet is selling things for. It would be like a grocery store having a bar graph so you can see how much the price of this loaf of bread has fluctuated in the last week. I can’t haggle over the price, I can’t time-travel, and ArenaNet offers no information on when they change the price or why. This graph is largely useless other than as a curiosity. Actually, this is even worse than the bread example. Bread might go up or down as the price of wheat or gas fluctuates, but gems are an abstract good with no production cost. Their price is completely arbitrary from the shopper’s perspective.
I got some in-game spam this morning:
Right now on the legal, in-game gem exchange you can get a single gold for about $6.25 worth of gems. At that price, 20g would set you back $125. Going through the gold farmers you can get the same thing for half price. That’s enough of a discount to entice would-be shoppers, which means I don’t think this system is any better than what they have in World of Warcraft.
So, no, I don’t think the Guild Wars 2 gem exchange is nearly as impressive as it seemed at first. My bad. It’s still a great game, but I spent 1,600 words talking about a system they don’t have and clearly don’t intend to offer, so I thought I should make a correction all official-like.
It’s a shame. I think an opportunity was missed.
Shamus Young is an old-school OpenGL programmer, author, and composer. He runs this site and if anything is broken you should probably blame him.