We’ve received many reports over the past week from players concerned about the recent mass influx of gold advertisements on their servers. Many readers had questions about the meaning of such advertisement in terms of the effect on the WoW economy or Blizzard’s enforcement policy. More to the point, fellow WoW players have asked us, what’s with all these adverts lately?
First, to be clear, we’ve stated before that we don’t support gold selling or buying. There are many reasons that it is a bad idea to do business with these companies and gold is easy enough to make in WoW if you simply do your research. We do, however, understand the motivation to buy gold for those that can afford it. We won’t go into great detail here but suffice it to say that just as there is opportunity cost in WoW, there is opportunity cost in real life. Many players with the financial means simply decide that rather than spend a few hours a week of their precious play time on building in-game wealth, they’d rather spend a few dollars to get the same results. The equation becomes beneficial when you can make the real world equivalent amount of cash as the gold you’re buying faster than you can make the gold in WoW. Or, alternatively, when the real world money actually doesn’t cost you anything so the risk or loss to you personally is nil (think a person with their parent’s credit card) the gold buying equation can seem beneficial. So, we don’t support the actions of gold buyers but we do understand the motivation. Easy money… who can’t get with that?
We took the liberty to chat a bit with a GM (yes, we waited over 48 hours for a response) about the adverts, just to see what Blizzard is telling their employees about these advertisements. After getting through the standard form letter stuff: “Blizzard is firmly against such advertisements…” “ We are working to resolve the issue…” “Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention we encourage you to do so using our in-game spam report feature…” “Blah, blah, blah.” We left the conversation with the impression that Blizzard is either powerless or otherwise lacking the resources to fight the gold selling advertisements effectively. In short, it would appear that the recent influx of WoW gold sellers has little to do with Blizzard themselves. They’ve not changed their policies or stance on the issue, their tools are as effective (or ineffective) as they’ve ever been, and no game mechanics have been changed that would (visibly) make selling gold for real world money easier.
So if it’s not a change on Blizzard’s part than the increase in gold selling advertisement activity is on the part of the sellers themselves. We’ve stated previously that we are not fans of gold sellers. But we do know a bit about their business. We’ve researched them before and have come to understand a few things about how they work. It is not typically a high margin business. There are very few titans of industry and, for the most part, the people doing the selling are certainly not sitting on piles of real world money. Much to the contrary, the business is much more like a sweatshop, with employees working long hours for little pay and having to deal with moral ambiguity. What this means to us is that if these companies are choosing to spend their precious resources on more advertising, even with the knowledge that these accounts will be banned regularly, they must be predicting an increase in the need for their services. We can all probably guess what players might need more gold for in the wake of 3.1 but that is not really relevant in for the purposes of this discussion.
The increase in the number (and importantly, diversity) in these adverts means that there are many companies making such predictions. In this sense, we actually see the increase in gold seller advertisements as a sort of a good thing. Good in the informational sense anyway. No one is a fan of being spammed either privately or in a public channel. But it has to be said that the increase in these types of advertisements does allow us to gather insight into the demands of a much larger player base then even our three test servers or extensive WoW social network allows. It’s just common sense that, even though we write and think about WoW finance every day, the gold sellers are much better aligned with the actual financial needs and desires of the WoW player population.
Again, we are not fans of gold sellers or their business. We’d be much happier if they were simply gone and our /trade chat windows went uncluttered (leaving more room for Chuck Norris humor no doubt). In fact, we encourage you to report any and all gold selling advertisements as soon as you see one pop up. But, as traders, we’d be wrong to simply react emotionally and not take the information we are seeing into consideration when evaluating the economy as a whole. That information, this time, is that the gold sellers (people acutely in-tune with the financial needs of our fellow WoW players) are seeing or otherwise predicting an increase in demand for gold. With that demand from players comes desperation. With that desperation comes some excellent deals for WoW traders to profit on. So, report their spam messages… then go search the AH for some sweet deals. A good trader sees opportunity where others only see spam.