Wednesday 24 December 2014

Paying to lose

As I mentioned in "Plexing Warcraft", in EVE Online, paying for a powerful ship doesn't necessarily mean you become a powerful player. I'm learning the same lesson in World of Tanks, where my latest RMT purchase is the E-25. It's a light, fast, "tank destroyer". I put that in quotes because in fact, its accurate gun doesn't actually do a lot of damage per shot, though it does penetrate well, and has a fast reload rate. Anyway, I bought it for reasons of envy. Everybody else seems to have one, and they are in almost every battle where their tier is allowed. So much so that has decided to withdraw them from sale before every tier 7 battle becomes 15v15 E-25s swarming over each other.

So I bought one while I still could, and now I'm learning the hard way what EVE veterans know. I've paid for a tank that I don't know how to play. Its high speed makes me want to rush forward and spot. I seem to die very fast in every battle, though sometimes I grant you it is fun weaving between enemy heavies as they swing their guns in my direction, trying to swat the fly that's buzzing around their faces.

All the same, I've got to find a better tactic. It reminds me a lot of the ELC AMX, another tank that I can't play. Let me try playing as a sniper instead of as a scout.

Tuesday 23 December 2014

How much is a WoWPLEX worth?

Yesterday, I expressed my misgivings on Blizzard's plan to plex WoW. Today, to practical matters. How much will a WoWPLEX* cost? Let me first assume that it will be the equivalent of a 60-day game time card, which currently sells at $30 [Edit: Updated March 2015: after Blizzard announced it will be a 30-day game-time token, so I'll assume a WoW token will cost $15]. I checked a couple of gold selling sites, to get a feel for how much gold I could buy for that. It seems I can get around 40k-50k of gold for $30. Let's say, to make the sums easy. $1=1500 gold.

That price sort of puts a bottom on the gold market for WoWPLEXes. At that price, a potential gold buyer can get the same amount of gold by selling a WoWPLEX as he could for buying the gold illegally**. Let's say the gold price of the WoWPLEX drops below the illegal exchange rate. Some potential WoWPLEX sellers will go back to buying gold illegally, at a better rate, and the supply of WoWPLEX will reduce. That should bring its gold price back up.

So, 1500 gold / dollar, or 22500 gold /WoWPLEX  30-day token is the floor price. What is the ceiling price? To answer that, let's look at WoWPLEX  buyers in Azeroth: the people who pay gold to acquire a WoWPLEX. Apart from speculators, their purpose is to swap the WoWPLEX for 30 days of game time. This group can be broken into two: people for whom this is sustainable, because they earn more than 22500g per 30 days (or 750g/day), and people for whom this is (currently) unsustainable. They earn less than this, but they have build up a stash of gold that allows them to afford several WoWPLEX purchases before the well runs dry. Some of this latter group will step up their AH and farming activities so that they can be sustainable, and some will buy a few WoWPLEXes and then stop. So initially the demand will be higher than it will be later. That means that the initial price will be higher, too (Belghast is predicting 100k initially).

It is the fact of having to earn in gold a thirtieth of a WoWPLEX per day that tends to put an upper limit on its price; but I don't know what that upper limit might be. I certainly have less taste for farming and AH playing than I formerly did, but that might be because I have more gold than I need. Perhaps this new mechanism might encourage me to improve my earnings. I'm sure the same is true of everyone. It will also reduce the demand for 'fluff' items, in order to conserve gold for buying WoWPLEXes.

What will the effect of this be on gold sellers and bot farming? I doubt any bot will stop running unless caught. After all, they can pay for their own accounts, now. The demand for their services will be greatly reduced. That in turn will lead to them reducing their prices. That'll feed back to affect the floor that I calculated earlier. If the dollar price of gold halves, then the gold price of the WoWPLEX must inevitably double (or else some gold buyers will revert to buying the gold illegally, instead of through WoWPLEX, reducing the supply of WoWPLEX and hence raising its value).

So those are the tensions that will govern the gold price of WoWPLEX. Illegal goldsellers set the floor price and to an extent determine the supply, and the determination of players to farm and trade in-game to improve their wealth governs the demand and the ceiling.

Edit: March 2015: Blizzard have finalized their plans, which are reasonably different to Eve's PLEX. My take on it is here: Controlling the Market. And how will the gold price move? My predictions are in Tokenomics.

* I believe Wilhelm Arcturus originally coined the term way back in 2011, in a comment on Syncaine's  blog.

** I.e. breaking Blizzard's terms and conditions. This isn't really illegal on Earth in the sense that a court can send you to jail for it. But it does put your position in Azeroth in jeopardy. You might end up in the stockades for several months. You might even be executed.

Monday 22 December 2014

Plexing Warcraft

Blizzard announced that they are now considering a version of Plex for the World of Warcraft: a game-time token that is exchangeable for gold in-game. In other words, I can buy with earthly euros a token that I can then sell for Azeroth gold. Or in my case, the other way round. I have to let that sink in. This would be immediately advantageous for me, since I am as rich as Croesus in Azeroth gold. I have already bought whatever useful BoE epics I can get. But I did this through in-game means. World of Warcraft, essentially, is a collector's world. Even those who are only interested in collecting boss kills must do so by first collecting gear. If that gear will soon be purchasable for euros, the point of most in-game activity ceases. Why bother skinning, mining, inscribing and so on to make gold, when its available on your credit card?

Then we need to look at the remaining activities, and ask if they are interesting on their own. Raiding with my guild is fun. We are not very hardcore and we raid once a week, sometimes twice. I spend the rest of my week preparing for those raids: collecting apexis crystals in order to buy better gear, gathering, crafting and selling stuff at auction to buy food and flasks, running heroic dungeons and LFR and killing world bosses in the hope of better gear drops.  There is a sense of being in a living world with all of these activities (except the random dungeons and LFR). Will that be enough to sustain in me a desire to continue with those activities? Knowing that I can buy whatever I need with my credit card probably renders them pointless. And what is the value of a living world in which your activities therein are pointless? Will I continue to remain in an Azeroth where I can buy the Sword of a Thousand Truths with my credit card? Of course, soulbound gear isn't purchasable like that. But the precursors will be: the crafted BoE gear that you need to even stand a chance of killing a boss and acquiring that better soulbound gear; all the buff food, potions and flasks that all make the difference between a kill and a wipe. They can all go on your credit card. So will I continue to be interested in an Azeroth in which I only need log on for raid night?

Edit: Alex tweeted "This article should have drawn more examples from Eve Online". That's probably true. Eve, which I don't play, has quite a different economy, based on constant destruction of ships through warfare. The replacement of these ships is what drives economic activity in Eve, and all economic activity is bought and sold in a currency called ISK, which an Eve PLEX can be sold for. In contrast, WoW's economic activity comes in waves, as each new patch makes obsolete the equipment of the previous patch, driving adventurers to to re-quip with the better gear. Sometimes that gear is valued in gold, and is freely tradable. Much of the time the new gear is not tradable (this in itself is a major drain on immersion), but upgrades to the gear (in the form of enchantments, gems and other enhancements) are. Eve players seem to have no problem accepting PLEX, as many feel that buying ships with ISK doesn't make you more powerful: it's personal skill that matters. I have my doubts. A pilot with lots of skill and no ship is not a match for a poorly skilled pilot who actually has a ship to pilot.

Many EVE veterans will say that far from paying to win, inexperienced players who buy top of the range ships with PLEX-bought ISK are simply paying to lose, as they lack the skill to use the ships effectively. That's a good point: buying better gear in WoW generally does improve your damage or healing output, or survivability, no matter how bad the buyer is.

Anyway, if it has worked for Eve, perhaps it will work for WoW. Perhaps an EVE player might put the case for PLEX in Eve? I'm willing to give Blizzard the benefit of the doubt, for now. Let's see if it actually gets implemented, and how.

Tomorrow, I'll look at how much a WoWPLEX would be worth.