Monday, April 14, 2008

Mo' Money, Less Timesink?

Last week, Relmstein postulated that Blizzard might be using gold rewards from in-game daily quests as a kind of a Federal Reserve rate for World of Warcraft. That post was what finally pushed me over the edge to realizing that I should really have my own blog if I'm going to post paragraphs of commentary on issues like these. So I suppose it's only appropriate that I devote some time to talking about it here now as the topic continues to attract coverage and blogspace.

There is no question that World of Warcraft's patch 2.4 introduces more gold into the game economy - players can do more daily quests that before, and receive cash rewards for doing things they would probably have been doing anyway in the process. This is precisely what I mean when I talk about the Player versus Developer (PVD) game - the developers made a decision to increase the rate at which player activity results in gold. Relmstein posits that this action may have been to make money easier to obtain legitimately, and thus deter the gold selling industry. I doubt that this was the only reason for the changes, but I'm sure that Blizzard won't be shedding any tears if their changes hurt the market for gold sellers, given recent discussion of what fighting the sellers costs them.

Tobold entered the fray to examine whether in game inflation should hurt gold farmers. He points out that fixed cost activities, such as the purchase of epic flying mounts, become more accessible to players, while costs of items set by the player economy (including consumables, gear, etc) can be expected to rise as inflation happens. I think he's right about patch 2.4 being a big old bundle of bribes to try and keep players interested until the expansion comes out. By adding more money with which to purchase things, and making some things that previously could not be purchased saleable (for example, [Primal Nether]), the developers have created more for people to do.

That said, this PVD approach is not entirely without drawbacks. On my Paladin, I am making a point of doing the four (soon to be five) daily quests that can award a [Badge of Justice] every single day, in the hopes of amassing the 15 required for the [Libram of Repentence]. I'm not doing those quests at all on my Mage, and find my nominal main 10K rep behind my alt as a result. The number of badges it would take me to obtain any item that would be an upgrade for my mage, multiplied by the half a badge per day one can expect from doing five dailies with a 10% chance of dropping a badge, represents far more effort than I'm willing to put in for the magnitude of the upgrades involved - running all the quests on both characters every day would literally occupy all the time I have in which to play the game (actually, more than I have at the moment). Tobold appears to agree - he's actually SELLING precious badges, because he feels that the cash is more valuable to his alts than the incremental upgrades are to his main.

What I'm getting at is that there comes a point at which the time/benefit analysis becomes prohibitive, and players give up instead of spending more time. This doesn't merely affect endgame gear grinds either. Tobold observed that players are not farming primals anymore because the income they can earn from selling the primals is less than the income they can earn in the same time doing dailies. This too is a PVD decision. The developers create content, and the players decide whether to use it. I'm actually doing fewer daily quests now than I was before the patch of inflationary doom, because I'm out of things I'm willing to spend money on.

This is fine. I have a Horde alt I'm slowly leveling, and now I have a blog of my very own, where I can spend time writing about the game instead of playing the game. But is this what the developers had in mind? Probably not. I suspect that some of the structural flaws in the 2.4 additions exist because the developers felt the alternative would do too much to undermine the low-end raid game, but that is another story.

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