Monday, March 02, 2015

The WoW Token


WoW is introducing a PLEX-like item: the WoW token. A player can buy it from the cash shop and sell it for in-game gold on the Auction House. The buyer can then use the item and get a month of game time.

As you know, I don't like these schemes. I simply think it is a bad idea to let strong players have a "free ride" at the expense of weaker players. WoW rests on a broad base of relatively equal subscribers, and I think that narrowing that base will end up weakening the game as a whole. As well, I don't think it's a good idea to incentivize your strong players to start gold farming in earnest. In fact, I would almost prefer WoW to sell gold directly, rather than this indirect method.

But I've lost this battle. (Though I rather doubt any game company even noticed I was fighting it.) It's clear that these sorts of items will be standard in MMOs from now on.


Let's take a look at this specific implementation. There are some interesting nuances here.

Unlike previous implementations like PLEX, this item is not liquid. The item can only be sold once. After that it is soulbound and must be used. This means that there are no speculators involved, and the only buyers are people who actually want the game time.

As well, since the item cannot be traded, the potential for scamming is eliminated. As are external RMT-ish resellers and lotteries.

The item can only be sold through a special AH interface. Of particular note is that the player cannot set the price. Instead the game offers the player a value, and when the item sells, the player gets the offered value. In theory, the offer and sale could be different, but overall I imagine the difference will be slight.

This can be modeled as the AH purchasing the token from Player A, and then selling the token to Player B. The price offered to Player A will probably be some sort of rolling average to discourage waiting for specific windows to sell the token. For example, waiting until Saturday to sell the token because that's the day the most people are online.

I'd guess the A-side price would be something like the average price of all tokens sold on the B-side over the last 7 days. Then the B-side price would be some automatic bidding mechanism where the price increases whenever there is a sale, increases if there are no tokens available to sell, and decreases if a period of time passes without a sale.

This process probably also allows Blizzard to set a floor or ceiling on the B-side price if they deem it necessary, most likely to stop side effects from a dupe bug or similar exploit. If the price of the WoW token suddenly triples, that's likely a sign that someone has figured out an exploit.

Blizzard's clear intent is to eliminate all possible customer service issues. The process is entirely automated. There is no point where a player can exercise choice, other than to sell or not sell. So there's no opportunity for a player to make a mistake and hurt themselves.


  1. Selling gold directly is never a good solution, since it leads to hyperinflation. This way the effect is that gold moves around, but if you want to add more gold to the economy you have to farm, and farm A LOT.
    It seems like they planned it "well", closing many of the loopholes which causes endless trouble in other games, the "BoP after one sale" is particularly good, IMHO.

    I'll have to see how much it sells for, I have a lot of extra gold on my hands for which I have no use (I just spent 30k to buy/upgrade all the heirlooms I need). It'll also make a lot easier to "transfer" money horde<->alliance, since I can just buy tokens with the money I have sitting on the "wrong" side....

  2. The process is a big leaf front of the dick of a P2W item shop. The special interface and the Blizzard-set price means that you don't really trade with players. You trade with Blizzard.

    If you buy a token, for money, you can only sell it to Blizzard for gold. This is equal to "you buy gold from Blizzard".

    It is possible that some AH wizzards and no-lifers will be able to pay the Blizzard price and play for free, but generally much less players will buy tokens than sell. The difference will line the pocket of Blizzard.

    I suggest everyone to abandon WoW if it goes live. It becomes a P2W game like Clash of Clans.

  3. I am disappointed to see that Blizzard doesn't trust its players to agree a market price via the auction house and direct trade, and instead, like the old command economies behind the Iron Curtain, will decide upon the price themselves.

    I calculated, back in December, what the floor price should be for a WoW PLEX (I calculated based on the assumption that they would be 60-day tokens, just like the game time cards, so divide or multiply by two as appropriate). Let's see how things pan out, but I have to say my misgivings are increased by the price controls Blizzard is enforcing.

  4. It becomes a P2W game like Clash of Clans.

    It all depends on what they mean with the "adjustments" to the BoE drops and BMAH sales. If you remove those the only stuff you can buy is the crafted one, and it's very limited (3 pieces, lower ilvl).

    And WoW has one big advantage: even if you blow $$$$ to buy high-end gear, it'll be vendor trash in 3 months.....

  5. @Dacheng, as far as I can tell, Blizzard is using a floating market price, especially on the B-side. The A-side price will probably be a smoothed average of the B-side price, so it too is market-based.

    If Blizzard allowed you to set the price manually, what would happen is the following: The current price is 500k. Player A accidentally sells the token for 5k. Then she calls customer support and it's a big headache for Blizzard.

    As long as the price floats, things will work out, even the floating mechanism is automated.

  6. @Dàchéng I don't think it was Blizzard not trusting players to agree to a price as they were afraid of the massive customer service headache they would have had if these items could be trafficked and traded. Hacked accounts w/ tokens, scams for tokens, accidentally mis-priced tokens, etc are all issues they wanted to avoid.

  7. @Rohan. You wrote:
    The current price is 500k. Player A accidentally sells the token for 5k. Then she calls customer support

    Does this happen in EVE when somebody misprices an item? I don't play EVE, so I don't know.

    In WoW, what auction house interface could such a person be using that allows them to make such an accident?

    Hacked accounts? How does your bank handle that? Scams? What do the police do about that? I understand that Blizzard want to avoid the headaches in the first place, but at the expense of removing yet more player agency. I suppose that was never their strong point to begin with, though.