I just read this article on Tobold's blog about buying gold, and it got me thinking. I wrote in fact a post about my thoughts on the matter a few days ago. What got me thinking this time, however, was the question of whether Blizzard should start selling gold or not.
Now that's a very thorny question because people are deeply divided over gold buying and selling. Personally, as I have stated in my previous article on the subject, I am against it. This practice generally ruins the gaming experience for regular folks and that's all there is to it.
The idea that perhaps Blizzard should get in on this gold selling business is not new. It, in fact, is probably as old as the black-market trade itself. Those who support it are, in most cases, also the ones who purchase gold or at least condone the practice. The reasoning is that if Blizzard were to sell gold through its own channels, it 1) would allow people to purchase gold legally, 2) would drive illegal gold sellers out of the market and 3) would make Blizzard some additional profits.
Let's analyze each of these points individually, shall we? First, remember that my stance on this is a firm NO. I would be against Blizzard selling gold as I am against illegal gold sellers. Perhaps I'll change my mind after my analysis. We shall see.
1) People would be able to purchase gold legally
In theory this sounds great. Those who can't afford it, will simply continue to do what they always did: create gold inside the game. The others will simply buy the gold and then use it to purchase whatever they need in the game.
All's well until you realize that this scenario is worse than when you have black-market sellers, for the simple fact that Blizzard will now be creating gold on demand. There will be no in-game cost associated with all this extra gold that will suddenly be injected into the economy.
Oops, now a large section of the population will stop doing dailies, farming or engaging in trade. Why waste your time on repetitive play when you can just pay a few bucks for thousands of gold? Unfortunately this large influx of gold and shortage of, say, farmed mats will cause inflation. Gold will slowly lose its value as over time there will be more of it created out of the blue. At some point, even players who don't buy gold will stop doing dailies due to the fact that the time spent on a quest is huge compared to the measly gold reward.
Furthermore, even people who never even considered buying gold before (from an illegal source) might now be tempted to do so. Even I could be swayed. Meh, why not, if the price is right? All I can see here is a load of problems.
2) Illegal gold sellers would be driven out of the market
Although there is a high chance of this happening, somehow I doubt every single one of them will disappear. For one thing, if Blizzard sold gold, it would give a signal to everyone that buying and selling virtual currency is sanctioned by them. Even if all other sources except Blizzard's would be considered illegal, you can be certain gold sellers won't care. They don't care now, so why would they care then?
The second, more important question is price. What would Blizzard's price be? Would it be low enough to simply make other gold sellers unprofitable? For example, let's assume that the lowest you can currently buy gold is $10 for 1000 gold (I'm pulling this out of my ass). Let's also assume that the lowest price that would make it profitable for gold sellers is $5 for 1000 gold. If Blizzard would start selling at $1 for 1000 gold, then we could safely assume that this would drive any and all gold sellers out of the market.
The flaw in logic here is that we don't exactly know what costs these people have and how they obtain that gold. Popular opinion has it that there are 2 main methods: farmers who actually grind the gold and hackers who steal it from other people. In the first case, farmers would indeed have a labor cost if they are using real people and very little costs if they are using bots. In the second case, costs would be arguably very low for a hacker.
Essentially, if gold sellers have little to no costs in obtaining this gold, they should be able to undercut Blizzard at almost any price, unless Blizzard simply decides to hand out free gold to people, which is guaranteed never to happen.
Though it is possible that some gold sellers won't be able to meet the costs when competing with Blizzard, I doubt this will kill all of them.
3) The scheme would give Blizzard an additional source of income
Although lately it looks like Blizzard is cooking new ways in which to milk us of our cash, this seems too low for them to stoop at. Maybe I'm mistaken (oh how I hope I am) , but I feel that, if nothing else, this is where they will draw the line. On the other hand, there have been documented instances where they swore that they wouldn't implement certain features, only to have them change their tune 180 degrees a few years later. If one day the mother company decides that gold selling could be lucrative, Blizzard might be forced into this. Truth be told, this is the only thing I'm worried about: corporate greed.
Of course, there are MMOs out there which really do sell virtual currency to players for real cash. I can't point my finger at a particular one but I have a feeling that none of these games is as popular as WoW. All I know is that such a "business move" on Blizzard's part will almost certainly cause me to quit the game permanently and a large number of other players as well.
My personal conclusion is that Blizzard will never sell gold in World of Warcraft if they want to keep the business strong and, more importantly, the respect of their fans. And maybe I'm naive (or not) but I believe that the majority of players are also opposed to this. Time will tell. I hope I'll never be proven wrong.
Patch 1.0.5 commentary
6 months ago