Black Market AH

Heeeeeelllllloooo, nurse.

Yes, please.

So the lede here is that Blizzard may be introducing a “Black Market” AH into Mists that is capable of selling, say, the Ashes of Al’ar. We can have the discussion as to whether that devalues the 0.13% mount or not in a moment. What I am more interested right now is in the very notion that:

  1. These mounts (etc) potentially becoming BoE or otherwise Bind on Use.
  2. This being a brilliant money-sink into a rapidly inflationary economy.
  3. Blizzard getting into the business of selling in-game items with in-game currency.

That last point may seem odd (vendors have been around since Day 1), but what I mean is not necessarily the selling of the Ashes of Al’ar, but of any of the mounts/items that otherwise are only obtainable by grueling hours /played.

The initial reaction may be to say that this is counter-intuitive; by definition, what Blizzard is doing is making these items easier to obtain, which not only reduces their scarcity, but allows players to actually eat the carrot. In the long view, players actually accomplishing their goals is bad for business. As the classical argument goes, the Black Market AH should be the equivalent of cheat codes, which hollows out the enjoyment that comes from restrictions and limitations – an infinite life Super Mario Bros is a less fun Super Mario Bros.

However, I must ask this: is a Konami Code-less Contra a less fun Contra?

Contra Title Screen

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, get off my lawn.

Nethaera on the Blizzard forums mentions:

It’s worth noting that since we’re in beta, we’re still looking into what our philosophies are for what should and what shouldn’t be on the Black Market. We’re also trying to discern the frequency/rarity of what shows up there as well.

So perhaps we will not ultimately see the Ashes of Al’ar on the Black Market after all.

But… why shouldn’t we? I brought up Contra because, as anyone who attempted to actually play the game without the Konami Code can attest, the game was stupidly difficult to beat within the default number of lives. So much so, that I imagine few would even try without the Konami Code. Thus, the Konami “cheat code” probably generated more enjoyment in the aggregate than was lost from “bypassing” the difficulty.

In other words, while the “legitimate” owners of Al’ar or the TCG items or whatever Blizzard ends up selling on the Black Market do “lose” something of value (scarcity), I believe the incremental gain by everyone else results in a net positive. Obviously, the average player doesn’t have the 200,000g+ that it will require to actually obtain these items, but they couldn’t get a group together to farm Kael’thas either. What the average player can do is farm herbs or run dailies and otherwise set X amount of gold as a goal to reach in the pursuit of Al’ar; something that was largely unobtainable before, but now has a “reasonable” path towards.

Will these undoubtedly obscene prices encourage gold-sellers? Maybe, maybe not. Just keep in mind that unlike the sale of BoE raiding epics – whose prices already can encourage gold selling – the final gold price of Black Market items are removed from the economy permanently, regardless of whether they can be resold or are BoP from the mailbox. Any reduction in inflation is a net positive for everyone.

So, I say: bring it on. And not just because I have oodles of gold with nothing else to buy.

P.S. The Daily Blink has the right idea:

WTB that Actual Subscriber Data.

Posted on May 16, 2012, in WoW and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. I think they should put separate items on the BMAH, which is a fine idea in and of itself, just to keep the distinction between people who kill bosses and people who play the AH. Distinctions are good.

    Fun fact, when I was young I played so much Contra that I was eventually able to beat it without the cheat code and with more lives than I started with.


    • Technically, there will already be distinctions: the dates of the mount achievements.

      I am actually more sympathetic to the scarcity argument than the distinction one. Does it really matter that someone farmed Kael’thas with their friends (e.g. 2-4 people) versus used the Black Market AH? And considering how easily you can sell accounts over the internet, how can you ever really be sure that someone didn’t simply eBay their way to a “legitimate” Al’ar (etc)?

      Personally, I would rather actually see Blizzard reintroduce these mount models, as I don’t think the value of them is necessarily a function of their unobtainability. Besides, the people who earned those mounts got to enjoy that value for 3+ years already. Is that really not enough?


  2. I don’t like it, and I say that as someone who plays the auction house way more than any other activity in WoW so I am a prime Black Market customer. Make black market items a different color, at the very least. That turns them into more of a “reward” for working the economy, yet retains the scarcity of the original item.

    I would heavily wager that a year from now that you will see a lot more posts on the official forum complaining about “auction house elitists”.


  3. I think this is Blizzard’s attempt at killing two birds with one stone. First it recognizes the auction house tycoon as a “playstyle” semi-formally. Second it allows people alternative means to get the extremely rare or no longer available items. Frankly when it comes to the TCG or farming Tempest Keep it’s not really about dedication so much as it is about luck. Some people will try to get the Phoenix twice and get it the second time, others have been trying since TBC and have yet to see the item. I don’t suspect this will lead to a true devaluing of the items; they will still be incredibly rare because the BAH refreshes weekly IIRC with a random series of items (so Alar might not always be available, etc). Also I do not expect these will be BoE, I would imagine we’ll see them as BoP if they were BoP to begin with, possibly BoE if they are BoE by default (like the TCG mounts)


  4. Blizzard is tuning all of its content to encourage people to keep playing.

    Drop rates and difficulties need to be set to make the items desirable and just out of reach. If 0.13% chance of dropping means that people give up on that challenge and ultimately unsubscribe, it has failed its role as a motivator.

    This seems like a smart way to reduce inflation, keep the economy dynamic and ultimately keep people playing.


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