WoWconomicsPosted: October 3, 2011
The in-game economy of World of Warcraft is an interesting thing. In some aspects, it works in the same way as a regular economy. There is an auction housein which the laws of supply and demand generally prevails; you can expect that rare and highly sought-after item to cost you an arm and a leg. In general, the more difficult and/or time-consuming and item is to obtain the more it will cost. There are vendors that sell fixed-price comodities, and people that will try to resell those comodities at an exorbitant markup to those unaware of the vendors’ existence.
There is certainly inflation. There was a time when 1 gold was a lot of money in WoW. The leader of my guild is fond of reminiscing about the “good old days” of vanilla WoW when fast land mounts cost 1,000 gold and nobody could afford them except for rich guild leaders who taxed their “constituency” to get them. Having one of these mounts was a status symbol. Now everybody has them, and there are daily quests that pay out 16+ gold for 5 minutes of your time (and you can do up to 25 of these a day). There are various mechanisms in place to try to keep inflation at bay – namely “gold sinks” like ever more-expensive mounts and skills to take money back out of circulation – but at the end of the day when there is an infinite amount of currency inflation is just going to happen.
There are also some ways in which WoW’s economy works in the exact opposite way of what you would expect. IRL, typically raw materials + time spent = finished goods at some markup reflecting the time and skill required to create those goods. In WoW, raw materials typically cost more than finished products. This seems a little bit odd unless you understand a bit about WoW. First of all, the “work” put into producing goods is fairly trivial – the click of a button and a few seconds of waiting. Gathering of materials is typically more time-consuming/difficulty by far. Second – and more importantly – WoW is almost entirely a numbers game. Everyone is striving to achieve max level, min/max their stats, get all of the achievements…in short, he who has the biggest numbers “wins”. This generates a tremendous demand for the raw materials that can be used to increase one’s skill in a given profession on the way to maxing it out.
There are also things in WoW that are simply not for sale in that it is impossible to sell them. There is a concept known as “soulbinding” or being “soulbound“; that is, an item will either bind itself to its owner when it is picked up or when it is first used. Once bound, that item can no longer be sold nor traded to another player. I can’t think of any RL analogue for soulbound items. I mean sure, I have a handful of things that I probably wouldn’t sell for any amount of money…but I can’t think of anything that I own for which I am able to say “I cannot sell this due to mechanics” or “The laws of physics have literally bound this item to my soul and I am unable to part with it.”
I’m sure there are other quirks of the WoW economy that I’m just not thinking of at the moment. They’ll have to wait for another time…