[WoW] Should the economy reset with new expansions?

GOLD covilha@flickr

The in game economy is the last holdout in WoW of the virtual world type of MMO. Players buy and sell on the open market, various tradeskills and gathering skills feed into the auction house ‘game’, and although Blizzard tweaks the economy occasionally, it’s usually indirectly.

Not only that but they have no intention of trying to balance this aspect of the game. Some tradeskills have the potential to make MASSIVELY more money than others, and barring actual exploits, Blizzard usually leaves it all well alone.

But really – why don’t they reset the economy for new expansions? Everything else about the endgame is reset. Gear and progression are certainly reset. New levels are added, and just about everything a player accomplished in previous expansions is relegated to memories of old achievements. All except for gold in the bank.

Gathering gold is the only thing you can do in WoW which – so far – has been guaranteed to carry over into the next expansion. The only vaguely permanent accomplishment you can have on a character. But why? Since tradeskills aren’t balanced for cash making, all this means is that anyone who leaped on a gold making scheme in one expansion may never have to worry about gold again.

Nice for them, maybe. But is it good for the game?

There will never be enough gold sinks to soak up all of that spare cash, so the gap between the ultra rich and the regular player continues to increase. Even as a non-gold maker, I have about 60k gold between my alts on Argent Dawn, and since I have no interest in fancy mounts or 359 trinkets that’ll soon be replaced, there’s no real reason for that money to get ploughed back into the economy at all. Compare this to a game like EVE where you actually can plough your profits into better ships, different markets, and ultimately building large mercantile corporations. Or just use it to buy extra game time.

It doesn’t really matter in WoW that a new alt on a new server would be behind the curve.  Blizzard does provide plenty of ways to make gold via dailies or gathering or trade skills. You’ll have enough for anything you need. There’s no special reason to make more gold unless you deliberately build it into your own play (for example, gold DKP runs where people bid gold for drops favour players who gathered more gold) or like fancy mounts. (Incidentally, I think my two person rocket is at least as cool as the alchemical dragon, and seems rather rarer on my server.)

And that just shows how broken the entire economy is. Blizzard have actually given up on this part of the game. They know it’s not working.

But if they reset it with every expansion, that would give the players who enjoy building up their gold reserves more of a chance to show off their skills. It would help keep the gold levels at a level where gold sinks actually could make a dent in people’s hoards. And if they aren’t going to make a proper endgame for economy players, keeping the economy relevant is surely the next best thing.


37 thoughts on “[WoW] Should the economy reset with new expansions?

  1. I think I disagree with the premise of what you’re saying here. There is a gold reset at various levels of the game that is in principle just as effective as the gear reset. One of these is in around level 40, I reckon, where you stop getting paid in copper and start getting proper silver and gold. Outland marks another for sure – and the release of TBC itself marked a huge gear reset, as epic mounts became almost trivially affordable and 5k for an epic flyer was achievable.

    The resets haven’t been quite as marked imo in Wrath or Cataclysm, but the 1k gold life savings (plus epic flying on one character) that I had entering Wrath now looks almost as dated as the gear I was wearing at the time. 🙂

    I think the effect of gold sinks is overrated, to be honest. Right now the amount I’m earning from herbing, and spending on gear and consumables, way outweighs what’s coming in and out of the system from quest rewards and repairs. Even the white mats I got for the Vial of the Sands is only around matching the amount of gold I’m getting from and giving to other players. (Not all of this is gold that passes through my hands – I reckon that flasks I make for someone who made me crafted gear counts, as this could just as easily happen via the AH.)

    So Blizzard can tune this by inflating the gold at level 80-85 compared to previous tiers, and maybe they’ve done this to an extent. But I think it won’t have a huge effect. Right now it’s still easy to get into serious gold making just by being a gatherer; when things settle down we’ll again see where the niches are and they’ll be occupied just as quickly as they were before. Any formal reset would be merely a setback. 😉

    • All resets are merely a setback, is the thing. Even the gear reset delayed people for … oh, maybe a few days at most 🙂 But I do think that it’s oddly inconsistent that one part of the endgame doesn’t get reset and the rest does. As you say, I don’t think it would really make much difference in the long run, except that there might be a bit more motivation to really work the angles.

      • Mmm yeah, I see what you mean. I’m kind of talking out of both sides of my mouth.

        In retrospect I think I am surprised by how much value 1 gold has retained into Cata so far. You’re right certainly that someone who hit gold cap never really needs to worry about gold for a very long time, unless they go on a spree.

        That said, I do have a feeling that the difference between, say, 50,000g (which I think is roughly around where you and I sat at the start of Cata) and 250,000g isn’t realistically that huge. We’re both going to be okay for flasks, gems, enchants and repairs for some time to come, compared to someone sitting on 1,000g. But we can’t really compete with the gold capped people for those ultra-rare BoEs at the moment.

  2. They could introduce different currencies or just objects that could be traded for gold, kinda like the way ‘globs of ectoplasm’ (and now rubies and sapphires are gone through the roof) are used in Guild Wars where the community sets the value. But a few other things would need to change as well, such as players being limited in how much cash they carry, and also limiting bank and bag slots by controlling how much the barter objects stack. It could be turned into an interesting mini-game with different tiers of valuable objects, and when they need to be liquidated the endeavour is to get the best prices.

    There is a kind of economic reset in WoW anyways, with new profession materials introduced with each expansion, and trade items from the old expansion becoming worthless. Sure somethings retain value but that is not common. I would argue for the opposite where all trade objects no matter the tier do retain more of their value, so for example, gold or truesilver are still valuable to higher level players, instead of introducing new precious metals with every expansion.

  3. How would that even work though? If you reset everyone’s money to zero or some other value, people would just make sure to invest it all into items before the reset and then sell them afterwards to get money back. Or would you delete everyone’s items as well? It just sounds a bit radical for my taste…

    • Change the currency which people are allowed to use on the auction house, maybe have a conversion like they did for old emblems (eg. 1000 wrath gold = 1 cataclysm gold.)

      Basically what you could do is devalue currency the longer ago it was earned.

      • It doesn’t solve the problem. If before the end of the expansion I turn 50 000 gold into Thorium and Dreamfoil then when the expansion launches I sell my Thorium and Dreamfoil for 50 000 gold I’ve effectively carried my money over when everyone else’s got deleted.

      • I don’t think it matters, people will still need the items for crafting. Stabs makes a very solid point.

  4. If you delete gold, but don’t delete items, gold will become worthless and players will barter.

    If you delete items too, players will simply stop playing at the end of the expansion.

    The only way to limit the inflation is some kind of property tax: 0.5% of your gold is taken every day, and also non-soulbound items could decay over time (0.5% chance every day that the item is destroyed).

    • Like I say, I’d just alter the currency people use in the auction house. Smart people might barter but I bet the majority of people who rely on addons and semi automated auctioning to make their gold would have to keep relying on the AH.

    • Random chance for destruction isn’t the same thing as “item decay”. Puzzle Pirates does it right by having item decay either by calendar day, login day or usage. Almost everything in that game decays, but it’s not a lottery of spontaneous combustion. That sort of random loss is a Really Bad Idea psychologically, especially in a gear-centric game.

  5. Interesting post, Spinks.

    I can’t say that I’ve never wished for for the WoW auction house to play out more like that of EVE’s, but I too, think that a currency reset between expansions is perhaps a bit heavy handed.

    That said, I still don’t think a move to an EVE like economy is impossible for the game… In fact, you’ve inspired a bit of an idea for a post, actually. Although given it’s presently somewhere between 2 and 3 am, it’s like as not to be a post for another time.

    The basis of it would be the removal of NPC components and the inclusion of recipes for players to make these components instead.

    EVE’s system is a fair bit more complex than that; but I think WoW needn’t go the whole distance in order to achieve the desired effect.

  6. Crafting, and ta a lessers degrees gold, done always struck me as being in WoW because “Well, EQ does it that way so must be we’s supposed ta put it in our game too.” Blizz never cared that much about’em, or even really understoods’em. And they does damn little fer ta enrichify the game. I suspects Blizz would likes ta just phase it all out and let folks play withouts worrying about, just as we don’t gots worry about keys or pets taking up bag space no more. But, change causes stress all around, and this would be a doozy, so they’s taking baby steps (like no more armorsmith/weaponsmith specialties, fer examples).

  7. I feel like I’m missing something, Spinks. I don’t get what problem you’re trying to solve here.

    The only element of the game that is reset at an expansion is gear, and even then it’s not a hard reset. Your gear is still useful to you in the new xpac, though it is replaced by the time you reach the new endgame. Having T10/S8 gives you an advantage during this part of the game, but that doesn’t lead me to conclude you should take it away and start everyone with basic gear. That’s frankly no fair, and no fun.

    Saying gold is the only thing that’s not reset is disingenuous. Your characters aren’t reset back to level 1. Your professions aren’t reset back to Apprentice. Why should your material possessions be reset, too?

    If xpac inflation is the problem, the best way to counter the increased rewards that you get at higher levels – which is really the root of inflation – would be @gevlon’s suggestion of adding upkeep to items or characters. But that’s directly counter to the design of increased rewards as you level.

    Making gold in this game is easy if you know what you’re doing, but a lot of players still struggle with it. The ultra-rich will look at the upcoming reset as a minor speedbump, stock goods for the xpac, engage in bartering, and restore their fortune quickly. Players who either don’t know how to make gold, or who choose to focus on other parts of the game, will be hit much harder by a gold reset.

    I guess I have to come back to my original question – how does having wealth carry over from xpac to xpac present a problem?

    • I’m more pointing out that the way gold/ economy is handled isn’t really in keeping with the way the game has been going.

      And really, they do try to reset the entire endgame at expansions. Crafting does reset. You won’t have much luck selling anything you can make with Wrath-capped crafting skill (well, not counting Inscriptors because that tradeskill is a very different design). Levels reset. Progression resets. Gear resets. Emblems and honor reset.

      Crafting and levels don’t reset to 0 because players would raise a storm, but you still need to level/ raise the skill to reach the new endgame. So it is a type of reset, IMO. What was valuable and useful in Wrath isn’t any longer. Permanence in every other aspect of the game except the economy only lasts until the next expansion, is what I was trying to get at.

      • One could argue that the inflation *is* the xpac economy reset – 5k gold has purchased less and less since Burning Crusade.

        I think I’m ultimately struggling with your use of the term reset. I make a good, steady profit selling Vanilla and BC-era enchants and crafted goods. I have no doubt Wrath items will continue to sell well – just not the same items. I can’t make a Leggings of Woven Death and expect to sell it at huge profits to endgame raiders, but I certainly can continue to sell Choppers to mount collectors. (Actually, the LoWD are still selling, wtf?)

        Any profession, at ANY level, is profitable if you know what to sell and watch your material costs. The amount of gold you can make at level 10 is staggering!

        Okay, low level Engineering’s got nothing. I’ll grant you that. 🙂

        The endgame reset that comes with an xpac is not a reset at all – it’s planned obsolescence enforced by inflation. Stat inflation drives most of it, and reward inflation drives the rest. Crafting professions need to produce different goods only because stats become more inflated with each xpac to reflect the new, more challenging content. Endgame gear becomes outmoded every new raid tier or PvP season, but because an xpac presents several new tiers all at once, you have to replace entire sets instead of incremental improvement. This doesn’t render the previous generation worthless, or valueless – it just means it’s not current.

        The inflation that happens with gold is already the same model. You want to raid endgame content? Fine, prices have gone up. Why have prices gone up? Because there’s more money available to you the higher your level, and 85s can outearn 80s. Mobs drop more gold, quests reward more. Those are the only two sources of gold in the game, and they’ve increased, while supply has diminished. It costs more to raid now than it did before (especially as a cloth wearing class, ouch!)

        But this planned obsolescence is only at the endgame. There’s a lot of Warcraft out there, and imposing a solution out there that affects everyone – and it would affect the entire player base – so that it adheres to the model of the endgame is frankly, not fair.

        So I guess that explains why I don’t get it – I think that the economy does adhere to the xpac soft reset model, and that zeroing out the economy as a response to it would be imposing the endgame on the leveling game, which is both unfair and doesn’t address the problem of the wealth gap you alluded to.

        I suppose we must agree to disagree. 😦

      • “The amount of gold you can make at level 10 is staggering!”

        That’s only because you’re selling to high level players with more money than time. The low level economy in a vacuum is actually still pretty poor. If you’re not monkeying around on the AH with players with orders of magnitude more cash feeding you, the game’s economy isn’t set up to make big purchases (like riding training and even class skills) feasible during the normal pace of leveling. You certainly can’t buy vendor gear and skills as you level, it’s one or the other. (Though thankfully, quest and DF gear work just fine… but forget twinking.) You have to grind gold for riding, especially at level 40. Even if you’re using two gathering professions and selling all your stuff at level appropriate prices (as in, a stack of Light Leather for maybe 20 silver instead of sugar-daddy 5+ gold), you’re still going to be behind the existing gold sinks.

      • @tesh: I thought about this for a bit, because placing a level 10 in a vacuum is harder than it looks – and not just because they don’t fit! 🙂

        If you’re level 10, and that’s as high as you can go, then you’re effectively at the endgame, and 20 silver pieces is mad money. It’s highly competitive with the money you can make killing mobs and questing at your level.

        If you’re level 10 and you can go up to level 60, then there are rich upper level characters feeding you. It’s not great, but it’s certainly more than you’ll get by killing mobs your level and questing – your level 10 “salary,” so to speak.

        If you’re level 10/85, then you’ve admittedly got 3 xpacs worth of inflation working for you, and you can make mad money compared to your salary.

        I don’t think this has anything to do with my main question and point, but it’s an interesting exercise to consider.

        I don’t mean to be a grumpy old man about this. I just don’t see why some people having tremendous amounts of gold requires us to nuke the entire system. The endgame currencies (Honor/Conquest Points) reset every single content release. The only difference with an expansion is that gear stats are inflated so there is more initial effort required to get back to your previous relative level of power.

        Zeroing out gold removes any motivation to keep playing at the end of an expansion, just as zeroing out your character’s level would kill any desire to level alts. A reset like this wipes out all tangible investment in the game, and would let players walk away at the end of an xpac with very little ties to the game.

        Why is the economy not working? Why is this even a problem?

  8. In my opinion, Blizzard decided to fight gold sellers by making gold much more readily available in game and reducing the price of riding skills and mounts.

    How many players could afford fast riding skill as soon as they dinged 60 in vanilla? How many weeks of grinding money before they could afford a fast mount?

    I was stunned by the reaction of my guild mates when they were teasing me how long a grind I will have to look forward to in 2 levels and me explaining I already had over 14k gold. I should have kept my mouth shut …

    How many players grinded gold in Burning Crusade after they were level 70 in order to afford a fast flyer?

    My personal opinion is it is not a good idea to require players to grind for perceived needed items while leveling. Blizzard seems to agree as they made transportation upgrades much more affordable.

    New players with a gathering profession also benefit from richer players by being able to sell raw materials at a price much higher than before.

    A gold reset would affect new players much more negatively than level cap players. Level cap players would have less disposable gold to use to powerlevel alts and profession changes.

    I do not like Gevlon’s suggestions. I believe a tax cannot be realistically implemented because you quickly run into issues with gold in transit (mail or highest current bid) and that opens loopholes or other difficulties. BoE items having a chance to break is kinda of the same problem with items breaking in the mail, after the item was purchased but before it was picked up by the owner. I see this as a PR nightmare worse than the RealID.

    I don’t see why you having no use of the 50,000 gold you saved is a problem. You always have the option to delete some of it if it bother you. Just like I deleted 600,000 gold a few months ago. Not a big deal, gold is incredibly easy to make and I had no use for it.

    • “I don’t see why you having no use of the 50,000 gold you saved is a problem. You always have the option to delete some of it if it bother you.”
      When a game actively encourages gold-gathering, setting it up as a constant reward, and a constant need, it’s clear that WoW is trying to teach us that gold is important. To suggest that players choosing to delete gold somehow fixes anything is absurd. If fun or challenge require players to actively work against their own interest and the teachings of the game, something is wrong.

      • “To suggest that players choosing to delete gold somehow fixes anything is absurd.”

        Yet, there was this discussion on Phase 3: Profit a month or two ago in which a few commenters (serious auction house players) stated they deleted a significant percentage of their gold, if not all.

        Why? Because it is the process of making gold which is fun for some of us, not the possession of gold.

        If having too much gold creates a problem for a player, the player should consider whether having less would make him happier. It does not solve WoW’s problem (if you in fact believe there is a problem) but it may help the individual in question.

        “If fun or challenge require players to actively work against their own interest and the teachings of the game, something is wrong.”

        How in the world does destroying virtual gold I do not need works against my own self-interest?

        What about my guild mate who has donated at least 25 engineer bikes to guild members? That’s a quarter million gold wasted on gifts.

        Would you say we also work against our interest by running Naxx group wearing rare items only even though epic items were readily available?

        What about us doing Flame Levithian wearing the same rare items? We wiped seven or eight times before we got it done!

        Or us running instances undermanned all the time and not having read any of the boss strategies ahead of time?

        Surely we did not optimize our probability of clearing these encounters in as little time as possible.

        But, but, but … we are having fun!

        “.. it’s clear that WoW is trying to teach us that gold is important”

        It’s funny you say that because, from my point of view, the availability of gold in WoW is a strong message to the contrary.

        Try spending a quarter million gold in wanted items one evening; I almost certain you will stop way short of that goal, having run out of wanted items to buy.

  9. The issue with gold is that it isn’t actually that much use anymore.

    This is why I wonder about it the Auction House Kids and Greedy Goblins. They’re obsessing over a metric that is, past certain thresholds (Riding, Chants, Gems and….done. Gold is now useless), largely irrelevant. At the point, Achievement Points matter more than gold because they at least make an exciting sound when you get them.

    Gold really hasn’t been an important end game resource since the last patch of TBC. Back then, what gold bought you more than anything was time. It meant you could buy those important resources like the huge stack of buff items you needed to be a competitive raider rather than spending hours farming for them. Now, between feasts and cauldrons, it doesn’t even buy you that. So I’m not actually sure it’s worth getting concerned over unless WoW makes a sudden shift in design philosophy over the next few months and decides to start focusing on the catpiss men of yore again.

    • Yeah, pretty much this. There are certainly huge amounts of interest in gold making on the blogosphere, but as an activity past a certain point …. it’s completely pointless, and very comparable to achievements. There is no economic endgame.

      And like I say, I’m just noting that in all other aspects of the game, Blizzard deliberately try to narrow the gap between players when a new expansion ships. That’s why hardcore raiders have never been more than a tier in front of casuals during Wrath and why last tier’s set gear goes straight onto the justice point vendor with the next content patch. They don’t want people to get too far behind.

      Except in the gold game, where they just gave up and don’t care any more.

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  11. They do not need to reset the market each expansion, in some ways they do through player driven demand anyway. What they need to do is make sure they screw up professions and by extension the market.

    Also if the AH was expanded into a place with both Sell and Buy orders like the market in EVE Online it would self regulate to an even finer degree. Right now we only know what people are willing to sell items at. If we had what are people willing to buy at it would create a much more dynamic system.

    • I think you have hit on something here. It would add a neat dynamic to the faux economy that is in WoW. Making an already very dynamic part of the game even more so.

  12. The auction house is intentionally broken / inefficient. If they created a more EVE like system and better balanced professions, the “AH game” would be significantly harder. They do not want anything in the game to be especially hard, because most people will quit playing when they reach a level of challenge that requires effort.

    The AH game is just another mini-game that appeals to a sub-group of WoW players, and is easy enough such that most anyone interested in it can “win”. Not necessarily gold cap, mind you, but make enough profit to feel like you are beating it.

    It’s genius, really.

    • I recognise that there is a certain degree of cynicism in your comment there, but I find it interesting nonetheless, because I hold a rather opposite view; at least so far as the relative difficulties of the markets in any case.

      Certainly the EVE market is more ‘difficult’ if we look at it in terms of what goes into the efficient production if items and getting said items TO the market, but if we were to look strictly at the set of tools the EVE Market and WoW’s Auctionhouse provide (even if we allow for mod’s like Auctioneer / APM) then I see EVE as being the much easier one to manage.

      Sure, getting your head around buy orders / sale orders, as opposed to instantly buying/selling (from the aforementioned buy / sell orders) might be initially a little more complex than what the average WoW player is used to, and making use of the Market Data might be a little boggling at first glance, having the options and information available makes the actual decision making process on how to play the market that much easier.

      Although even just writing that paragraph, I can see already, I think, why you might consider the EVE side of things to be more difficult.. Still though, after a bit of adjustment it really does make it a lot easier.

      Further, I guess for those that just have NO interest in working it all out, they can still achieve the same satisfaction they do now of making some money and feeling they’re ‘beating’ it with the added bonus of now having instant gratification through both purchases AND sales via the orders others have put up.

      • Remember EVE requires you also to have some notion of location, and that some goods will be cheaper in some locations than others. You can actually run a profitable haulage operation in that game. It’s a factor that doesn’t enter the WoW economy at all – you used to be able to make a bit of gold by knowing where rare recipes were on vendors and putting them on the AH but Blizzard stopped letting vendors have rare recipes awhile back.

  13. Just eliminate the “economy” game. Make it impossible for one or two people to corner markets. Put caps on everything or limit us to selling to a vendor at a fixed price.

    There should simply NEVER be a way for some folks to impact others game time in a paid environment.

    The “Economy” game is painful enough in the real world … I do not need it in my leisure world.

    • @ bengstra

      I play Wow mostly for the economic fun of it at this point. I am not alone. It’s hard for folks who don’t enjoy that aspect of life to understand it, but for us it’s loads of fun.

      As far as a reset goes, sure. And we can also reset your Kingslayer or other titles. I’ve earned the gold I’ve made, just as you’ve earned other and more public achievements. It takes work, thought and planning to earn large sums of gold. Why take that from us?

      • You can have a title too if you like 🙂 Something like, “I broke the bank in Monte Carlo!”

        But really what I hear from people (and what I’ve noticed too) is that the actual process of making the gold can be fun, but only up to a point. People talk about deleting all their gold and starting again, you could just as easily start an alt on a new server to have that experience if you want it. But there is no real economic endgame and during Wrath, even the interesting part of making gold (figuring out what people wanted, making sure you were providing it, second guessing the other traders) was pretty much reduced to a few macros and addons, and a lot of grind.

  14. I know I’m a day late here, but I wanted to bring up a post I just read from Anaalius. His last few posts talk about him investing over 500,000 gold in the Dark Moon Card market, as an enourmous gamble essentially hoping to double his investment… and since the past fair, he has earned 280,000 of his investment back. Essentially, this is a picture of someone making his own game of the Auction House… and to what end? What could he possibly need that much gold for? Entertainment, of course!

  15. There is a lot of stuff that carries over.

    – Reputation with old factions carries over and it’s something you just got by playing the game. Next expansion it might be hard to max out or even impossible. Try to max a raid faction reputation of an old expansion.
    – Removed items carry over like the Naxx drake.
    – Your collection of mounts and pets carry over. Try to get all pets available and you’ll see how much work collecting these old pets are. I still have my Winterspring tiger this expansion.
    – Achievements carry over. Try to get raid achievements for a raid of the last expansion.
    – Your class carries over. You still had a level 80 warrior at the beginning of Cataclysm. If a mage wanted to be able to tank this expansion he would have to level a new char. Yes, he could do that in advance but if gold doesn’t carry over why not let everyone select a new class for her char?
    – Your social connections carry over, which is a valuable asset in an MMORPG. If you were a successful raider you have high changes that your raid still exists or you know enough people to get into another raid. For people who haven’t raided in WotLK it’ll be much more difficult to find a succesful raid.
    – Your tradeskills carry over. It is incredible expensive to level the “profession of the month” from 1.

    You might not care about these things but they exist and they carry over, too.

    TBC and WotLK had an inflation of about 1000%. I don’t think we’ll see the same inflation this add-on especially since the daily quest gold reward wasn’t really increased.

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