Building a better auction house

Auction Houses are incredibly convenient in MMOs, and I love them. I’ve spent many happy hours staring at an Auctio… (editor’s note: no one will believe this!). Let’s just say that I’ve been able to use auction houses to earn some gold and equip characters in just about every game where they exist. I’m not a hardcore businesswoman in games but if you don’t mind spending a bit of time to figure out the market/s  it is a whole other side and challenge to MMOs.

I know it’s not as immersive as meeting up with other players to trade but this is one of those sad places where just about everyone is happy to trade immersion for convenience. But I could love the auctions  so much more if I could do more of these things with them:

  1. I want proper programmable searches. So if I have a few items I am watching (maybe there is some item I often farm and sell) or maybe something particular that I’m looking out for, I just hit my ‘search A’ button and it comes up every day. It needn’t be any harder than setting up filters on an email program. eg. In Warhammer my Archmage is an Apothecary and might want to buy dye ingredients and sell dye, so it would save me a lot of time if I could set up a standard button to list all of those things currently at auction, to help me decide what to make/sell/buy. Really what I’m asking for is user-defined categories.
  2. I want buy orders. So if I want to buy some metal ore at a specified price but none is currently up on the auction house, I set up my buy order (eg. buy up to 80 cobalt ore at 2g per piece) and deposit however much gold that would cost, and as soon as any auction goes up with that raw material at that price or less the buy order kicks in and it gets automatically bought and sent to me. The buy order doesn’t need to be secret, maybe sellers can search through them and decide which one gives them the best deal before they sell. Sell orders could work in a similar way.
  3. I want records built in for what recent sales of any goods actually sold for so that I can easily check. In WoW you can get an addon to help with this but why not have that information built in and available to everyone?
  4. Guild/ Alliance auctions. I know LOTRO and WAR have a category for guild only auctions and I really like this ; it’s a good way for making nice items preferentially available to the group of people who you regularly play with (which will actually benefit you in the long run also). But I’m not sure how ofter people bother to check the guild auctions. There must be some way to notify people of when something they might like is available — maybe some ability for a guild/alliance auction to mail out to people if a nice epic that would be an upgrade for them goes up. Or maybe have the guild auctions available in a different location (in WoW, if the guild auctioneer was in Dalaran, it would be much more frequently checked).
  5. Buy and sell guildies. Everyone has people in their guild they’d rather sell off or trade in, right? Why stop at raw materials?
  6. Advertising. If I’m a crafter, why shouldn’t I be able to advertise in the Auction House or around the game? Spamming the trade channel is so 2004. I’d pay good gold to get a raid boss to wear a tabard reading:  ‘Spinks! For all your blacksmithing needs!’ or have a custom shout when it wiped a raid saying something like, “Thank goodness those lamers didn’t buy their armour from Spinks, or I’d have been in real trouble!” (I’d pick Razuvious by the way, because I hate him so much.)

Some of these would call for fairly heavy duty database work, but what is an AH but a database anyway? And it’s not as if Blizzard don’t have the money.