Remember the Great Ore Crash of ’11?

Now this is interesting.

I was catching up on WoW Insider posts and read this article in the weekly column, Gold Capped.  It describes a glut of obsidium and elementium ores that is halving auction house prices.  But, more intriguing is that this is a cross-realm event affecting at least dozens of WoW servers.

I did some research on the now-repaired Undermine Journal and confirmed much of what Basil Bernsten wrote in the article.  For example, here is what I found for the changing volume of Obsidium Ore in the Horde AH on Zul’jin, my Horde-side server.

obsidium ore on Zul'jin-h

You can see the typical pattern of ups and down for a week gets shattered beginning late on the night of Thursday, February 24.  Since then, the market has ridden a rollercoaster of insanity that crosses midnight every second night.  Prices of obsidium on Zul’jin-horde have indeed halved, as seems to have happened elsewhere.

The original article took this in and turned it into recommendations on how crafters can make money.  The author even stated part-way down, “I don’t want to speculate about the reason for this recent surge in supply, and focus instead on its effects.”

Yeah well, let me help you with that, then.  There is evidence of this glut, to a greater and lesser extent, on every realm that I looked at.  It was coordinated, although the selling did not start at precisely the same time on all servers.

So, who has control of large volumes of high-end, farmed goods across large numbers of servers and can coordinate a move like a mass sell-off?  OK, everyone say it with me … gold farmers.

Now, Basil knew this, of course.  He even referred to the sellers as “level one mules”.

But, my next question is, why?  Why did this occur?  For that large a volume on so many servers, it must have been one of the major gold selling sites.  Why would they flood the market with high-value merchandise in an uncontrolled manner and drive their own prices and profits down?  Classic micro-economics says you do that when you want to drive out competitors and establish a monopoly.  But, that won’t work for farmed goods in WoW.

I’ve toyed with various ideas.  Is the corporate strategy changing, and bulk ore is not the core business any longer?  I don’t see why it would change.  Was it a programmatic mistake that triggered automated liquidation of inventory?  Oops.  But, if it were, it would have started at nearly the same hour on all servers (correcting for the local time zone of each server, of course).  It didn’t.

Much clearer in my mind is how the ‘white hats’ can use this to their advantage.  What has happened here is that, for reasons I cannot explain, multiple gold farming toons on many, many servers have just lit a bright beacon at their doorstep and proclaimed, HERE I AM.  There’s no hiding it now.  You couldn’t ignore it if you wanted to.

What Blizzard needs to do is pull this data across all servers and identify the sellers.  There will be no mistaking these guys with an innocent player leveling mining.  The difference in scale is too great.  Then, ban the toon, ban the account, hold any new account that tries to start from the same IP address, and monitor accounts that use neighboring IP addresses.  This would be the equivalent of a nation-wide roundup of organized criminals.  Maybe they’ll catch up with my old nemesis, ‘lilmouse’, the Mad Miner of Sholazar Basin.

Go ahead, Blizz.  Take a bite out of crime.


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