Tag Archives: auction house

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.

Art Dealers in WoW

Here’s one from the ‘think differently’ school of gaming.  Like most players of WoW (who spend more time at it than they will admit to other people), I also ‘play’ a little Auction House PVP with my fellow Azerothains.  We all do it to make some in-game money and to have a bit of fun.

However, it was a long time before I realized, to my utter amazement, that I was playing a totally different game at the AH than everyone else was.  Whereas most people seem to work the trade goods market like buying and selling so many pork bellies, barrels of oil, or saronite ore on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, I’ve been doing my business with Christie’s and Sotheby’s.

I am an art dealer, by comparison.   You see, my business is a low-volume, high-profit trade in rare and epic goods for only the most discerning customers.

In its fundamentals, mine is the same game everyone plays at the auction house … buy low and sell high.  But, in my case, I am searching for underpriced blues and purples to buy and re-list at a price more in line with what the market’s demand for such rarity will bear.

The volume of this trade is, obviously, limited by the other players on the server.  I can only pick up goods after someone else lists them at a price well under the norm.  Sometimes that means I have only 2 or 3 items for sale at any given time.

Then I have to sit on highly valuable inventory, which is never good, until I can unload it.  And, given they are blues and purples, the auction house take for an unsold item can be staggering … far higher than for a stack of herbs, at least.  That severely erodes profit with every auction. 

And then there are the risks.  Risks of not knowing whether the economy on your particular server will support a higher price than you are paying.  I used to go price shopping on Thottbot, Allakhazam, and Wowhead, but those sites do not seem to have prices listed any longer.  (Might be related to an article I read about the impending shutdown of the Undermine Journal.)  To manage these risks, I usually only pick up an item when I suspect it is undervalued by ten times.  That has been an adequate margin, I’ve found.

But, the profit potential of individual items, oh the profit that can be made, is sky high, dependent only upon how underpriced it was when you bought it.  Was it a key twink item that got listed for just coppers more than a similar piece of gear for a level 18 toon?  Was it a typographical error that turned Je’Tse’s Bell into the buy of a lifetime?  Was someone not aware of how wide the gulf was between vendor price and AH buyout price?  Who among us can say?  But, I’d bet that the commodity traders have never made 1000g profit on a single item.  (That was an Eye of Shadow, if I recall….)

So, have I discovered the secret of making huge money on the auction house?  …  No, not really.  Uncertainty is high and volume is low.  I figure that I net only about 100g or so per week on average.  It pales in comparison to, say, what a little market timing for enchanting materials can get you.

 But, would I give it up to start selling bushels of corn?  Never.