Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A limit on spending

The WOW token hit a new low yesterday, selling for just under 19k gold.  Due to the way the system works this generated a ton of orders for tokens and that glut of orders pushed the price all the way back up to 25k, which is higher than it had been for quite awhile.  It is a bit of a bizarre economic system that is going on here where people buy in at 19k a lot and then stop buying in but the momentum generated by those purchases still matters.

Keep in mind that the way this system works is that it goes in cycles, with a lot of buyers cashing in at the lowest point in the cycle and a lot of sellers taking action at the high points.  As soon as the price starts to swing up again all the buyers stop but the bulk of the orders causes the system to keep on raising the price anyway.  Blizzard is actually creating a fair bit of gold this way, by allowing most buy orders at 20k and most sell orders at 24k, but that isn't actually a big problem.  They pump gold into the economy in any number of ways so this one extra way is no big deal.

What got me wondering though is why the token hit a new low.  It had been cycling predictably between 21k and 24k for awhile, so people are curious what changed.  My theory is this:  The token buyers are running out of months.  I know a couple people who have four accounts between them that are all paid up for the rest of 2015.  Their incentive to purchase more tokens is plummeting regardless of price because you can't just buy in infinite times.  Eventually you have to ask yourself if you are sure you are actually going to be playing in that time period!

People selling tokens don't have that limit.  They use their new found wealth to buy pets, pay for repairs, purchase gear, and any number of other things but those things are close enough to limitless that there is no practical difference.  Even if you ignore content churn the number of things to collect in WOW is immense and the amount of gold required to make it happen is astronomical.  Imagine I bought tokens to see me through the end of the year.  At the moment that would cost me something like 160k gold.  Now imagine a theoretical person on the other end of the bargain - they spend $200 and gain 160k gold.  That gold will buy 8 good pieces of gear but a new dungeon is coming out in a month or two that will have all new gear to buy and there will be a new dungeon later this year that will do the same thing.  Then they will want to drop 100k gold on a super fancy mount, and each epic pet costs 15k gold, etc. etc.  Just one person wanting to buy ALL THE THINGS could easily sell so many tokens that dozens of people like me are completely capped on our ability to buy tokens from them.

The demand is elastic to some extent though because of course there aren't just people sitting on a huge pile of gold and people sitting on a huge pile of dollars.  There are plenty of people at the margins who would buy a token for 15k but not for 21k so prices can't just collapse to nothing when all the people like me have all the subscription time they can handle.

If I am right though the price for tokens is due for a slow downward drift.  I can't predict very well what will happen just as the new patch 6.2 drops though.  There will clearly be a bunch of people resubbing by buying tokens and that will drive the price up, but there will also be a bunch of people laying down some serious cash to get the new materials and gear immediately.  Which group is larger I just can't say.  However, I bet that two weeks after the patch all of the resubbers will be done and the people wanting gold to get new shinies will still be there so I expect a huge crash in token prices around that time.

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