Bellular is on a tear with covering aspects of WoW related to the economy. I already shared my thoughts on his boosting expose, but his latest video goes more into the main economy. It includes some interesting analysis, particularly about how Blizzard might want to create a high gold cost to play your character optimally to drive WoW token sales.
Gold flowing in and out
He starts by covering the basic functioning of the WoW economy with gold flowing in through vendors, quests and drops and flowing out through vendors, AH fees and repairs.
The price of gold
A very interesting part of the video is the comparison of the price of vanity items in terms of real money by collecting historical data on the real money cost of gold. Interestingly the brutosaur costs about the same in terms of real money as it would have cost to buy epic flying in TBC or the 2 million gold spider mount when it was released.
Another interesting analysis is to look at the cost of raiding by comparing the cost of a full raiding night of consumables across the BfA and SL raid tiers. The most expensive ones were Uldir and Nathria. Not surprisingly the first raid tier was the most expensive, when the quantity of material is lowest relative to the player base. He also converted the gold cost to real money by utilizing the wow token prices. The cost is quite high if you buy all your consumables with tokens that you buy for real money. It is as high as 8 to 14 USD extra per month.
Of course most guilds will pay their consumables either through selling BoEs or selling carries (my mythic guild pays for all consumables by selling BoEs on the AH, so I just need to pay for my oils which costs nothing.
The wow wage
If you do most of your callings you will be able to cover the basic cost of consumables for raiding on a casual schedule. Now, most guilds will probably help cover some of this cost via the guild bank as well, so that will for the majority of players also leave some left over for frivolous or one-off expenses, such as mounts, transmog, BoEs, gear for an alt or boosts. It is not going to make you rich however. In fact raw gold farming in general is extremely sub par at generating gold, and any serious goldmaking effort has to be focused on getting gold from other players. Gold trickles slowly in everywhere and gets aggregated on the auction house and funneled into the hands of players who play the AH game, or to boosters through the various boost communities.
Goldmaking is an integral part of MMOs
Bellular hits on the point that goldmaking in WoW is in a very bad state in Shadowlands, bots keep gathering values low, and the AH is infested by players like me “Cancel-scanning TSM Gods” as he says in the video. Professions are in a very weird place in Shadowlands. Legendaries allow us to craft straight up BiS gear, but the cost to entry is incredibly high due to recipe ranks, so if you don’t have millions of gold already, you can’t even consider entering the market. All other crafting is so low value that it is almost economically meaningless (outside of crafter’s mark gear). So for many players it is either boost, or buy tokens that are the relevant ways to earn gold. With the existence of the token, anyone with a decent job will probably quickly realize that farming herbs for less than minimum wage is not exactly optimal usage of your time unless you really like farming herbs.
Inflation by bots
Bellular mentions inflation by bots, which I think happens, but inflation is primarily a basic feature of WoW. Going out into the world and just doing some callings or whatever you want to has to generate a gold surplus, as otherwise we would all go to zero eventually. This means we should expect on average the gold supply in WoW to increase over time, and cause inflation. Bots obviously accelerate it, but at it’s most basic it is unstoppable unless you want to make an unplayable game.
Is this on purpose?
Does Blizzard do this to drive sales for the WoW token? Blizzard stands to profit a lot from making it gold expensive to play WoW. This generates demand for buying tokens with real money. I’m sure legendaries made a lot of players on the grown up, but casual side of the spectrum to buy tokens to fund their one-off expense. With how legendaries are designed it does almost feel like they wanted it that way, it certainly benefits them.
Can professions be a core mechanic again?
I think the popularity of New World proves that a large number of MMO players enjoy professions as a core part of MMOs, sadly they are barely an afterthought in Shadowlands. I think bringing back more intertwined components, and more direct player benefits from engaging in the profession system would be great, even unlocking it so we can have all professions on one character. Then you can add cool bonuses and players can obtain all of them. It would even provide an avenue for player power progression not tied completely to group content. Hopefully the recent job posting for professions/rewards designers is a sign that Blizzard wants to make this a more interesting part of the game again, in stead of just a tool for rich players to become mega-rich, and that everyone else just ignores completely.