Greedy Goblin

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Stupid regulation

There are regulations to stop unwanted activities like stealing. And there are regulations to stop unwanted people. Too bad that the latter never work. As for many fields of life, WoW provided a perfect example again.

There is a rule that stops you from transferring more than 20000G. Does it makes any sense? Does transferring my money is somehow wrong?

Of course not. The rule was made to harm goldsellers, not gold-transfer itself. It would be so easy to get rid of goldsellers: ban 100K goldbuyers from the game and no one will ever buys gold again. Since they mass-banned AV botters, the cave-defending activity decreased to it's small fraction. However Blizzard does not want to lose 100K subscribers. At the case of botters, they had no choice. The botters made AV unplayable, risking losing all players who wanted to play it.

So instead of banning the buyers, destroying demand, Blizzard implemented several "features" to make the life of goldsellers harder. The "report spam" function forces them to run more lvl1 orcs from Valley of trials to Orgrimmar. The gold-transfer limit stops them from farming gold on high-price servers and transfer them to low-price servers.

What's wrong with it? At first let's see standard goldseller activity: the goldseller farms grindable items with bots or lowly payed overseas farmers. They try to be out of sight to avoid being reported. For example on my old server someone farms Azure whelpling. (I cannot be sure if he is a goldseller, he can also be a simple idiot who have nothing else to do than grind zillions of Azshara dragonkin.)

The farmer sells his items on the AH, then sell the gathered gold for real money.

Notice that the farmer harms his own business. By creating more items, he generate supply for items, therefore decreasing prices. So the farmer gets less and less gold for equal amount of farming.

Theoretically farming on high-price servers and transfering the gold to low-price servers would increase profit, and that's why Blizzard banned it. What's wrong with that:

People are more likely to buy gold on low-price servers as grinding is less profitable there (and they are too dumb to use better money-making actions). On high-price servers people can make money easily so they don't buy gold. So goldsellers are forced to operate on low-price servers.

As high-price servers are abandoned by farmers, the item supply decrease, so prices go higher.
By farming more on low-price servers, item supply increase so prices go lower.

If people (non-farmers) decide to transfer from a high-price to a low-price server (as I do now), they are forced to buy stuff on the high-price server (driving prices higher) and sell them on the low-price server (driving prices lower).

If someone transfers the opposite way, the rule has no effect as the smart player would buy items for all his money and transfer with 0 gold for maximum profit anyway. For example someone could double his money easily by transferring from my new server to my old by buying ilvl213+ epics on the old server and sells them on the new one.

So the "20000G transfer limit" (plus allowing the goldfarmers to exist) increases prices on high-price server and decreases prices on low-price servers. Great job Blizzard!

Moral of the story: regulations must always ban a bad activity. Never support a rule just because it might harm bad people! It will harm others too. Support a rule instead that harm the activity that makes the bad people bad!

In the case of WoW goldselling: ban 100K goldbuyers and cancel the gold-transfer limit.


Charlie said...

Sounds like you could have done this xfer better, but time has been a problem. I'd bet that given several weeks/months you could transfer and liquidate to around 300k gold. I mean... Spaulders of Egotism...? I'm having this problem too.

I have 43k gold on Warsong US Alliance and need to transfer to Blackrock US Alliance, I will send you an email and maybe you could help me out a little. The big thing is it's a lvl 1, so i will lvl him to 10 but he can only transfer with 300g, so it'll have to be 99.5% items. Any suggestions? I'm moving from a low pop to a high pop sadly. Though there is some goblins on that server... how much do you expect me to gain from this/.

Anonymous said...

Can't help but notice this only becomes an issue when you want to change servers Gev... is it possible Blizz wants to preserve individual server economiesas much as is possible by banning the mass transfer of funds from more established or high liquidity servers? In this case the 20k cap serves as a protectionary tarrif type measure to reduce impact of high net worth character swapping and floodig an economy with gold. The wow equivalent of printing more money in real world economies perhaps.

Gevlon said...

@Anonymous: if they want to defend the economy, they should ban the transfer of non-soulbound items too. Now I can pour everything to the new server, pushing the prices down.

Anonymous said...

Agreed Gev.... But how to police that without discriminating which soulboumd items where purchased specifically for transfer and which were for crafting or had been collected with no intention of profitting? Perhaps all items transferred with the character become soulbound? Etrenals, leather etc?

Daniel said...

Grevlon - you are mistaken when you say your money. Sadly this isn't true. According to the terms of service they belong to Blizzard.(ope someone tests this in court in civilized country not in US someday.

Now - the 20K allowed to transfer is high enough - the people that push the boundaries like you are minority. Most people have 10-15k at most and the moment they get more - yet another stupid mount is bought.

Lets see - you manage to transfer 12K gold per slot with mechanohogs. That requires the only thing that farmers don't have and don't use - brains. Yes it requires a few days, but at the end its ok. Farmers can't do it.

Okrane S. said...

This rule also prevents people "buying" gold from blizzard itself.

Look at the following scheme:

- Person on low price realm buys tons of mats from the AH.
- Transfers level 15 toon loaded with all of them on high price realm
- Sells everything shamelessly undercutting everyone by a large margin.
- Creates another level 15 toon to which he gives all the gold (to avoid the 1 month cooldown on realm transfers)
- Transfers this toon with all the gold in the old realm.

Instant profit for 20 euros

Geoffrey said...

It's harder than you think to ban people for buying gold, or selling for that matter. Botting, yes, but this is not a matter of catching someone red-handed running a bot.

Blizzard cannot know what real world transactions are going on. They can never actually see that someone paid for gold. They can only see gold transfers. And gold sellers do make efforts to make it not appear so obvious that a single account is just a gold seller account, sending hundreds of thousands of gold out to random people. They split it up.

And if Blizzard just start hassling everyong who sends 5K gold to a friend, well, no one likes to play a game where they feel like big brother is watching.

Anyway, not saying it's not possible to catch gold sellers and buyers, but it's not as easy as you think to just ban 100K people and be accurate about it.

Nils said...

Blizzard would indeed lose many subscribers if they did what you ask and the effect of this regulation is minimal. It only affects very few people, who would never quit WoW. After all they obviously have a lot of fun making gold and thus playing the game.

Blizzard is behaving perfectly rational and selfish - something you should understand.

Gevlon said...

@lot of people: you are right on the meta-level. This is a game, its gold is irrelevant, subscribers are real.

If we consider game level, and accept the game as a simulator, the regulation harms the economy. The problem is that in real world there is no meta-level.

Dw-redux said...

On the other hand, only greedy goblins and goldsellers would even have an issue of wanting to transfer 200k+ gold between servers.
So saying it's a problem for WoW players, may be excaterating the issue, since it seems that its only a problem for a very limited clientel.
What should be possible however, would be for you to apply to have the gold transfered.
Just like real life.
Id love to see you whow up at the aitrport with £2mill. in cash and get on a plane. Maybe thats where the problem is. Its perhibited without any possibility of "special issues", like yours.

Joel said...

Consider how much simpler it is technically to implement at check for X amount of gold at transfer time than it would be to monitor how much gold a particular account is given in trade. How many hundreds of schemes could be devised to make the trade fly under the radar? How many thousands of false positives would you get? Similar to the way the IRS in the US is automatically notified about transfers of over $10,000, Blizzard would have to set up some "signature" that would indicate gold buying. It would be simple enough to hide from whatever triggers any checks that would be put into place just like you can just transfer your $10,000+ by breaking it into several transfers of less than $10,000 separated by a few days.

Grumpy Misanthrope said...

ban 100K goldbuyers from the game and no one will ever buys gold againNice sentiment, but it completely ignores human nature. It won't eliminate gold buyers. The people who buy gold are the same people who buy test answers are the same people who hire Merry Maid to clean their house are the same people who eat out every night. They are the people who will never challenge themselves, who will always seek the path of least resistance to everything.

Anonymous said...

"The people who buy gold are the same people who buy test answers are the same people who hire Merry Maid to clean their house are the same people who eat out every night. "

Wait, did you just compare CHEATING on tests at a University to hiring a maid service or eating out?

Quite a bit of difference there, don't ya think?

Indy said...

My understanding that these days, gold 'farmers' get their gold increasingly from hacking accounts instead of farming. The hacked accounts can also be used for spamming when they're stripped, too.

This did happen to a buddy of mine a few months back. All his items vendored, guild banks he had access to looted, and characters transferred to another server (where gold prices were much higher than his servers).

the1jeffy said...

@ Grumpy Misanthrope

No. Gold buyers are typically people who think that making gold takes too much time, compared to the real money they can make in the same time. If the dollar-to-gold exchange rate is about $10/1000g, most people in the US (that can afford WoW) make more in an hour than they could farming, or make on the AH. Now, Gevlon has shown that is not the case, but assume that most people that buy gold want zero grinding and zero effort to get the gold.

Also, you comparision to rl situations fails - gold buying and maid service are not related, and cheating on a test in rl has rl consequences. Buying gold can at most get your account suspended. And even that is few and far between, as proving it is difficult, and an easy defense is to say that your account got hacked.

You thnk that gold buyers are lazy cheaters. This is false. Lazy, maybe, as the effort is takes to make gold isn't that much. Stupid, maybe, as running a few business type move on the AH doesn't take much intellect. Cheaters? Not so much. Check the ToS - it only explicity bans gold sellers.

Anonymous said...

Question: is it possible to create say ten characters and transfer each of them with 20k, paying 10x transfer fee?

If so, why not incentivize you to do it for extra profit? After all you could pay the transfer fee ten times just by selling a fraction of that gold.

Of course it would be "illegal", but who cares about illegal when there is real money to be had?

Do you honestly think that Blizzard makes this rules for justice's sake or something along those lines?

Better question: would *you* make rules for justice's sake alone?

Anonymous said...

Whats the challenge of taking all that gold with you to a new server?

Just start over and see if you can do it faster/better.

Or is the challenge to start at the cap and see how much you can give away every week?

Any thoughts on how long it takes for the guild to implode from this largesse?

Fixee said...

Can I have a screenshot of trade channel after you, Gevlon, write /2 WTS [Mechano-Chopper]x37, 18.000g each, pst

Stupid Mage said...

I believe the idea is that he has made as much money as can be made on one character.

Now it's a matter of maintaining that on a new server while paying 5k every week to his guild.

The guild will probably not implode from this increase in fundage. Would your guild implode if somebody dropped 1k gold into the gbank every week?

Yaggle said...

I think a lot of the game as it stands today is influenced by gold-sellers and how to make them uncomfortable. I admire Blizzard's efforts to ban gold-seller accounts and stop spam, but a lot of the changes have made the game less fun. Wow has been compromised and so has my fun. It's not the same game it used to be, now it's more like "World of anti-gold-farming Craft".

ZacharyPruckowski said...

Gevlon: "if they want to defend the economy, they should ban the transfer of non-soulbound items too. Now I can pour everything to the new server, pushing the prices down"

It may be that they're more worried about inflation on high-price realms than deflation. Look at it this way:

You buy up stuff on lower-priced realms, using money from that realm. Your money hoarding* was deflating prices (you're taking stuff out of the money supply), and your binge purchases are countering that with a bit of inflation. When you switch to the higher price realm, you're causing deflation, which is something those prices probably need. If you came over with a pile of money and injected it, you'd cause inflation in an already high-priced market (which is bad).

Anyone switching from a high-price server to a low-price server will get rocked by the transition. That's the situation where Blizzard would want you to take money over instead of items, because you'd be causing needed inflation. In a perfect world, in those circumstances they'd let you bring more gold, but they don't make that differentiation (likely because it's too complex to work from a customer service PoV).

It's generally my belief that MMO designers (Blizzard in this instance) have economic targets. In this case, Blizzard wants prices high enough that money is valuable, but low enough that people aren't going to feel like they have to** buy gold or grind for 20 hours a week to keep up with their raiding costs or buy essentials (epic flight, gems, enchants). Blizzard is likely balancing their economy around the people Daniel mentions - people who have a rainy day fund, but otherwise have a high spend:save ratio.

If I were Blizzard, I would be more worried about inflation than deflation, because the cure for deflation is to grow the money supply, and they can solve that by adding a daily quest that gives 30g for little work, or upping the gold drops of monsters by 25%. Inflation requires reducing the money supply, which means creating gold sinks and/or lowering rewards. Obviously lowering rewards is gonna cause epic QQ, and gold sinks are hit-or-miss.

* - I don't mean to use such a negative term, but can't think of a more neutral one.

** - Not everyone has goblin-level economic sense. And if everyone did, then you'd have a harder time making money on the AH.