Greedy Goblin

Monday, December 7, 2009

Can you push anyone out of the market?

This is a common debate over goldmaking sites: how to push out the competition to have all the sweets to myself.

There is an obvious answer: by having better methods to generate more items in the same time, or by valuing your time less to generate more items in a day you can increase the supply of the items on the server, driving prices down, making others leave. Example:

Jhonny farms Titanium to sell a bar for 30G and by doing so support his Bike fund. Evy finds a cave where 3 titanium nodes respawn once in an hour, places her miner rogue to the cave, logs there every now and then, steath to the nodes, mine them, vanish, goes to safe spot, logs off. Frank lives in his parent's basement and farms titanium 10 hours a day so he can buy Merlin Robe because this upgrade (from a 232) will definitely cover the difference between his current 1500 and his aimed 7000 DPS. Both Evy and Frank generate extra titanium, increasing the supply, driving the prices down to 20G. Since Frank is desperate and places 0 value on his time, while Evy is smart and one mining round costs here only 2 mins, they will keep selling for that. On the other hand Jhonny will come to the conclusion that the Bike does not worth the hassle and leaves the market, decreasing the supply, increasing the price to 22.


This is just basic economy. The businessman who can find lower production costs by using better technology or cheaper labor can defeat his competitors. However this is not the point of the debates. The point is finding some "magical" method that will make the competitors leave and give me high prices on the long run. The creators and followers of these magical methods are ready to suffer temporary losses for the great outcome.

This post is not another such magic method. This post explains why no such method can exist. First thing first: such methods exist in real life, the most typical is the dumping pricing. It's simple: selling at loss, forcing the competition to sell at loss too, knowing that I have more money to cover the losses. If I can hold out long enough, the competition goes bankrupt and leaves the market to me. Without competition I can raise the prices higher than it was before the dumping, taking extra profit for a long time. Because this trick is eventually bad for the customers, most countries outlawed it, though it's hard to catch, since "being at loss" can be hidden in the books and the dumper can claim that he merely found a more optimal production line. There are two reasons why such methods can not exist in WoW:

At first in real life all industries have fixed costs to pay, even when no production is done. If I have a car factory, and I'm not selling or crafting a single car, I still have workers, taxes, property maintenance, property guarding to pay. If I stop paying them, my workers will leave, the government revoke my tax number and my property will decay. When I choose to restart my factory, I'll have no workers (my old ones already found another job or became drunken welfare leeches), I'll have to repay the taxes so I'm allowed to operate, and I'll have to pay a huge sum to turn that pillaged rust-heap into a factory again. On the other hand a WoW industry has no fixed costs. If I stop crafting glyphs, my character will not ask for salary, nor he'll forget the recipes, the inks and the unsold glyphs won't rot, and I'll keep my exalted discount on parchments in TB. If I stop crafting, I won't make profit of course, but I'll have no costs. In WoW nothing forces me to compete a dumper. I can just wait until he gets bored or runs out of gold. Granted, I'll miss my profit, but I won't have losses (behind the opportunity cost of not having another profession, but if I have an alt, even that disappears)

Secondly, in real life the industries have entry costs. If some monopolist managed to drive out all competitors and raised the price to sky high, I can't just start competing him. I'll have to start a company (legal costs), build a factory (that's lot of money) and recruit workers (good luck when 90% of the unemployed are fired for low performance or alcoholism). I can spend millions of dollars before selling anything. On the other hand in WoW anyone can enter. If someone has a lvl71 character, he can be a maxed-out scribe for lousy 3000G and he can sell glyphs.

In the real world the dumping works because the idle costs damage everyone and those who don't have reserves to survive will bankrupt and the high entry costs prevents them or anyone else to return/start after I elevated the prices back. In WoW there is neither. So you can't use magic tricks to remove competition. You can defeat it only by the standard way: by constantly having a more effective production line or cheaper labor.

This also means that if we prove that a WoW market strategy is at loss, even for a temporary period of time, we have proven that it's a wrong strategy.

Note that my deep undercutting strategy is not such: I never claimed to sell below material cost + work fee. I undercut to near this but never below it. I simply spend less time crafting than them since I craft once with prepared, multitasked other activities (typically cleaning the flat or writing blog) and I post once in 48 hours. Camping takes more time for the same low income. They leave not because they are forced but because they don't want to work for so low. If they are ready to accept this low gold/hour, they can stay and I can't do anything about it. However they can't damage me either, since my work time (time is the only cost in an MMO) is near zero if I don't sell. True, after a competitor's departure the prices will elevate a bit, and it provides the remaining ones better profit, but it's capped at the price when one of the left competitors or a new one would come back/in.

30 comments:

Liu said...

Excellent post as always.

Off-topic, but as you're looking for low lv instance challenges, I'd be interested to see how far through the BC Heroics you could get on your raiding-level Druid. I recently completed a tour of BC Regs on my Mage, and I feel pretty sure that I couldn't make it through the heroics - mages just aren't survivable enough. But it seems like your kind of challenge...

Mexicangoblin said...

It all ends up in how stubborn you and your competition are, I've been kicking and biting for the bags and glyphs markets for about 5 months now in my server (uther.) No one is giving up and prices are rockbottom now, specially on glyphs, so profit is very low (i'm doing around 3-5k a week) specially because some of my competition are very stubborn AH campers. But hey I'm stubborn too...

Kevan Smith said...

Deleted my first comment, because I realized Gevlon is 100% correct.

Ablimoth said...

@MexicanGoblin: That actually sounds more stupid than stubborn. Your profit is "Very Low" (your term, no judgement is made) indicating that you consider, for your time, that you could make more than that. The fact you are not, makes you stupid.

Option 1: Keep doing the same work for "very low" profit.

Option 2: Ditch the market, find another where you make more profit or the same profit for less work.

Option 1 is inferior to Option 2 in every way, indicating that you are either stupid or happy with the profit and work... You say "very low" as if you are not happy... What assumption is left to us?

The final option: You enjoy the work and thus do not want to leave the market as you get more than just the profit from it. This is an irrational call (although I do not subscribe to the theory that people are rational. I base my IRL income off the fact they are not) and qualitative, thus unmeasurable (at the level of this blog). But do not expect people to respect your opinion just because you choose option 3.

Nurbek said...

Getting 3-5k in a week is good on my server. So far there are 4 AH campers that i counted on US-Malganis. Once i post glyphs i instantly get udercutted. My plan, is to make 6 of each glyph and post 2 at a time in 4 hour intervals for 12 hours. Simply log on, batch post and log out. Collect mail. Tell me what you think about my plan or what i should improve.

Not a goblin but a gnome said...

It's hard to find what to sell with uncovered AND big demand todays, actually, hence the competition with "kicking and biting". Anything that is not consumables (=chemistry, enchancements, lowcost/upgradeable bags, ammo and materials for everything above) just won't get into the industry and won't make steady constant income to rely on.

Anonymous said...

And not just the arguments you presented, but also, there is no "real" bankruptcy in WoW... When a player loses all her gold, they are not shut out of the trading circles... they can get the gold from a guildie or just buy 20k from a web site. So without a real "threat" of ultimate demise, the strategy cannot work in a market like WoW.

WoW economy has no real risks to be taken.

wickEd

Carra said...

1. "If I stop crafting, I won't make profit of course, but I'll have no costs."

As you mentioned your cars will just stand there and decrease in value. If you stop playing WoW for half a year and return to the game the value of your bank will have lowered. If an item was worth 30g back then it's now maybe worth 20g.

2. "On the other hand in WoW anyone can enter. If someone has a lvl71 character, he can be a maxed-out scribe for lousy 3000G and he can sell glyphs."

That's a contradiction. To start a company you need starting funds. To start selling glyphs you need... starting funds. Not everyone is willing to invest now to make money or gold later. Both also need knowledge. To create glyphs with a decent profit you need to have about ten addons. Again, not everyone will be smart enough or willing to put in the time to do this.

Gevlon said...

@Carra: the item may get obsolate, but not decayed. It's one thing that people won't buy it anymore for that price. It's another if they don't buy it at all.

The 3000G entry cost can be gathered from dailies and grinding in a week. I doubt if one week's salary will give you enough money to start a factory.

Chelm said...

Additionally, prices can also RISE over time (particularly through expansions)... look at Primal Airs now.

Anonymous said...

The real entry cost for the glyph market is not the 3000g; it's the months spent on daily Northrend/Minor researching.

Backthief said...

+1 for Carra

Willowbear said...

I agree. There is no way to control the market from a physical (decay) and economic (risk of bankruptcy) standpoint in WoW. But I have found the psychological aspect to be effective. By competing so aggressively against newcomers to the market you can make it seem like it's not worth their while and they leave the market. I've done this successfully in the buff-food market. The other factor that comes in to play is that the buff-food market does not produce huge amounts of gold. But on a percentage basis my margins are much better than jewelcrafting.

At one point I might have stepped aside and let the low-balling new competition sell out at their prices. But that blog post about that guy who let Gevlon take the flask market for a few weeks made me realize that it is too damaging to step aside (not post to the AH).

It is a bread-n-butter business so to speak that gives me steady income for little time. I spend zero time farming the ingredients including the northern spice. And I have a chef's hat so I can just start making batches of food and go do something else.

This is a very easy market to get into, but I can control it to a degree that allows me to make more gold than doing dailies.

What makes it possible for me to survive competition is to buy up supplies when they glut the AH and store them. The non-parishability of items in WoW is really a two-edged sword. It may make it easy to start-up again, but it also allows me to stock-up and fight competition.

Ben Kennedy said...

"I simply spend less time crafting than them since I craft once with prepared, multitasked other activities (typically cleaning the flat or writing blog) and I post once in 48 hours. Camping takes more time for the same low income. They leave not because they are forced but because they don't want to work for so low. If they are ready to accept this low gold/hour, they can stay and I can't do anything about it. However they can't damage me either, since my work time (time is the only cost in an MMO) is near zero if I don't sell."

Gevlon you keep saying this but it's just not true. I don't think you truly understand what the AH camper does. It's not about measuring your time vs the camper's time, or your income versus the camper's income. It's about measuring the camper's time and income is against what it would have been absent your competition.

Against your strategy, a smart AH camper will log in for a few minutes, quickly find the glyphs that have sold out or have high profit, craft only those, and sell them for high profit. The entire point of camping is to post high, so why craft to post low? Because the smart AH camper does not bother crafting glpyhs at rock-bottom prices, the gold/hour of the AH camper is not lowered, as time spent canceling/reposting scales linearly with the number of glpyhs posted. The only thing that changes is the absolute amount of gold gained.

Furthermore, when a goblin's auctions expire or get bought out, it is often the case that there were no other auctions at a higher price - so in reality, the gold/hour of the AH camper actually goes up a bit.

The only real way to chase the AH camper is to completely saturate the market, which over a 48 hour period would require crafting 15+ glpyhs (for the 1/3 of glyphs that a popular). Then a AH camper logs on, sees the highest price for any glyph is 5g, and logs off. The problem is it's a ton of work to maintain this level of saturation and if you fail to cover even a few glyphs, the campers will craft and sell them for their high gold/hour profit. And, of course, nothing stops them from checking in 48 hours later.

Graylo said...

We had someone try to dump the glyph market twice recently. The first time he started selling every glyph in existance for 1g49s99c. When some people started to undercut that price he dropped it to 99s99c, and did that for about a week. Once he let the prices float again, everyone flooded back into the market. The prices were high for a couple of days but were back to normal very quickly.

When it didn't work the first time, he tried again. This time selling everything at 1g79s99c for about a week, and then selling everyting for 1g9s99c for about 3 weeks.

Once he allowed everthing to float again all the usual players came back into the market. It may have taken them a day to notice. but the3 market went back to normal very quickly.

This exercise confirmed something I long believed and that Gavlon saying here. You can't push out the big players in a market. Once their business is set up, they can enter and exit a market at will. You can get rid of the new players and the temporary players, but not the people who have figured it out.

@Carra

1. Sure, that item that was worth 30g may be worth 20g now, but it could also beworth 40g due to lack of competetion. Netherweave bags are a great example of this.

2. What is your arguement here?

That a level 71 toon can't get 3000g? That isn't true and has been disproved by several people.

That there arn't people willing to invest the time and gold now to make gold later? The very existance of this blog and most of its readers disproves this possibility.

Or that there there aren't people smart enough to find the helpful addons and figure out how to make them work? Again the existance of this blog and its readers disproves this possiblity.

There is nothing contradictiory about Gevlon's post. You can make some one go dormant, but you can't force them out of the market permanently.

Tego said...

@Kennedy

for one, looking at the blog's past post, that is the strategy. and 2 it's kinda impossible to argue against the amount of g/hour the 2 techniques make, camping just isn't worth the gold, Sure it gets you to cap faster, but having a real job, camping simply doesn't work. better to be the goblin and make "enough" gold to satisfy my needs, then camp

Also your point about missing a glyph only works if there aren't 5 other campers trying to profit from that one glyph too.

Finally There is the problem with the end game, if you have a goblin who has gutted the market to the point where it isnt profitable to you (g/hour) but it is still for him you are left with unsold glyphs, unsold raw ingredients, that if you sell will only depress the market more, and no source of income from the market.

The beauty of the goblin way isn't that it can be the way to max g/h (in the absence of competition it isn't) but that it is almost fool proof for making good g/h and still giving you time to have a life.

Karl said...

No, you can't force someone out of the market.

My niche is arrows. There are about 6 others selling on the AH in any given day, 2 of which post in bulk besides me. Usually the price is ~5G/stack. Last night I checked, and there were 40+ stacks at 2.5G each. So I simply listed the inventory I had in my bags at the usual price, and won't craft any more until the undercutter is gone. No reason to try to undrcut, as the mats are better spent on other things at that price point. I'll wait.

(Incidentally, I am not playing the scam game with the arrows or bullets. I'm dismayed at the lack of morals here that encourage people to trick people into paying more for an item due to a game glitch. You are scamming people, and you know it.)

The glyph market on my server is dead enough, that I've completely given up on that. Spending 30 minutes emptying the mailbox of unsold glyphs is just annoying. I'd be thrilled to get the 3-5k that mexican gets, I'm lucky to get 300G a week with inscription.

Gelvon: Here's an article idea.. Do a post on what the "ideal" server/market conditions are for getting into the glyph business.

Kraklin said...

In my opinion the best strategy to "force out the competition" is to cut their profits and see how low they are willing to work for.

Before doing this you must have your own set limits on profit and what your time is worth.

If you leave an inscription market open and prices are between 25-50g.. you will get a lot of competitors undercutting by 1 copper each.. lots of AH farming.

You could stay logged on AH farming at peak time and get like 4,000g/hour by maintaining the lowest price and getting 30g sales.

But to force out competition..you come into the market and set the prices to just enough that you get 1g 50s per glyph profit dependent on herb costs, snowfall market and how well darkmoon cards/runescrolls/off-hands sell (3g for 1 ink glyphs on my server)

Now that you've "capped" the competitors potential profits, lowering their profit per glyph from 20g each to 1g 50s each, many may be too frustrated keeping up stock and wasting time constantly checking up on the AH.. all you had to do is put up that 3g wall and if they undercut you fine.. but what you are doing is trying to weed out any crafters who will get fed up and look for more valuable uses of their time.

You will still maintain your minimum gold/hr "rate" that you set yourself, since 1g profit per glyph = 5 seconds to craft a glyph (including milling/ink creation/glyph creation) 30s per second profit = 1,080g/hour.

And if you have an herb farmer (lowering costs) and efficient in your usage of QA2, proper mail addons.. you are more efficient and faster than your competitors and their gold/hr will be even lower.

Sven said...

I'd agree with Graylo and Gevlon here. The cost of initial entry into the glyph business may be high, but the cost of re-entry once you've left is close to zero. You can't drive me out permanently unless you take a loss (including cost of time) forever.

Ben Kennedy said...

"for one, looking at the blog's past post, that is the strategy. and 2 it's kinda impossible to argue against the amount of g/hour the 2 techniques make, camping just isn't worth the gold, Sure it gets you to cap faster, but having a real job, camping simply doesn't work. better to be the goblin and make "enough" gold to satisfy my needs, then camp"

Don't confuse camping with light undercutting, they are different beasts. The purpose of camping is to sell your glyphs before the competition can post more, to be at the head of the line. The purpose of light undercutting is to maximize profit per post. The goal of deep undercutting is to discourage competition.

Ask yourself this - suppose you had time and mats to craft exactly 100 glyphs, and post them all for 48 hours - what you do to maximize profit? Suppose you said "post them all at 7g". Fast forward 2 days, then look back. Who here thinks that given the same AH competition, you would not have made more gold by posting at 7g25s? 25s does not make or break a glpyh sale, so by posting at 7g you left gold on the table. So why did you pick 7g in the first place?

Either you got undercut or overproduced and sold nothing, or you didn't get undercut and some payed your asking price. Therefore, your profit maximization strategy is to price what people are willing to pay, not an artificially low number. Whatever that number is, it's a lot higher than 7g. So when you post, you should try to get first in line, but don't slash your price for no reason!


Also your point about missing a glyph only works if there aren't 5 other campers trying to profit from that one glyph too.


Of course, my only point is that a deep undercutter does not impact your gold/hour from what it would have been otherwise, where "otherwise" includes the 4 other campers


Finally There is the problem with the end game, if you have a goblin who has gutted the market to the point where it isnt profitable to you (g/hour) but it is still for him you are left with unsold glyphs, unsold raw ingredients, that if you sell will only depress the market more, and no source of income from the market.


First, a smart undercutter only maintains a reasonable ink surplus - no stores of zillions of glpyhs. Second, no goblin will completely suppress the market without spending enormous amounts of time crafting large quantities of every glyph, so in practice they don't actually do this. The smart undercutter will poke around the edges and just wait for the goblin's auctions to expire, as well as continue to sell glyphs to people who don't know how to sort by price.


The beauty of the goblin way isn't that it can be the way to max g/h (in the absence of competition it isn't) but that it is almost fool proof for making good g/h and still giving you time to have a life.


I would submit that if your goal is profit (not driving out competition) and your time is limited, you should craft 10 of each of the top 30 glyphs (those that regularly sell out on server), and post them for a fixed price regardless of market conditions. This has the advantage of ignoring anomalies like the only "Glyph of Horn of Winter" being posted at 5g. That thing is going to be gone in the next 60 minutes, so posting at 4g99s is a dumb idea.

sid67 said...

I pushed people out of the market all the time while I was playing WoW.

The trick is to focus on making the supply for your competition cost prohibitive. Not to focus on underselling.

For example, in Jewelcrafting market, driving up the prices of Saronite Ore and Eternal Earth will do as much for your control of the JC/Enchanting market as undercutting your competition.

And as you wrote, if you misjudge and end up with too much inventory -- you can wait it out.

Or my preference, you can aggressively flood the market and buy up the super low prices when people undercut you.

Nielas said...

The lack of overhead and other fixed costs means that you are not really 'forcing out' people but rather 'boring out' people. If people are not making profit competing with you then they will get bored of the exercise and go do other things.

The problem with this is that they are just as likely to get interested in that market again after a while and come back to see if it got profitable again.

I was never a serious AH seller but even I from time to time check out the prices on some of the products I used to sell. If I see the price rice enough I might reenter the market just to see how it goes.

Yafube said...

All of the above is true for market with low to non-existent posting fee on the item (enchanting mats, enchanting scrolls, glyphs...).

It does not hold true for market where posting in large quantites become a cash flow issue.

I have tried getting into the rare gem market. On my server one guy is on 24/7 to the point that it is worthless for me to post rare gems... whatever the price he will always undercut me with 2 other gems. If I post on 48 hrs cycle, I'm always facing the risk too lose the posting fee which is not low enough to be ignored.

Gold NoScripts said...

The only way to drive out competition is to get prices so low, for so long that it isn't worth your competitions real life time to keep trying to make fake gold. Keep in mind the competition will sit idle, waiting for market prices to go back up.

You've ousted the goblin, and now you are ready to raise prices and reap the rewards...no, because as soon as you raise prices the goblin just comes back. If not THE goblin, then some other goblin who was just as happy to see the other guy leave as you were....perhaps he was waiting when the other goblin took him out.

I don't even bother trying to drive people out. It's stupid, and pointless and more of a reflection of EGO, then intellegence. At the end of the day if I've earned 1k or more I'm happy. I'm very diversified in what I sell, and 1k per day isn't hard at all.

Anonymous said...

The only way to drive out competition is to get prices so low, for so long that it isn't worth your competitions real life time to keep trying to make fake gold. Keep in mind the competition will sit idle, waiting for market prices to go back up.

You've ousted the goblin, and now you are ready to raise prices and reap the rewards...no, because as soon as you raise prices the goblin just comes back. If not THE goblin, then some other goblin who was just as happy to see the other guy leave as you were....perhaps he was waiting when the other goblin took him out.

I don't even bother trying to drive people out. It's stupid, and pointless and more of a reflection of EGO, then intellegence. At the end of the day if I've earned 1k or more I'm happy. I'm very diversified in what I sell, and 1k per day isn't hard at all.




I'm sure that can back fire as well. If new competition comes in and posts at those prices and thinks thats the standard, then you've permanently messed up your market too.

Tree said...

In response to Karl's post, one factor which will impact on the profitability of a server's glyph market will be the health of it's hardcore or serious-casual raiding guilds.

All servers have a good stock of people trying out glyphs whilst levelling or mucking around at 80. However it's usually only the high-end raiders that treat glyphs like flasks, changing them as neccesary between bosses.

Of course this is only one factor, but one of some significance.

Gobbie said...

@ Yafube : im not online all the time ..


@ all: Arguing Gevlons post of the day proves ur'e a M&S.
You cant drive someone out of a market in wow.

I started my little gem buisness with selling some cut rare gems a couple weeks ago. And now, with a healthy gold balance and free flow of uncut epics because of honor farmers, im unstoppable. Noone can drive me out. If prices gets too low , i swich to my DE buisness and wait for better days.

Anonymous said...

I agree that you can't push out established players that have had a taste of the gold earning potential of their respective market.

The practice of attempting to monopolize the market by setting very low pricing is not only self destructive, but it also devalues the profession on a whole. Sure this type of market may prevent new players from entering because it is not cost effective in terms of profit or work, but the established persons will not abandon the market.

If I were to post every single glyph know at 3 gold per set what does that accomplish and what are the repercussions for the profession in the long run? The morons of the week are truly the guys sending their email to Gevlon in hopes of embarrassing their competition. These are nothing more than little kids playing King of the Hill - a game that nobody can win because eventually you will have to come down off of your little hill and try to coexist with the rest of us. Isolation techniques are for Psychotics that think they can everything to themselves.

These are not Goblins, they are Morons who's only competition are the ones looking back at them in the mirror.

Show me one person who has ever Gold Capped by bottoming out a market. Your losses of potential gains by doing this is absurd.

Willowbear said...

I'm more than happy to see someone try to take a market. If they are selling items at, below or a smidge above costs then I'll happily buy up the cheap items and hold them until the pricing runs its course. I've seen this time and time again in all markets and profited every time from it. This is where having deep pockets certainly helps.

Gibbiex said...

For some WoW professions there *is* a strong barrier to entry at least a the high end. For example, I wouldn't level JC right now because I would have only a few patterns, since you can collect at most 1 epic pattern every 4 days. For another, same thing goes for inscription. There are simply months of daily cooldowns you have to burn to get every single glyph known. Alchemy has a similiar mechanic. LW and BS and tailoring has the ilvl 226/245 patterns you have to buy or be in the right guild for, if you want to sell those that is.

I'd say the barrier to entry is highest in JC and pretty high in inscription. Conversely with inscription its hard to make money with the low level glyphs but really its a very easy profession to level to 450 (I did it in about 5-6 hours with a friend making me ink of the sea).

The other major barrier is getting enough supply. This is true mostly for alchemy and inscription I think. Right now I am making very good money on one server (A) and very terrible money on another server (B) with inscription. The difference is just the population. On server A I can't find enough herbs to supply glyphs, and on the other (B) herbs are overflowing (this is the one I can't make money on). If i had a huge supply of herbs on A I imagine I could make alot of money with not as much work, since I could post every 48 hours. As it is I dont even have enough stocks to keep for 48 hours, I have to constantly buy every 6 hours or so. The major reason I dont dominate this server is due to supply.