Gaming the Economy

Someone suggested that I blog some of my gaming exploits here as well as my SF/F thoughts since, perhaps, there is some crossover between gamers and SF/F fans. I don’t know if this will be a regular thing or only pop up on the occasional patch day.

But to be clear, my passion for gaming is not in slaying damsels or rescuing dragons or… wait… anyway, it’s not any of those things. My passion in gaming is mostly economic. I want to make money.  Well, not real money, but virtual gold.

Now, I’ve been involved in role-playing games since I rolled up my first fighter in 1980. It was Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, first edition. I didn’t immediately launch into advanced finance, but I did spend a lot of time designing castles and figuring out how much they’d cost. My early forays into Traveler quickly devolved into my quest to build a vast and profitable trading empire, and when Ultima Online started up, my first thoughts were around setting up a blacksmithing business.

That’s not to say I’ve never played a character with depth beyond his pocket, because I have. There was Rolnib, the half-orc assassin whose lifelong quest was to rid himself of his orcish nature, purify himself from his evil ways, and take up the holy orders of a paladin. There was Argus, the wizard with the tragic backstory of spoiled love. And Siclari, the wise old elf who was truly a youngster with an invented past, desperately hiding his true name, Boweezle Appleprick. Also Terrin, the paladin who made a better bad cop than a good cop. And of course, Rhys, the illiterate ranger who could debate the nature of chaos for hours.

But the money… ah yes, the money. The siren call of the virtual economy was strong, and so it’s no surprise that after a couple of years of playing World of Warcraft, I started working that economy in earnest. Actually, the real surprise is that it took me that long, but I will say that the game itself was pretty engaging. So, I started with a blacksmith who also mined. Eventually, I added a tailor, an enchanter, a leatherworker, and so on. I now have one of every profession, but only five of the eleven are fully trained. And then there’s my banker.

Banker is not an official class in World of Warcraft, nor is it a profession. There are no skill or talent points to assign to it, but nonetheless, quite a few of us have characters that we consider to be bankers. My banker is a level-three elven rogue who never leaves the city, but I play that banker more than any other character. Even though I have characters at or near maximum level, this is the one I play the most.

She started off just as a character I left at the auction house in the city so that I could mail her excess loot to sell when I was out in the badlands, but as my main was grinding out the gold to get that epic mount, I decided to do a little speculating. I gave her 100 gold pieces, which at the time was a big chunk of money. The mount I was saving for was going to cost 500 gold, so putting 100 of that at risk was a big deal. Well, it’s been about five years, and I’m just now cruising past the 700,000 gold mark, so I’d say it was the right decision. Certainly there has been some inflation in that time, but not 7000 to 1 inflation.

But what am I doing to generate that gold? Some of it is classic buy-low/sell-high, but the majority of it comes from production aimed at meeting the needs of other players. Careful purchases to keep my costs low combined with doing what I can to raise prices keeps my profit margins reasonable without being obnoxious. Still, most of the products I create give me anywhere from 50% to 200% profit.

The products themselves are usually fairly simple, no rare or epic weapons for me. They’re just little odds and ends that many folks could make for themselves or for a friend, but in low volume it’s a hassle. But in massive volume, that profit adds up. Almost every item I sell is under 300 gold, with many in the 1-5gold range. I don’t think I’ve ever sold something for more than 1000g. It sounds like a lot to manage, and maybe it is, but I’m rarely dealing with more than 70 different items.

It’s crass to say it, but in terms of the World of Warcraft, I have become the 1%, with wealth and income far outstripping the average players. I didn’t do it to be elitist, and once I got that epic mount, I can’t really even say I was doing it for the gold. Seven hundred thousand is an insane amount of gold. There’s not really anything to spend that much money on.

But it’s a score, and I find that virtual economy as engaging a game as any fight against the Lich King. So I keep going. The maximum amount of gold a single character can have is one million gold, and that’s what I’m shooting for. And after that? Who knows? Maybe I’ll work on that second million, or maybe I’ll waste it all the WoW equivalent of hookers and blow.

Anyway, depending on how this goes, I might be documenting the life of this virtual banker here.