The Guild Wars 2 Black Lion Trading Company is an amazing feat in MMOs. Every time I play I am amazed at how intuitive and powerful it is. There is room for improvement for sure, with the biggest improvement simply being the ability not to get crushed by hundreds of thousands of players. Yet, this is possibly my favorite trading place in an MMO yet.
Magnitudes and Multitudes
I wish I could be John “The Merovingian” Smith for one day. The amount of data that hundreds of thousands of players are providing within the gem exchange and trading post has got to be wonderfully suffocating. Money is finally moving in Guild Wars 2 with the trading post being up more than not, and the ability to see all the streams has got to give Mr. Smith something of a god complex.
First, the trading post and gem exchange are there across all servers. There is no way that the velocity of money would be anywhere near where it is in a server-based economy. Yes, with so many players there will be more available ultra-rare minis or runes or dyes, but there will be just as much demand. There is more seller competition, but there is just as much more buyer competition. This improves market efficiency well over a single server-based economy.
A little bit ago someone on Reddit started to crack the Mystic Forge and found that Mystic Coins are very valuable for creating “end game” exotics through the Mystic Forge. The Mystic Coins went from 0.5 silver to about 3 silver in an instant. I am kicking myself too. I had wondered why the Mystic Coins were undervalued in the beginning. A couple dozen copper seemed way too low for something players can get once per day, but I didn’t pounce on the idea that it would eventually hit a better value. The market pounced as soon as the Mystic Coins were revalued. I am betting that this will not be the last opportunity to find undervalued goods.
Stroke of Genie
I’ve seen plenty of complaints about the gold sinks in game, mostly with regard to armor repair costs, waypoint travel costs, and the hefty 15% trading post cost. These gold sinks seem to be keeping the economy in pretty decent check so far. As a level 45, I can afford most things on the trading post once in a while even ultra-rare dyes and exotic minis. Still I have to be careful, since leveling is flat and I am not slowing down with my need for upgraded gear.
Where was I? Gold sinks, yes. The best gold sink in the game is the Mystic Forge with Zommoros, an ancient genie trapped inside. Take four things that are somewhat related, and gamble to get a better thing. Four exotic bows might results in a very rare exotic bow skin. Four random rare pieces of armor might result in a less useful piece of rare armor, or it could result in a piece of exotic armor. There are also specific recipes just starting to be found.
Why is this genius? Because people want to buy absolute crap from the trading post and throw it in the genie’s pot. There is a market for that healing sword of krait slaying beyond sword users… uhh fighting only krait. People want that puce huckleberry rare dye! Creating a market where there is none was just a fantastic move by ArenaNet. I think that the amount of items sacrificed to Zommoros is only going to increase as people settle in to Tyria.
The other night I decided to have a little (stupid) fun after selling my Midnight Fire dye for 1.5 gold. I decided to snipe for rare dyes and then sacrifice them to the Mystic Forge to magic four rare dyes in to one new rare dye, which can possibly go for 1+ gold. I basically lost 80 silver just messing around with the trading post rare dye market and the Mystic Forge. It was a gamble, but a fun one. Of course I would probably be a gold richer if I had also just walked away from the one-armed bandit. Still, where’s the fun in that.
The most surprising commodity market for me has been the gem exchange. The gem exchange is a player-based market where players buy and sell gems for in-game gold. Gems are bought for real money with the lowest entry point being $10 for 800 gems, or 1.25 cents per gem. The gem store then sells quality-of-life and exclusive items for gems. For instance a character slot costs 800 gems, adding another bag slot per character is 400 gems, a sack of three minipets is 300 gems, or a key to open everyone’s favorite Black Lion chests cost 125 gems.
ArenaNet started launch with a price of 30 silver per 100 gems. I looked at that and scoffed. 30 silver is something a low level player can easily achieve. I made nearly 30 silver in 15 minutes just playing the bag market in a beta weekend. Why would anybody spend $10 to get only 2.4 gold? Compared to the PLEX market over in EVE where $15 gets players millions, it just seemed off. I know there are already very rich players in Guild Wars 2 having dozens of gold. What are they doing?
And yet, even two weeks after launch when plenty of power gamers are at max level, the gem market exchange has not inflated. In fact I have seen it dip down to the teens, and then bounce up to around 40 silver. Yet 30 silver so far seems like a good gravitational point. Less supply or more in-game demand will drive up that exchange rate. The opposite of what I imagined is happening.
First, players are indeed buying gems to sell for gold. If players stopped adding freshly-minted gems into the gem exchange, the exchange price would increase because supply would diminish as gems are consumables. I would love to hear from people that have bought gems and turned them in to gold. It just doesn’t seem worthwhile to me. Second, it means that the demand for gems is not ultra-high. The gem store doesn’t have any absolute-must-haves-or-my-game-experience-is-destroyed. It has constant demand because there are some nice things in the gem store. Finally, going back to market efficiency since ArenaNet allows for the exchange of as small as one gem from in-game gold, the best market price is much more accurate than requiring some bulk exchange. I am so grateful that they designed it that way.
I have bought 1600 gems so far and exchanged about 1200 more. From that I’ve bought another character slot and a few packs of miniatures. I have a level 45 character, and I’ve exchanged 1200 gems (over $10 worth). I have consumed likely over $20 worth myself. This blows my mind. It seems that almost everything in the gem store is easily affordable (with a little work) from just playing the game. Another bag slot costs about 1.5 gold, a pack of miniatures costs about a gold, etc.
I still think that the gem market has to rise, but there are so many gold sinks in game that perhaps I am wrong. ArenaNet has carefully crafted the economy so that gold will have worth. A good month or two should give a better idea. I also think that if content ever gets added to the gem store, which has been hinted at, a must-have like that will shift the exchange rate north.
The Stone Table
So far I am very impressed with the economy in Guild Wars 2. It is clear that time has been taken to interweave a lot of big moving parts in something on the order of the Eternal Alchemy. I hope that John Smith gets more columns on the site. I would love to have a regular Freakonomics type discussion on the happenings of Guild Wars 2. Regardless, the bottom line is that the Black Lion Trading Company appears to be a success both for players and ArenaNet. It adds another great facet to Guild Wars 2.