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Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Smoking Gun


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Any chance we'll see a few severely low population server AHs combined? Economy is ruined on many servers


Definitely want to fix the low pop economy problem. Not 100% sure yet that cross realm AH is the right solution.



Server economies, in certain sections of the Blogsphere, are big business.

There's been a lot of discussion about the consequences of Cross Realm AH's and you'll find as many supporters as detractors. With CRZ clearly here to stay, I find myself thinking that it can only be a matter of time before some kind of change takes place, but then I wonder why there is such a dependence on the system to begin with. The consequences of combination does have a fair amount of merit, but the reprogramming that might be required to make it stick... I have to believe that in terms of actual game code the AH's been around a very long time, and embedding what would be a fundamental change like that might break other things, hence at least part of the reticence. After all, we've been stuck with the 16 slot bag since Vanilla: if that standard eventually expands, then we might see a change.

Having done some research, I realise that my initial considerations are fairly naive. There are some pretty fundamental game mechanics at play here. It is no wonder Ghostcrawler's being non-committal.

There is one simple solution to the low population AH: the server merge. However, merging servers is a Smoking Gun, clear evidence that a game's dying, and I doubt as a result we'll see that happen for quite some time. After all, that's why we got CRZ: making zones look populated = things looks healthy even when there's six of you in Stormwind on a Monday night. A quick glance at The Undermine Journal should indicate to anyone that AH sales matter to an awful lot of people, quite apart from those who play this part of the game as their primary interest. So if we establish that a CRAH is not the answer, what alternatives are there?

The thing is, Mr Street has a really rather basic problem to address, that's pretty much completely out of his remit. You can't fix Economics.

My husband owns an Economics degree, and likes to remind me whenever people in trade complain about the price of things, that they can moan all they like. If they want to blame anyone for this, it shouldn't be Blizzard who takes their ire, it should be Adam Smith. Economics is not something you can nerf, or indeed ignore, especially when it has become as ingrained as it has in Blizzard's UI. Make the wrong changes to this kind of structure and there is the potential to destroy the game more thoroughly than any competitor could manage with a rival MMO title. Bearing that in mind, fixing the problem becomes pretty much impossible. Introduce a Real Money AH a la Diablo and it could have an even more disastrous effect across the entire game.

There is one final solution to this problem: do nothing. Eventually, if people are sufficiently frustrated by the state of their AH, they will pay money to play somewhere else. Servers will continue to depopulate or players will survive without the AH. Attrition doesn't take any programming changes, after all, and can be a more powerful incentive for people to server transfer. Plus, it has the added benefit of making money for Blizzard. However that state of affairs return us to the Smoking Gun: perhaps it is time for the PR machine to come to Ghostcrawler's rescue, to take the weapon and admit it's been fired.

With Blizzard being localised into an increasing number of different languages with dedicated servers, this could be the opportunity to pick the most low population areas to close. Tell the world that the game is constantly changing, and that player movement to localised servers has reduced populations in certain places to a level where a shutdown would be preferable. Offer everyone free transfers off to servers of their choice, and change the way the community thinks. Show them that what for the rest of the MMO industry continues be a Smoking Gun is just a natural consequence of game evolution on the scale Blizzard deals with.

Maybe Blizzard are working on a secret plan to beat Economics, and I'm not giving them as much credit as they will obviously be due when they announce it. Whatever the outcome, they'd better be really sure its the right solution, because the consequences in game if it isn't could be more disastrous than anything they've previously experienced...

3 comments:

Themcfluffy said...

great post! one advantage blizz have of real life economies is they have the ability to create unlimited resources and use them as they see fit without cost.

using a similar concept to the black market ah they could have npc sellers that step in when an ah meets certain trigger points and provide supply of mats/none rare stuff at an uncompetitive price until the players on that realm start filling the gap of their own accord themselves.

Similar methods have been attempted in real life with crumbling economies with governments selling foodstuffs at a fixed rate in an atempt to stop hyper inflation, i dont think its ever worked in real life but thats because unlike blizz the governments in question have had to find supply themselves, meaning the solution has the same problem that the solutions supposed to solve.

disclaimer - pre coffee post!

d9f23364-36cc-11e2-ab26-000bcdcb471e said...

Well, I think your wrong on two fronts:

1) A RMAH would not kill the game. It wouldn't solve the problem you're stating, but it wouldn't kill the game. Using real money to buy gold and items has been done in other games and it rarely causes the apocalypse.

2) Doing nothing is not the best solution but the worst. You say:

"Eventually, if people are sufficiently frustrated by the state of their AH, they will pay money to play somewhere else. Servers will continue to depopulate or players will survive without the AH. Attrition doesn't take any programming changes, after all, and can be a more powerful incentive for people to server transfer. "

Yes they will pay their money, but NOT to Blizzard. Why would they give that money to Blizzard as opposed to just buying a new game? Especially if I have multiple alts, which is one thing that Cata and MoP has encouraged heavily. I'm more than likely to try a new game, maybe GW2, maybe TSW, or something else. I'm not likely to give my money to Blizz, because if I'm pissed enough to transfer, I'm not happy with the game, and why would I throw good money after bad?

There are two solutions, Server merge, or AH merge. I suspect the final solution will be AH merge.

One last point, an Economics degree is near useless in a game, for the simple fact: Any person can just walk away and not participate. I never have to buy anything, it is completely voluntary. Unlike RL, where I have to participate, or die.

Anonymous said...

"Yes they will pay their money, but NOT to Blizzard."

Wrong. The sheer amount of money Blizzard has made from paid transfers disproves this statement.

"One last point, an Economics degree is near useless in a game, for the simple fact: Any person can just walk away and not participate."

What? This just demonstrates how little you actually know about economics.

An AH merge will ravage the in-game economy. Server merges, while painful, are really the only appropriate solution, if they even think a change is necessary.