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At the beginning of July I began a project to examine the Auction House on Silver Hand. I started off doing it for fun, motivated by idle curiosity while waiting for the RDF to pop, but it wound up being quasi-academic in nature, but not up to the rigorous requirements of peer reviewed journals. Its still very much to my mind an on-going project but given the recent revelations about the nature of the AH in Diablo I thought it a good time to make it public and invite discussion.
I'm posting it here first since it obvious most directly concerns people on our server.
Here is the summary:
This paper explores patterns of income generation and asset accumulation among auction house power players in the video game World of Warcraft. During July 2011, a random sample of 2309 in-game characters from the realm Silver Hand was surveyed. Of this sample 95 characters (4%) had more than 250,000 total gold acquired and/or 200,000 gold acquired from the auction house alone. These 95 power players accounted for total gold acquired of more than 60 million gold of which 55 million was acquired via the auction house. They accounted for more than 1.7 million auctions posted and more than 670,000 auctions purchased. These power players in turn were dominated by an elite group of twelve characters each who had more than one million total gold acquired. These twelve elite power players accounted for 38% of total gold acquired and 39% of the asset accumulation among all power players. The auction house activity of these elite power players was characterized by above average volume (44,000 auctions posted on average) and below average gold earned per auction (42 gold on average). The average imputed age of these elite characters was 2.6 years.
Analysis demonstrates that in-game wealth generation is closely tied to auction house activity. No power player had less than 60% of their wealth earned from the auction house and the average amount of total gold acquired attributed to the auction house was 87%. The average among the elite power players was 97%.
Significant differences between the two in-game factions were found. 75% of the total gold acquired among all power players is attributable to the Alliance. Horde power players earn significantly less gold per day than their Alliance counterparts despite their gold earned per auction being similar. The lower rate of income generation among Horde power players is attributable to an overall lower volume of auction house postings as well as the fact that Horde players tend to horde their wealth more than Alliance players do. The only two characters in the sample with a assets greater than 900,000 gold are both Horde characters; these two characters alone account for 45% of the total Horde assets in the sample.
Wealth accumulation among all power players is negatively correlated with auction house activity, quite strongly among the twelve elite power players. This suggests either that elite power players above average volume is offset by slim profit margins or in the alternative that elite power players are regularly transferring their wealth to other characters or to a guild. Only one elite power player had an asset accumulation ratio above 50%.
This is a link to the Google Docs spreadsheet that has all the underlying data. I've stripped out all the names and other information that might identify specific characters.
The full paper...more me thinking aloud.
Some interesting data points, too bad you can't pull the data at the account level as opposed to the character level, those that sell on multiple characters, which will provide 2+ data points for 1 seller, as I sell leatherworking items on my Druid, sell enchants on my Mage(who doubles as the Guild AH banker), and sell my misc/bulk items on a banker alt.
Another item that slightly skews your input data is those that are selling high priced items for their guild/raid group - I know if you pulled data for this character you'd see a large amount of high gold items that have been sold in the past, probably in the 800k-1.25M mark, enough so that we bought all of our raiders the Phoenix Mount & Lion mount when we hit Glvl 25, fund all guild repairs(I'd hate to see what it is, we hit the 100k achievement on 03/15/2011), all raid flasks(including the flask achievements), all food during raids, and provide a Vial of the Sand mount for 1st time kills.
I agree. I mention that in the limitations section of my paper. Character wealth is not the same thing as player wealth.
Out of the twelve elite power players I was able to trace six of them back to a major in-game guilds. That's part of the problem, though, because even if you were to look at player wealth at the account level you don't know how much of that wealth was generated by that account alone, as opposed to being an intermediary for a guild.
One of the things that I've wondered about is at the high end of the market how much of Auction House activity is driven by raiding guilds, in effect, swapping purple BOEs with one another to even out the affects of loot RNG.
To me the most interesting aspect is the fact that 87% total gold acquired came from the Auction House. When I first started playing this game all those years ago the advice I got was to get to max level or go quest, or run dungeons. But the plain fact of the matter is that these activities generate very little gold, relatively speaking. Although it wasn't focus of the study I came across only two toons among the thousands I studied that had made more than 100K from questing. The highest vendor number I saw was slightly more than 50K. There was one person who had around 75K gold from looting.
I think it's an open question as to whether this almost exclusive focus on the AH for gold generation is good game design. In a recent thread a Blue poster expressed the opinion that if anything there is too much gold in the game and it's too easy to get.
My study suggests that maybe it's not the sheer amount of gold that's the problem but (a) the way that gold generation is almost exclusively driven by one source (b) how easily that source is manipulated by a few keys players.
Edited by Elnia on 8/4/2011 12:13 PM PDT
You're actually talking about gold acquisition, though, not gold generation. The auction house does not add gold into the economy, it moves it around between players. From a game design perspective, the important number is how much gold is being created into the economy whole-cloth by killing mobs/doing dailies etc.
While the total amount of gold does matter, so does the way in which gold is generated/acquired (I don't care which term one uses). If a player can earn the same amount of gold in one hour via the AH as opposed to 10 hours of questing that has a impact on the game in many ways. It impacts the number of people who are located in a capital city relative to the number of people who are questing. That in turn has impact on server loads and lag. If I can earn 5x the amount on an AH than I can as looting gold from a raid boss I might well choose to farm the AH as opposed to running a raid which has an impact on how many players there are in the realm raid PUG pool.
All the data I collected shows is that, in fact, gold is concentrated in the hands of a tiny minority of characters on Silver Hand. Whether or not that concentration of wealth makes a practical difference in relation to those game play issues is a different question which I personally don't have access to the data to answer. If I were a developer I certainly would consider it an issue for further research.
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