I hope you're making gold hand over fist, I know I am. What am I doing? Well I'll tell you sometime later.
Reading today's notes for 2015 from Blizzard was boring, up until I got to the part about being able to trade those with soon to be implemented gametime tokens for gold. Then I started reading official forums about this topic, and I found example after example of idiocy.
"Didn't you learn from RMAH!?"
"Pay to win!"
"Game's going free to play!"
"I'm a poor player, this is unfair!"
Outside of the people that are poor (and probably playing from their crappy run-down apartments, basements, or burned out double-wides) the others are morons.
In case you have NEVER heard of this system before, this is very much like Plex in Eve. Never played Eve and WoW is your first video game? Ok, it's simple.
Eve has a subscription system not unlike other MMOs, and hey you're playing one right now if you play WoW. Long time players (Player A) are pretty well off in that game, and they have so much currency that they have nothing to really spend it on. So they get to keep playing by trading their ISK (awarding Plex, thanks StupidGameTweet for factchecking) off to broke players (Player B) in exchange for gametime. That gametime is paid from someone because CCP (Big Evil Corporate Capitalists) isn't about to take a loss, and all parties are happy.
Player A is happy because they get to keep playing.
Player B is happy because they get in-game currency.
Big Evil Corporate Capitalists are happy because they get cash from Player B
The business cycle works, Eve is one of the longest running MMOs in history and they cater to players just like Blizzard. Except Blizzard's player base is generally filled with more entitled little assholes that can't tie their shoes without mommy's help, and elitist scumbags who cannot believe they are still playing.
Ok, so I fail to see any play to win here. Or anything even remotely similar to the D3 RMAH. Hell, it's hardly Free to Play for even the people trading the gold, because gold acquisition is hardly free - you invest your time in the chase of pixels.
If you're a broke player, I guess I could understand your plight. You spend all your time at work, and then get home and want to raid and do other things in the game. Rich or lucky assholes always price those items in the AH you want for far too much gold that you don't have. Further, you have little to no understanding of how capitalism or free markets work because your head's been stuck in the classic works of Karl Marx. Ok, so let's bridge the problem here. You have a paying job, you want some quick game gold, then trade for something people with gold want - gametime. Unless of course you're some stay at home loser who's still telling us you won't trade your pride in so you can't find a job anywhere, or you won't get a job because you play WoW all the time and you still haven't got any gold. Fat, lazy, and broke is no way to go through WoW, son. But if you have a job, welcome to the future of gaming.
Like Ebay is to Paypal, so is Goldselling to China
People have been doing this for ages in game. They released RAF and Gametime cards, and guess what? Gold sellers took advantage of the system. For tens of thousands of gold, you could pickup gametime for almost any length of time. People spam these services in game, and they spam them in the illegit forums everywhere.
Some of the sellers are incredibly reputable. They hail from countries like China where they acquire things like Social Security Numbers, credit card numbers, government secrets, and even gametime cards for pennies on the dollar. Their only mission in life is to eat, so they do it by selling to cheap ass Westerners who have lots of gold and can't fork out $15 for a monthly subscription. At last check, it took about 4 hours of work to get the gold they ask for a 60 day game card, but 2 hours at a minimum wage job to pay the sub outright. But I digress.
The issue is, the Chinese really are getting bargains on both RAF and gametime subscriptions, so when they sell you something they are getting an incredible deal. This was the loophole in Blizzard's entire free gametime system.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, you have the people who are outright scamming players. They spam trade looking for a buyer, and advertise too good to be true prices for 30 days of gametime. The halfwits that buy from these people then find the code to be useless, and getting their gold back to be even more fruitless. Or worse, they would buy "gifted" game time, getting screwed. Blizzard won't help you here, and you're breaking the Terms of Service in all respects. So both of you are bad people in need of a ban.
We've been down this road once before
Blizzard did once before implement an item in-game that could be traded, remember the guardian cub? This was a fantastic idea, but unfortunately too many appeared and the item's value crashed. Once a pet is learned, you don't need another, so it was an evaporating market from the outset.
Gametime doesn't have this issue. Everyone playing right now needs it, and once a month everyone's time runs out. In other words, the demand will never go away as long as the game remains Pay to Play. So the argument that we're on our way to F2P is completely nullified. If anything, they're exploring more ways to increase revenue streams, and I congratulate them on this.
There are only a few ways that this system will be tripped up, and I'll be brief.
1) Blizzard does not vigorously explore the potential loopholes, and they do not monitor the activities in game.
Gold sellers will always figure out how to convert gold into cash and vice versa. Like I mentioned, the Chinese sellers exploited the hell out of the RAF loophole back in Cataclysm. In this situation, they could easily buy cheap tokens and convert them into gold, and then sell that gold on the black market at a huge markup. This would probably push down the value of these tokens, which Blizzard will need to watch.
Further, if they are tradeable, they should not be auctionable. Resetting them sounds so tempting to me right now.
2) Duping the tokens becomes possible. They have to absolutely make them unique and not stackable.
You say duping does not exist? Ok. Fine, put your head back in the sand. Much like 99% of TCG Spectral Tiger mounts today, if they are able to make unlimited copies, then Blizzard will lose their asses on this one. Because each token is backed with real cash, I don't think we'll have much to worry about.
Unlike TCG items, which have zero cash value to Blizzard in-game or outside of licensing fees, you let the hackers come in and make 1000 copies of these things you just lost $15,000 bucks. Do that across multiple servers and the stockholders will wonder why there was a dip in profits this last month.
How would Zerohour roll this out?
1) Make them unique items to the account. One player cannot carry more than a certain number at a time. They will have to use them or trade them off. Be it one token at a crack or up to 3. There's no reason for anyone to be able to carry 100 of these things on their person.
2) Make a clearinghouse to trade these. Just like you saw with the RMAH, the pet store, etc. It's available via the shop, and at a set price in gold. If you let these go up on the AH, these same people who are terrible at making gold are also probably unfamiliar with how to use the AH UI. How many customer service tickets will be filed saying they misposted at 1g? If you do not fix the value, then the buyers will feel cheated when their tokens go for less gold than they expected.
This idea is brilliant because it reduces trade chat spam, errors at the AH, and utilizes a private system that's already in place. A person opens the shop, clicks "Buy", validates the transaction, and a BOP item is sent to the account just like a mount or pet. The person then uses the item. Only tokens available for sale will appear, so if noone has bought gametime and gotten gold, then the token does not exist. The seller does not receive their gold and the gametime is not charged until the transaction occurs, so a queue is in place for this commodity. If the seller has cancelled payment or they hit insufficient funds at the time the transaction is made, the next person in line sells there item. Neither party loses nor gains until a transaction is made. Further, both parties are anonymous. You won't have hacking goldsellers jumping in and selling a million gold worth of the things only to see them disappear in 24 hours.
This brings me to number 3, which is...
3) Do NOT let them be freely tradeable. Tradeable items get exploited. I've worked in big data before, and when you're talking millions of players and accounts, you cannot possibly monitor them all for illicit activity, especially short term exploiters using a throwaway account. A person buying gametime with gold will either NEED the time at that point, or they're stockpiling them. Stockpiling will be wrong and the WORST thing for this mechanic.
Example? Let's say I have 5 million gold laying around. I decide that all the tokens on the AH need to be raised in price, much like a TCG mount. You probably see where this is going. The tokens become atrociously priced and then the idea behind the concept is killed and then nobody wins. I know people out there who love to boost and reset are waiting to get their jollies off on this, but hopefully they smarten up with it's release.
Thanks for stopping in!
Zerohour has leveled more alts this expansion than any other, and each with garrisons. World domination will occur in the new year.