I just read a great post over at game developer Psychochild’s blog. In it, he addresses various issues plaguing Guild Wars 2’s economy. Guildwar 2’s failed economy is part of why I didn’t stick around there – I love being able to be a crafter and merchant and make money. When I was playing, however, crafting was a straight gold sink and the trading post was a clusterfudge.

 

Here are my impressions on what went wrong with the GW2 trading post:

– Worldwide Trading Post: by not limiting this to smaller markets of individual servers, it becomes very hard for individuals or groups of people to change the market prices. This may seem good, but what it means is that the greater common denominator of clueless sellers wins out, as you can see in the Trading Post, to the point where they had to implement a feature so you couldn’t sell items below their freaking vendor price! Attempting to tweak market prices is simply not possible on a scale this large without the coordination of a LOT of players with a LOT of gold.

– Anywhere access to the Trading Post: This is a huge problem. While it seems great to a questing player to be able to toss up junk on the TP without having to go there in person, what it means is that people are using the TP as a mobile vendor to sell whatever is in their inventory. There is no thought or strategy to the postings, and people don’t care if the items are sold far below market value; they just want them out of their inventory. Items then bypass a basic auction house price floor – without the mobile trading post, people would have to decide if it is worth selling an item to a vendor or on the trading post. Convenience overrules this type of decision. ANet’s later addition of a “minimum price” on the TP didn’t really fix this. It just bumped the price floor up.

– Deceptive/Unwieldly UI: The trading post has a high chunk of hidden costs built into it, which seem designed to actually discourage people from using it to build up a healthy server economy. In addition to the cost you are told about, there is also another chunk of money taken out if you sell the item (I think it’s 15%; it’s been a while since I read ANet forums). These fees also scale really badly, especially at the low end of price ranges. The lack of expiry time on auctions and the hidden additional costs for using the TP combine with an awkward UI to make it a headache to really use beyond casually. It’s hard to make money by buying out and relisting (and thus bumping prices up) due to the heavy listing costs. Sure, you lose money by doing this normally – but when the listing fee costs nearly half as much as the item, it’s not worth it.

There might be further problems with the ease of gathering and drop rates for items, however I think limiting TP access would actually go a decent ways towards addressing that. When players actually have to make decisions about inventory, gathering becomes a more specialized job. As is, everyone can just gather as they go and post raw mats up when their inventory gets full. If that was disallowed and you had to plan how to unload your collected mats, many players would drop out of the gathering market, deeming the time:profit ratio not worth it. Supply would go down and prices would naturally rise.

In short, I get the feeling that the whole thing was designed by someone who hates auction house players and wanted to make a system to “prevent” them from playing the market. It’s expensive to use the market as a merchant, the market is far too easy to use to just unthinkingly slap up items and the lack of an expiry date means that the low priced auctions just keep building up – and it’s not worth it financially to buy them out, since you can’t hope to control a global market. The problem is…we need auction house players. These players keep the economy vibrant and help ensure items retain value.

Many people probably intensely dislike reading that, but auction house players can actually be an asset to a healthy economy. Yes, some of them are jerks and drive out others from the market – but without pressure to push prices upwards, we see situations where constant undercuts drive prices down. There needs to be a counterbalance pushing upwards as well and auction house players provide a stable one.

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