No WOW RMAH for a while..

Posted by Daeity On Tuesday, February 21, 2012

In a recent "Pach Attack" video, Michael Pachter said that we'll ultimately see the Real Money Auction House expanded to World of Warcraft. Especially if the D3 RMAH is financially successful for Blizzard, which I'm confident it will be.

Mind you, I don't think it will be as financially successful as it could have been with the Listing Fees, but they'll still be making decent coin from the new system. Plus, you can count on Blizzard always finding new methods to encourage RMAH use and to introduce wide varieties of (highly preferable) items that players can sell on the RMAH. For example, new affixes, non-gear based items that improve your in-game experience and cool or rare aesthetic changes (like glowing wings or eyes).

You can also count on new Paid Services, and especially ones that enhance your RMAH experience. For example, a Mobile AH or a "RMAH Preferred User" plan where users pay a monthly fee to get access to better RMAH features, such as selling >10 Active Items (or maybe additional in-game fees for going over the limit).

Some users are very excited about the idea of getting a RMAH in the World of Warcraft. Others however, are completely against it, since the idea of a RMAH in any Blizzard title is considered hypocritical considering their past stance on Real Money Trading.

Diablo 3 will help them with their "acceptance issues" though.

So, I emailed Robert Bridenbecker (VP of Online Technologies) about the possibility of getting a RMAH in World of Warcraft. It was very general question, and in retrospect, I should have been more specific. (I try to keep emails short because it increases the chance of a response.)

Dec 9, 2011

Hi Rob,

What are the chances of getting a Diablo-style Real Money Auction House in World of Warcraft eventually?

I haven't played WoW for a couple years now, but the RMAH is just the kind of feature that would get me back into the game. :)
Dec 9, 2011

Retrofitting something like the RMT AH into an established game like WoW is considerably more challenging than building a game with the AH in mind.

So while it's probably unlikely, we are always evaluating areas that could further engage players. I will pass your thoughts along to the team.

I had forgotten about the age of World of Warcraft. They have the people to do it, but integrating a RMAH into WOW would be a very challenging process and it would be like bringing a new F2P Marketplace model into Asheron's Call. A lot of work and completely possible.. but is it worth the expense and time? Would they make enough money back to make the project worthwhile?

After some more thought on the subject, I was thinking that a RMAH might not even be a good idea for WOW after all.

So, I guess my question was a little premature. What I should have asked was if there was a way to integrate the RMAH but in a different form?

If you think about it, even if players really liked the idea, a RMAH really isn't well suited for WOW.

Due to the fees associated with selling items (especially with their inability to use Listing Fees), the RMAH is designed for high level items. But, all of the high level items in WOW are BOP and Blizzard already has the entire game designed around Dungeons, Raids, and Fixed Loot Tables. Putting high level items on the AH would destroy Dungeons & Raids, wasting all of their content (and work), and make users bore more quickly. They need to constantly consume content, and Blizzard has been working to slow down that process to keep players engaged. So however the RMAH is designed, it can't be around items. (Something to consider for their Next Gen MMO.)

So, I had a better idea.

What if the WOW Armory also acted as a character sales market? This would allow sales of items, gold, and characters simultaneously.

Players could put their individual characters up for sale (or as an auction) for a fixed fee. Maybe even a "Make an Offer" feature for players who would like an account from someone who isn't selling their account. :)

Blizzard could collect a fixed fee of $25-$40 per sale. And, characters might typically sell for $60-500 depending on their level, gold or items. already has Paid Character Transfers, so this is just an enhanced version of the service. It's easy to integrate, eliminates a lot of WOW development time (web development work instead of in-game), and it's a RMT solution that works well to solve for the BOP item problem. It also allows for gold trading, and Blizzard can control the amount of gold that is being transferred through usual restrictions (like what they have already: maximum gold, level, guild removal, etc.)

Here's the follow-up email I sent to Rob, along with his response which I just received today:
Feb 15, 2012

It's me again. :)

I promise not to do this too often (if ever again), because I know you're a very busy person and I want to keep your inbox as clear as possible. So, I'll keep this as short as possible.

I realized that a RMT AH for WOW might not be a good idea after all due to the nature of weapons and gear being BOP. All of the high level items can't be sold on a RMT AH, like what can be done in D3.

Given the in-game technical challenges, I have a better solution.

What about using the Armory as a Character Sales Market? This way, you're killing two birds with one stone.

- Armory Character Page can have a Buy/Sell/Bid option. Even a "Make Offer" if the account isn't for sale.
- No RMT specifically for items or gold is needed in-game or out. These come with the player and are included in the price.
- Character is locked for 24 hours during the sale process. Total on-hand gold is visible to potential buyers (which is technically already visible through achievements).
- Systems are already in place for Character Transfers. Easier to integrate by the web development team.
- This new service can charge $25 like a typical Paid Character Transfer, while lowering normal Paid Transfers (owner to owner for $10-15.)

The benefit of doing it this way is that it's much easier on the team, can be deployed much more quickly (if the D3 RMAH is deemed a success), it will kill the blackmarket power leveling services (as well as item/gold sales), it's a much better and secure process, and by lowering service costs and introducing this new service it can bring in more players (e.g. transferring players to family members or friends.)

A new system like this can have several positive side effects for Blizzard, not only in further engaging players, but also putting a major bottleneck on blackmarket sales and with that, a cascade of other side-effects like reducing botting, power leveling and spamming. Meaning, less customer support and GM expenses.
Feb 21, 2012

We're always looking at new ways to engage the player base and concepts like this are some of the exciting reasons why introducing the auction house and the Armory keep us loving our jobs. Thanks for continuing to think of fun and new exciting things, as well as ways that, as a player, you'd like to see us extend our worlds.

I really hope they seriously consider this approach.

It's impossible to create a RMAH for items, but selling gold and/or selling characters is a very viable possibility.

Restrictive enough to discourage certain players or groups, but open enough so that most players could engage in it if they want. It opens up the possibility of getting family and friends to jump right into the game with you, if they wanted to skip the long grinding process (characters can be given to friends as gifts for example.)

It would also destroy the WOW blackmarket, giving players a safe way to exchange gold, items, or "power level" characters. It will eliminate sites that sell gold, and stop spamming. Botters, of course, will increase in number so that high level accounts can be sold.. but that's the beauty of this new system; Blizzard can allow certain characters or accounts to be eligible, and not others. For example, they need to be a certain level first, they're restricted on the amount of gold they can carry, or they need to first wait a certain amount of time before they're eligible (even if a botter power leveled a new character, they still need to wait 90 days to sell it.) Power leveling groups won't take this risk, because they would have to sit on a idle account, and there's a very good chance it will be banned once the account is investigated (Blizzard has more time to investigate and more illegitimate behavior patterns to look for.)

Even if Blizzard were to create some kind of item-based RMAH, it would still be years away. They need to see the financial results of the Diablo 3 auction house, and long term advantages/disadvantages to decide whether it's worth the investment or not. It's something that would come with a new expansion pack, and they definitely wouldn't have it planned right now for Mists of Pandaria. Meaning, that the next expansion pack is more likely.. and you're looking at a 2-3 year wait at the very least.

Changing all items to BOE, though, would be very bad for the entire game dynamic, and because of the technical challenges, it's highly unlikely that they'll create a RMAH for high-end gear. Besides the Armory Character Market, however, Blizzard could alternatively sell Conquest or Valor points (or some other method where cash can be exchanged for high end items) to players. But, then Blizzard would be selling directly to the players and printing the money themselves.. something that they wouldn't do. It would have to be a "player-driven economy" so that they're not blamed for exploiting the users.